WASHINGTON, Feb. 5, 2016 – Bayer’s Crop Science division is rejecting EPA’s request that it voluntarily cancel uses of flubendiamide (trade name: Belt), an insecticide used on more than 200 crops nationwide.

Instead, the company said it will ask to have the product’s registration reviewed by an EPA administrative law judge, which would probably result in a ruling this year.

Bayer will send EPA a letter today with its decision, the company told reporters yesterday.

EPA said it would move forward with cancellation. In a statement, the agency said that in 2008, it issued a time-limited registration to Bayer CropScience LP, and Nichino America Inc., for flubendiamide to better understand the potential impact of the product's metabolite to degrade in the environment and its toxicity. The agency also wanted to be able to quickly take this product off the market if there were problems.

EPA asked for more studies, which it said found that the product degrades or breaks down into a material which is more toxic than flubendiamide, is extremely toxic to aquatic species and is persistent in the environment. Primarily for these reasons, EPA concluded that continued use of the product will result in unreasonable adverse effects on the environment and notified the company to request voluntary cancellation consistent with the conditions of the original registration.The companies have indicated that they do not intend to comply with that condition. EPA will move forward with cancellation proceedings, according to the statute, if the companies in fact fail to comply with the condition.

Bayer, however, said in a press release it “believes the methods used by the EPA exaggerate environmental risk and would deny farmers access to a critical pest management tool.”

Belt has approval for use on “more than 200 crops because of its strong pest performance, favorable environmental and toxicological profile, and excellent fit in integrated pest management (IPM) programs,” the release said.

Bayer said EPA used “theoretical modeling” to determine that the product poses an unacceptable risk to aquatic benthic organisms “that live in the sediment of waters near agricultural fields, without any evidence of harm in more than seven years of commercial use.” Such organisms include amphipods, worms and midge larvae.

“Bayer strongly disagrees with the EPA’s methodology, which is based on theoretical models and assumptions that exaggerate risk. Years of water monitoring studies have shown residues of flubendiamide and its metabolite are well within safe levels established for aquatic invertebrates,” the company said.

The chemical is used to control caterpillars – armyworms, bollworms and cutworms, for example – that eat crops. The most important uses are for tree nuts, in particular almonds and pistachios, but vegetable, soybean and tobacco growers also use Belt.

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“This would be a significant loss for growers of pistachios,” said Richard Matoian, executive director of American Pistachio Growers. “The loss of this chemistry would make it more difficult than ever to control pests like the navel orange worm and the peach twig borer which are now significantly (affecting) pistachio production in California.

“What’s ironic and unfortunate is this would force tree nut growers to resort to older, less effective, but more potentially disruptive chemistries to manage these same pests,” Matoian said. “Growers need more innovative tools to help them manage destructive pests to produce healthy and abundant crops, not less.”

Unless EPA changes its mind, it likely will send Bayer a formal notice of intent to cancel Belt uses, and the company will ask for an administrative hearing, Bayer officials said.

Editor's note: This story was updated Feb. 5 at 2 pm ET to include the full statement EPA provided to Agri-Pulse.  


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