Bayer takes off gloves in fight over Belt insecticide

Bayer’s Crop Science Division announced today it has refused a request by the EPA to voluntarily cancel the uses of flubendiamide in the United States and instead will seek a review of the product’s registration in an administrative law hearing.

“The company believes the methods used by the EPA exaggerate environmental risk and would deny farmers access to a critical pest management tool,” Bayer said in a press release issued from its U.S. headquarters in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina.

Flubendiamide, sold under the trade name Belt, is approved for use on more than 200 crops. Bayer said it has exhibited “strong pest performance, favorable environmental and toxicological profile and an excellent fit in integrated pest management programs.”

The dispute revolves around EPA’s claims uses of flubendiamide may harm benthic organisms that live in the sediment of waters near agricultural fields.

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

“We are disappointed the EPA places so much trust on computer modeling and predictive capabilities when real-world monitoring shows no evidence of concern after seven years of safe use,” said Dr. Peter Coody, Bayer’s vice president of environmental safety.

Loss of Belt would have far-reaching effects beyond those on row crops, according to a statement issue by Bayer.

“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 impacting 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. Growers need more innovative tools to help them manage destructive pests to produce healthy and abundant crops, not less.”

Bayer rejected the EPA’s request to voluntarily cancel the flubendiamide registration and anticipates a hearing in front of EPA’s independent Office of Administrative Law Judges for a review.

“Denying a product’s registration and ignoring its safe use history based on unrealistic theoretical calculations calls into question the EPA’s commitment to innovation and sustainable agriculture” said Dana Sargent, Bayer’s vice president of regulatory affairs.

Farmers and retailers can continue to buy, sell and use the product in their operations while the product is under review.

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