Spirotetramat can still be used, but supplies low

By DAN WHEAT

Capital Press

The Environmental Protection Agency will allow continued use of a new pesticide while it is being reregistered to comply with a court ruling, but supplies likely will run out before that happens.

A national environmental group, the Natural Resource Defense Council, brought the lawsuit that caused the shortage.

That's ironic because it will force growers to use more of older, less environmentally friendly products to combat pests, said Del Vanderhoff, manager of Chamberlain Distributing Co. in Wenatchee, Wash.

"These people don't know what they're doing," he said in reference to the council.

Kevin Adam, manager of the product, spirotetramat, for manufacturer Bayer CropSciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C., agreed it is ironic and said he's not sure what the council's motivation is.

The NRDC has said spirotetramat could be toxic to bees, but the EPA has said there is no data showing that. The NRDC did not return calls for comment.

Spirotetramat was sold as Ultor to combat tree fruit and hops pests in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Utah for the first time last season and was sold as Movento to combat grape, citrus, vegetable and nut pests in California, Adam said.

A U.S. District Court in New York invalidated the EPA's registration of spirotetramat on Dec. 23 because the agency failed to publish notice of receipt of registration applications and thereby didn't allow for public comment before registering the pesticide in 2008.

"It's important to note there's been no human health or safety issues with the product. It's simply an issue of process," said Mike Willett, vice president for scientific affairs of the Northwest Horticultural Council in Yakima, Wash.

The horticultural council and the California Citrus Quality Council urged the EPA to allow continued use to spirotetramat while it was being registered. EPA first said it would ban the sale and distribution of existing supplies but reversed itself April 5.

In the April 5 order, the EPA said spirotetramat poses less risk to human health and the environment than its alternatives. The EPA said Bayer sold 34,000 gallons of the product to U.S. distributors in 2009 and that distributors still had approximately 7,600 gallons as of Dec. 10.

Dan Flick, Washington tree fruit business development manager for Wilbur Ellis Co. in Wenatchee, said Ultor works well on pear psylla, a leading pear pest. Wilbur Ellis ran out of Ultor in mid-April and won't be able to meet 25 percent of its demand, Flick said.

"The 25 percent will have to use other products and because they're not as effective they will have to use more than one spray," Flick said. "It's amazing this spring how low the overwinter of pear psylla is, and I attribute that to Ultor last season."

Vanderhoff said Chamberlain will probably run out of supply.

Nate Squires, field staff manager of Wenatchee-based Northwest Wholesale Inc., said Northwest bought extra product, which covered its customers for this year, but has little left.

Ed Murray, general manager of Orange Belt Supply Co. in Lindsay, Calif., said he hasn't ordered any Movento yet for this year but that it was very effective last year on citrus red scale and against nematodes in oranges.

Rick Wescott, a Bayer salesman in Tulare and Fresno counties, said he doubts distributors have enough Movento. He said usage will really increase when Japan accepts minimum residue levels of the product.

Adam said demand is high and supply is tight. He said it may be six months before it's reregistered and Bayer makes more.

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