A determination on the future of Belt insecticide and the Environmental Protection Agency registration of flubendiamide insecticide active ingredient is proceeding, and the process has a ways to go. Even though a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ) was completed on May 10, the hearing doesn’t mean a whole lot in the eventual determination of flubendiamide’s future use.

Witness presentations and cross-examinations in front of the EPA’s head ALJ, Susan Biro, were conducted. Now both sides have time to field post-hearing briefings. The judge then will make an official determination. Once the judge’s determination is issued, the case will go to a three-person Environmental Appeals Board for final review. That board will then have until July 6 to issue a decision.

Some media reports have suggested that flubendiamide and Belt’s fate for terminated registrations are already set based on what could and could not be presented at the hearing. Bayer notes this is far from the true situation. The complicating factor is that flubendiamide was originally given a “conditional registration” by the EPA.   

“FIFRA (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act) allows companies who may not agree with an EPA decision to have their case heard by an independent authority. Bayer appreciates Judge Biro’s careful consideration of all the facts of this case. This is a complicated and unprecedented case, and one Bayer continues to feel is worthwhile to ensure that regulations around growers’ access to valuable tools remains based in sound science, not in politics,” according to the company’s official statement.

The EPA is claiming the use of flubendiamide may harm benthic organisms that live in the sediment of waters near agricultural fields. Benthic organisms are commonly referenced as certain creatures found at the bottom of lagoons or in intertidal mudflats, not commonly referenced are along creeks and rivers. Benthic organisms are such things as snails, clams and crabs. Many benthic organisms are not found crawling around and are not commonly know because they are borrowed into mud.

In filing its refusal to simply accept an EPA ban to the uses of flubendiamide, Bayer contends that the insecticide has not shown evidence of harm to benthic organisms in seven years of commercial use. The company further contends real-life evidence should overpower methodology of expected harm “based on theoretical models and assumptions that exaggerate risk.”

From outsiders to the process, a conditional registration looks like other registrations. A stipulation of the conditional registration is that if new scientific information shows an unforeseen risk then the company producing the chemical must voluntarily pull its products from sale. With any pesticide, if a risk shows up, then the EPA will proceed with terminating a registration, although it might take a more drawn out process.

Bayer contends there isn’t a new risk or scientific evidence actually confirming an unforeseen risk from the use of Belt insecticide.

The situation is that Belt has a proven track record of benefiting farmers and growers without detected negative environmental consequences, according to Bayer. Until a final decision is rendered, growers can still use Belt and retailers and distributors can still sell it.