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January 11, 1996

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Former President Bush and other broccoli haters beware: Misspoken slights of Ohio’s farm products could land you in court under a bill passed Wednesday.

The Senate on a 27-5 vote joined the House in passing a bill allowing farmers to sue critics who make false claims about their products. Gov. George Voinovich is expected to sign the measure, which would make Ohio the 12th state with an agricultural disparagement, or ``veggie libel″ law.

Supporters say farmers need the law to protect Ohio’s largest industry.

``This will be a remedy for farmers because of false statements, said Sen. Robert Cupp, a Republican.

Critics claim such veggie libel laws are intended to squash reports of unsafe food.

``Most of them are flatly unconstitutional, but they are intended to intimidate,″ said Al Meyerhoff, an attorney for the Washington-based environmental advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council.

The council released a 1989 report linking Alar, a chemical sprayed on apples, with higher cancer rates. CBS based a ``60 Minutes″ segment on the report and was sued by Washington-state apple growers who said they lost millions in sales.

The case was dismissed, with courts ruling the growers did not prove the ``60 Minutes″ report contained any false statements.

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