In what’s being called a “first-of-its-kind” move, the Environmental Protection Agency cancelled registration of an insecticide that was previously approved for use and ultimately labeled in 49 states.
The active ingredient Flubendiamide, marketed in the United States by Bayer as Belt, is a Group 28 insecticide labeled for use in about 200 different crops, including almonds, pistachios, walnuts, stone fruit, and cotton, numerous vegetable crops, alfalfa, melons, and sorghum, to name just a few.
Bayer received a conditional label for the product in 2008, according to Bayer Spokesman Jeff Donald. Under the conditional label Bayer was required to provide proof that the product did not exceed certain toxicity levels in water ways.
Earlier this year the EPA asked Bayer to withdraw its registration of Flubendiamide, which the company was not willing to do, according to Donald. The EPA then filed a notice of intent to cancel registration of the pesticide.
Bayer appealed the EPA decision to the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board (EAB). That hearing just concluded with mixed results.
The EAB said the EPA could move forward with label cancellation but will allow growers to use existing stocks of the product until inventories are depleted.
“The science supporting the registration of Flubendiamide may be complex, but it is solid,” said Dana Sargent, vice president of regulatory affairs for Bayer.
Sargent accused the EPA of denying Bayer an opportunity to argue the scientific merits of its case.
Bayer Spokesman Jeff Donald said the technology used to conditionally approve Flubendiamide in 2008 was cutting-edge.
Donald said Bayer provided “real world” data to support its claims while the agency relied upon theoretical computer models to declare the product unsafe for certain aquatic species.
Donald calls the federal government’s decision to pull registration of the product “ironic,” saying it makes no sense to give conditional consent to its use, and allow existing stocks to be depleted while claiming the product is dangerous to the environment.
Bayer has not announced its actions going forward except to say it will comply with the order and will “fully review the decision” prior to moving ahead on the issue.
Charlotte Fadipe, spokesperson for the California Department of Pesticide Regulations, said the product was first registered in California in 2008. Its use since then has been “fairly low,” she said. In 2013 just over 42,000 pounds of the active ingredient was used in California. Nearly half of that amount was used in almonds and alfalfa.
Other crops using over 1,000 pounds of the active ingredient included corn, cotton, grapes, pistachios, sunflower, and processing tomatoes, according to a DPR report.
According to Fadipe, EPA studies show Flubendiamide breaks down into a more highly-toxic material that is harmful to species that are an important part of aquatic food chains. She said DPR scientists agree with EPA findings on the toxicity.
“DPR believes there are alternative products for farmers or growers to use,” she said.
Growers, retailers and distributors with questions about this issue should contact their local Bayer field sales representative, or 1-866-992-2937.