Bayer Loses Insecticide Appeal

Bayer Required to Pull Belt SC Insecticide From Market

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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About 50% of all agriculture uses of flubendiamide are on soybeans, according to EPA. The pesticide is used on only about 1% of soybeans in the United States, which would equate to roughly 820,000 acres. (DTN file photo by Pam Smith)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Bayer CropScience has lost its appeal of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's decision to pull the conditional registration for Belt SC insecticide, according to a news release from the company Monday.

Belt is the trademark name for Bayer's insecticide flubendiamide, which is used in some areas to control caterpillar pests in soybeans, among other uses.

A decision was handed down by EPA's Environmental Appeals Board to allow distributors and retailers to distribute and sell remaining Belt inventories. Growers must continue using the product consistent with label directions.

Bayer said in a statement Monday that it "intends to comply with the order" but would review its options.

"Bayer maintains the EPA's actions on flubendiamide are unlawful and inconsistent with sound regulatory risk assessment practices," said Dana Sargent, Bayer's vice president of regulatory affairs.

"The science supporting the registration of flubendiamide may be complex, but it is solid, and it's unfortunate that we were denied the opportunity to argue the scientific merits of our case. You cannot use the regulatory process as a shield to avoid engaging in meaningful dialogue, but that is exactly what the EPA has done.

"Since we first learned of the EPA's actions on flubendiamide a few months ago, we have tried our best to argue on behalf of our industry and the many growers who depend on these products for sustainable pest control. In the end it is they who will be most impacted by this decision."

Conditional registrations are essentially agency approvals to sell a pesticide if certain conditions are met. EPA officials asked Bayer in early February to voluntarily cancel the 2008 conditional registration for pesticide flubendiamide, marketed in the U.S. as Belt SC insecticide. The company refused and the agency moved to cancel anyway.

Belt's advantage, Bayer and others supportive of the product have said, is that it controls caterpillars and other pests, allowing farmers to target those pests when they have pest pressure. Belt is not systemic and has a different mode of action than alternative chemistries, which makes it an important resistance management tool.

About 50% of all agriculture uses of flubendiamide are on soybeans, according to EPA. The pesticide is used on only about 1% of soybeans in the United States, which would equate to roughly 820,000 acres.

EPA's environmental concerns rest with benthic organisms -- worms, clams, crabs, lobsters and other tiny organisms that live in the bottom sediments. Apart from this concern, Sargent said, the product has a good safety profile for birds, fish and all other mammals.

When the EPA approved the conditional registration, it did so with what Sargent told DTN in April was a unique agreement with Bayer that the company would stop selling flubendiamide if EPA wasn't satisfied with the Bayer's scientific data.

Bayer agreed to EPA's conditions because the company was confident it could and did meet the conditions of the registration, Sargent said.

Sargent said Bayer was still entitled to a proper hearing even if the company agreed to cancel flubendiamide. The hearing is required by EPA under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA.

Conditional registrations have faced much scrutiny. Recently, the Canadian government announced it was ending its program to approve conditional registrations for pesticides.

The Belt label requires applicators to utilize buffer strips to protect water. Sargent said the company's monitoring and studies by the U.S. Geological Survey have at most detected only minute residues -- in parts per trillion -- that fall well below risk levels established by EPA.

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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Todd Neeley