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EPA Approves Key Pesticide for Use on Cotton Plants After Extensive Testing

Cotton growers can now plan to use the specialty pesticide Transform WG from Corteva Agriscience, with the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announcing that it has registered its active ingredient, sulfoxaflor, as allowed and safe.

In cotton, sulfoxaflor is used to control the tarnished plant bug, also known as lygus, and aphids, that can cause widespread crop damage.

“This decision is supported by substantial data on human health and environmental effects, including many new studies on the effects of the insecticide on bees,” Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said. “This will help growers all over America by making available an effective tool to control challenging pests with much lower environmental impacts.”

In cotton and sorghum, the product had been used under an emergency use exemption for the past few seasons. The recent actions mean the exemptions will no longer be required, Dunn said.

“The new and distinct mode of action will play a pivotal role in efforts to inhibit the increasing incidence of insect resistance to current insecticides,” Bridgette Readel, Corteva’s market development specialist, said.

The EPA originally registered sulfoxaflor in 2013. In 2015, the Ninth Circuit of Appeals vacated the registration, citing inadequate data on the effects on bees. As a result, the EPA reevaluated the data and in 2016 only registered the insecticide for crops that did not attract bees, Dunn says.

The EPA made its new registration ruling after conducting a robust risk analysis, including the review of one of the agency’s largest datasets on the effects of a pesticide on bees, Dunn added. The Agency also factored in the lack of viable alternatives to control economically damaging pests. In many cases, alternative insecticides were effective only if applied repeatedly or in a tankmix, whereas sulfoxaflor generally requires fewer applications, resulting in less risk to aquatic and terrestrial wildlife.

“We appreciate EPA’s decision to make sulfoxaflor available for use on cotton,” Mike Tate, chairman of the National Cotton Council and an Alabama cotton producer, said. “EPA has been diligent in requesting new studies of sulfoxaflor use on cotton and other crops that provided additional data for the agency’s scientific review per court order. The NCC will continue to engage EPA on crop protection product registrations and other regulatory matters that affect the efficient production of cotton.”

State registrations for sulfoxaflor are now pending, the NCC noted.