The producers of such insecticides as Brigade WSB, Hero, and Mustang Maxx think the many growers who depend on those products to protect their crops may want to let the EPA know how much their success hinges on them.
The pesticides contain the active ingredient bifenthrin, and EPA is considering eliminating currently approved uses or imposing further restrictions, says John Cummings, manager of FMC North America Crop Regulatory Affairs.
“Growers need to weigh in on how those products are actually used,” Cummings says, because many EPA staff members do not have experience in production agriculture. “Being located in Washington (DC), EPA does not fully understand how important these products are for growers’ production.”
Bifenthrin is used on 14 million acres nationwide, much of that on Midwestern field corn, but is also critical for fruit and nut growers’ IPM programs. For example, it’s widely used by California tree nut growers.
Even more urgently, in recent years it has become a crucial weapon in berry growers’ arsenals to control spotted wing drosophila (SWD), which is now a nationwide menace. In fact, it’s estimated that 70% of all raspberries grown in the U.S. are treated with bifenthrin.
Sound Science Needed
Bifenthrin, and the entire pyrethroid class of insecticides, has come under fire from EPA, Cummings says, because it’s not being fairly evaluated, and a preliminary risk assessment released in November did not include the best available science.
The Pyrethroid Working Group, of which FMC is a member, developed a robust data set to evaluate risk to non-target aquatic organisms. Cummings says EPA did not use this data in the current assessment and only used the standard laboratory data which overestimate the actual risk.
“They’ve run simplistic models for what may happen in the environment,” he says, “without considering any of the real-world data.”
Several years ago, FMC was required by EPA to put aquatic and vegetative buffers on the labels of products containing bifenthrin. But EPA hasn’t incorporated these buffer zones into their risk assessments, Cummings says.
“They’re taking a very short-sighted approach, and it doesn’t sound like they’re taking growers into account, which they’re supposed to do,” he says. “Unnecessarily taking a tool out of the grower’s toolbox is a problem, especially with a shrinking toolbox.” •
FMC’s John Cummings suggests growers explain exactly how they responsibly use products containing bifenthrin on their farms, what benefits they realize, and how vital such products are to their success. He also suggests that growers request the EPA not place any unnecessary label restrictions on bifenthrin that might restrict their access.
The 60-day comment period is scheduled to close March 31.