Crop Protection Legal Jeopardy

Late last year, a U.S. District Court judge in New York ruled in a case that invalidated the EPA registration of spirotetramat, the active ingredient in Movento, due to a processing error. The ruling has put the future of the popular, new insecticide in question. Bayer CropScience, Movento’s supplier, stands behind the product and is currently working with EPA to reregister the insecticide.

The ruling came as a result of a lawsuit brought by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Xerces Society, which among other things, claimed that EPA didn’t allow a 30-day comment period at the beginning of the registration process as required by law. Since the finding, both environmental groups have characterized the win as having to do more with honeybees than a mere procedural mistake.

“In December, after going through all the legal proceedings, the judge in the Southern District Court of New York ruled the way she did because EPA didn’t allow for public comment at the beginning of the registration process,” says Kevin Adam, product manager for Movento. “In the judge’s view, the process was flawed. So EPA will have to go back through registration to allow public comment.”

“The NRDC has really mischaracterized this whole thing,” says Jack Boyne, Bayer’s head of corporate communications. “They put out a press release, inferring the decision was based on honeybee concerns, but the judge’s ruling was based solely on a procedural error. It had nothing to do with Movento’s qualities, which were reviewed and accepted during the EPA registration process.”

Boyne adds that research has shown Movento has little impact on honeybees, and in fact, spirotetramat is described as non-toxic to bees by EPA’s own definition. Because of its favorable environmental profile, EPA has categorized Movento as a “reduced risk” product.

“Ironically, the NRDC characterizes this as a big win for bees, but we believe it’s a big loss for bees and growers,” says Boyne. “This product has an excellent performance record when it comes to bee safety, and it is a great tool for growers’ IPM programs.”

Loud And Clear

Because of the lawsuit and ruling, Movento may well end up being one of the most commented upon pesticide products of all time. “We filed our application for registration back in 2006,” says Adam. “Then the EPA, in pretty short order, is to publish a notification in the Federal Register that states the active ingredient, the company name, and the uses. For instance, this product will be used on citrus, vegetables, and leafy greens. The public is then allowed to comment on the notice for 30 days. Basically, those three points of information are all the information the public would have had a chance to comment on, if it had been posted correctly.”

When NRDC filed the suit, EPA went back and filed a notice to allow the opportunity for a 30-day comment period in August 2009. EPA was in the process of evaluating those comments to correct its procedural error when the court stepped in and required EPA to receive another set of comments to correct its own procedural error.

“We will have two sets of comments on spirotetramat with all the information that EPA has on the chemical versus what they would have had originally, which is basically the active ingredient, company name, and uses,” says Adam.

What Does It Mean In The Field?

EPA issued a Final Cancellation Order on April 5 that stated growers can use Movento they have in their possession and that distribution can sell Movento to growers.

“We are pleased that EPA’s decision has reaffirmed our assessment of spirotetramat as an important IPM tool in the fight against destructive pests” says Adam. “We will continue to work with the Agency and remain hopeful that the full registrations will be reinstated in the near future.”

Bayer CropScience will not be allowed to sell Movento again until it is reregistered by EPA. To accomplish this, EPA will review all comments received during the second public comment period (which ended March 29, 2010), address those comments, and then presumably approve the registration for use.

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