Fipronil: Courting Controversy
BASF’s fipronil, primarily used as a corn insecticide, has been branded as Standak in Europe and registered for use as a seed treatment for corn, cotton, dry beans, rice, soybeans and wheat. Fipronil is also available for non-crop use as a flea treatment, fruit fly attractant and for turf and ornamental applications. However, its primary use is on field corn for control of corn rootworm, thrips, weevils and other insects.
In 2009, China banned fipronil products, citing toxicity to bees, insect resistance in pests such as the rice stem borer (Chilo suppressalis) and whitebacked planthopper (Sogatella furcifera), and the replacement use of DuPont’s chlorantraniliprole. Exceptions were made for applications in hygiene, seed-coating agents and exports — which could only be produced by manufacturers that make fipronil technical. All other existing registration and production certificates for pesticide formulation containing fipronil were nullified.
Fipronil is registered and sold in more than 70 countries for use on more than 100 crops, primarily corn, rice, potatoes and small grains.
In April 2010, BASF filed separate lawsuits against Makhteshim Agan of North Ameica (MANA) and its subsidiary, Control Solutions, and against Cheminova and Cheminova A/S, citing imminent patent infringement in noncrop products. BASF is seeking injunctions to prevent MANA and Cheminova from selling generic fipronil termiticides.
BASF manufacturers Termidor, a fipronil-based termite control product. BASF’s chemical patent for fipronil will expire Aug. 3, and the method-of-use patents will expire in 2017. Two patents covering fipronil manufacturing processes will expire in 2023 and 2025. Both causes are expected to go to trial in early 2011.