The big news at a recent Virginia field day was some information that Ames Herbert, state IPM leader, shared about a North Carolina company’s efforts to bring a Temik-like product to the market in 2012.

Ag Logic, a subsidiary of Maximum Economic Yield (MEY), has applied to the EPA for label clearance and expects the final answer by Oct. 23. The product will not be Temik, it will be an aldicarb compound that is very similar to Temik.

Rumored trade names for the new product include Mimik, because it would be very similar or mimic Temik and Nemik, because of its nematicidal activity that will be similar to that of Temik.

According to Antoine Puech, president and CEO of MEY, the company is highly optimistic the EPA will grant a label to Ag Logic. The drop dead date appears to be Oct. 23, 2011. If the company gets the label, they will have it for as long as they choose to manufacture and sell the product.

“We have had a tremendous response from farmers, grower associations, and the overall farm industry in our efforts to get a label for aldicarb for the 2012 season.

“Temik has been an outstanding product for nearly 40 years and it is clear from our surveys that virtually all farmers want a product with the same characteristics in the marketplace,” Peuch says.

If the EPA denies the company a Federal label, the deal is off and growers will have to continue to look for replacement products to manage early season diseases and nematodes.

Regardless of how the EPA rules, there is a clear answer to the question of whether Temik is coming back to the marketplace. That answer is no!

Bayer CropScience has made it clear the company is working with the EPA and plans to move forward with its plans to first cancel use of Temik on potatoes and citrus. This will be followed by a gradual phase out of the product on all crops in all U.S. markets by 2014.

According to the agreement with the EPA, farmers may continue to use existing stocks of Temik on citrus and potatoes until Dec. 31, 2011, allowing inventories to clear the channel of trade.

Additional label changes

Uses on all other crops will be maintained with some additional label changes, until an orderly product phase-out is completed.

Bayer’s decision on Temik follows a new dietary risk assessment process recently completed by the EPA. Bayer has steadfastly refused to agree with the EPA findings and has not made any public announcement that aldicarb, the active ingredient in Temik poses a food safety risk.

Since it was introduced to the agriculture marketplace by Union Carbide back in the 1970s, Temik has been besieged by human health issues — some real and some not so real.

Even today, a cursory look at Temik health issues will provide one with more websites, links, technical papers and such than could be read in a week of hard reading. 

The Temik human health issues are far from one-sided.

Advocates for Temik, and other pesticides, site study after study that shows no long-term health risks for a number of products under fire from the EPA.

Likewise, anti-pesticide advocates can provide seemingly endless data to prove there are human health risks.                                       

Finding a cost effective, performance reliable replacement for Temik is proving to be a tough challenge. The big question for farmers is whether or not the EPA will do a complete 180 degree turnaround and grant a label for a product they have hounded on human health issues for 40 years.

Representatives from MEY have publicly cited 165 letters from farmers, crop consultants and agri-industry leaders supporting a Federal label for a replacement aldicarb product for Temik. Though impressive, 165 letters is a small drop in the big bucket compared to the volumes of reports generated by the EPA over the past 40 years citing the negative human health impacts from use and/or exposure to Temik. 

Puech is no stranger to bringing in controversial, yet much-needed products to the U.S. market. He was instrumental in bringing into the U.S. glyphosate made in China. In recent years a number of glyphosate-containing herbicides have become available to U.S. farmers, providing a lower cost alternative to Roundup — the original glyphosate herbicide marketed in the U.S.

Puech is likewise no stranger to Temik. He worked for a number of years for Union Carbide, the company that originally brought Temik into the marketplace in the 1970s.

A turnaround by the EPA on their long-standing aldicarb vendetta may prove to be a classic question of being a blessing or a curse.

Once Bayer announced plans to phase out Temik, it seems the whole agriculture chemical industry began ramping up old and new technology for a replacement.             

Getting a new product through development and Federal clearance is a multi-million dollar process. Companies weren’t quick to make that investment to replace a product that had proved effective and relatively inexpensive over such a long period of time.  

Searching for replacements

Now that Temik is in reality gone, companies are looking at chemistries that had been discarded, because the cost of developing them was too high and the expectations of profit too low as long as Temik was available.

If the EPA now grants a label for a product that will be essentially the same as Temik, those research and development dollars are likely to go away just as quickly as they materialized.

Likewise cotton and peanut growers in the Southeast have had to find new products and new uses of these products to replace Temik.

In some cases, the loss of Temik has forced growers to be more timely in pesticide applications and to choose more wisely which varieties to plant and where to plant them.        

Despite the need to reduce over-dependence on one product, the vast majority of growers want Temik, or something like it, back. For example, Virginia farmers are already seeing higher levels of tomato spotted wilt virus than has been seen in recent years. The virus is vectored by thrips, which are routinely controlled with the help of Temik.                  

Large increases in cotton acreage in the upper Southeast rapidly depleted existing supplies of Temik, leaving growers with no alternative but to use materials that have proven to be less effective and/or more expensive.

Researchers, some of whom have testified at Congressional hearings in support of Temik are bewildered that the EPA would consider granting a label for a product they have dogged for so many years. 

It would, says one veteran researcher, shoot holes in their creditability with groups that both support and oppose a number of controversial agricultural products.

Despite all the reasons why not, Peuch remains optimistic the EPA will grant his company label clearance to sell aldicarb to U.S. farmers. The name, he says, as of right now is Meymik — a combination of MEY (Maximum Economic Yield) and mik from Temik.

“We hope growers won’t give up on the product due to its absence from the marketplace this year. We can’t say much about formulations, distributions and other information growers would like to have until we get clearance from the EPA. If we do get our label, we will begin an aggressive campaign to let growers know that it is available and how to get it,” Peuch concludes.

rroberson@farmpress.com