Judge upholds EPA decision on Belt

An administrative law judge has upheld EPA's decision to cancel the registration for Bayer's pesticide flubendiamide (Belt).

In her June 1 decision, Chief Administrative Law Judge Susan L. Biro said that EPA was within its rights to cancel Belt's registration, citing its conditional

registration in 2008.

"In this case, more than seven years ago, the Administrator took a leap of faith and took advantage of the "middle ground" by allowing flubendiamide to be conditionally registered while Petitioners and the Agency gathered additional data on its long-term effects. This was to Petitioners' clear benefit, as the Administrator could have simply denied the application based on then-existing data that suggested environmental risk," the judge wrote.

EPA asked Bayer in February to voluntarily remove the pesticide from the market, saying it was harmful to freshwater benthic organisms, which live in the sediment of rivers, lakes and streams.

Bayer refused and asked instead for a hearing before an administrative law judge, which led to the June 1 opinion.

Does this mean farmers need to stop using Belt? Not according to Bayer, which says the product can still be bought, sold and used during the appeals process.

"Today's initial decision is disappointing for supporters of science-based regulations and grower choice, but it was not unexpected, given the judge's prior preliminary rulings, including her decision to exclude any discussion of the scientific issues raised by EPA's actions on flubendiamide," Bayer said in a written statement. "This is only one step in our appeal process and we look forward to having a careful review when the Initial Decision and the ALJ's prior preliminary rulings are taken up by the Environmental Appeals Board, which is scheduled to issue the final EPA decision no later than

July 6."