The FDA Will Ban a Common Pesticide

Flubendiamide is used in about 200 crops like almonds and soybeans

Almond Trees
Almonds are just one of the crops commonly treated with flubendiamide, a pesticide that has come under fire from the EPA. Kathy Coatney/Design Pics/Corbis

Flubendiamide likely isn’t in your garden shed, but you’ve probably consumed products treated by the pesticide like almonds, tobacco or peanuts. Since 2008, it’s been used to keep pests like fruitworms and bollworms off of crops. But its days appear to be numbered, at least in the United States: NPR’s Dan Charles reports that the Environmental Protection Agency wants to withdraw its approval.

It’s an unusual move for the agency, writes Charles—and one that centers around the EPA’s practice of conditionally approving certain chemicals and pesticides pending further studies. On its website, the EPA explains that in some circumstances, it will allow the registration of pesticides after determining that “use of the pesticide would not significantly increase the risk of unreasonable adverse effects on people or the environment during the time needed to generate the necessary data.” The practice has been in place since the late 1970s, when Congress amended the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to allow companies to register pesticides when more data is needed.

That’s what happened with flubendiamide when its conditional registration was granted in 2008. But since then, the pesticide has been subject to several risk assessments that found, in the words of an EPA report, “chronic risk to freshwater invertebrates.” With fresh evidence that flubendiamide may be dangerous to fish and the environment, the agency has announced that it intends to pull it from the market.

Though the EPA gave its manufacturers, BayerCropScience, LP and Nichino America, Inc., a chance to withdraw it voluntarily, the companies refused to do so. As a result, says the EPA, the agency will withdraw the pesticide’s registration. It has yet to announce what will happen with existing stocks of flubendiamide, but crops like soybeans, cotton, and tomatoes that are currently treated with the pesticide are still legal to sell.

It seems that Bayer won’t go down without a fight. Chemical Regulation Reporter’s David Schultz writes that the company takes issue with the EPA’s risk analysis and intends to challenge the ban—only the second time a company has done so since the 1980s. Will the manufacturer succeed, or will the pesticide be withdrawn? Have a handful of almonds and stay tuned.

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