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U.S. EPA moves to pull crop insecticide from sale

(Scott Bauer photo courtesy ARS/USDA)

CLARIFIED, March 7, 2016: Chicago | Reuters — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday it was moving to halt sale of insecticides from chemical firms Bayer and Nichino America containing an active ingredient, flubendiamide, found to pose risks to the environment.

Bayer CropScience had anticipated the action after rejecting the EPA’s request to voluntarily pull the insecticide from the marketplace last month.

The company said it expects to request an administrative law hearing from the EPA’s Office of General Counsel within the next 30 days to dispute the EPA’s conclusion that the pesticide is unsafe.

U.S. pesticide regulation law requires a final ruling by the administrative law judge within 75 days of receiving the hearing request. The insecticide can remain on the market throughout the process.

Flubendiamide is the active ingredient in Bayer’s Belt and Nichino’s Tourismo and Vetica insecticides. It is registered for use on over 200 crops, including soybeans, almonds, tobacco, peanuts, cotton, lettuce, alfalfa, tomatoes, watermelon, and bell peppers, with some crops having as many as six applications per year, according to the EPA.

The EPA issued the notice after it concluded that continued use of the chemical could harm organisms such as mayflies and water fleas that are important food sources for fish in streams, ponds and lakes adjacent to agricultural fields.

Bayer disputes the findings, citing years of field studies that showed that doses have never reached high enough levels to be toxic.

The EPA issued a conditional registration for the chemical in 2008. Terms of the registration allowed the EPA to request its cancellation if new data uncovered environmental risks.

No flubendiamide-based product is registered today in Canada. Bayer CropScience has said it applied in 2007 for full registrations, but later withdrew those applications for “internal” reasons and has no current plans to submit Belt for Canadian registration.

Maximum residue limits (MRLs) are established in Canada for some imported crops treated with the chemical. An application filed last summer with Health Canada to establish further MRLs is still pending, according to Bayer.

Nichino America, which had no comment on the EPA move, is a unit of Japan’s Nihon Nohyaku.

Karl Plume reports on agriculture and ag commodity markets for Reuters from Chicago. Additional reporting for Reuters by Eric Beech in Washington, D.C. Includes files from Network staff.

CLARIFICATION, March 7, 2016: A previous version of this article stated that while no flubendiamide-based products are registered in Canada, Health Canada was reviewing a flubendiamide-related application submitted last July. According to Bayer CropScience, that application relates only to the establishment of maximum residue limits (MRLs) for the chemical in certain imported crops.

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