(Beyond Pesticides, September 29, 2014) Last week, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to prohibit the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on land owned or maintained by the city. Neonicotinoid insecticides have been linked to colony collapse disorder (CCD) and declining bee health that has resulted in a near devastating decline in viable managed beehives, which are critical to pollination of one-third of the nation’s food supply. Seattle is the largest city thus far to enact such a ban to protect pollinators in the absence of federal regulation. Other localities taking action include Skagway, Alaska, Eugene, Oregon and Spokane, Washington and dozens of other jurisdictions that have adopted organic land management practices or pesticide bans on public land, private land, parks, schools, and other land under their authority.
Resolution 31548, adopted and expected to be signed by Mayor Ed M.urray, states that the City of Seattle shall ban the purchase and use of neonicotinoids on city-owned property and calls for a national moratorium on the use of the toxic pesticides, urging the White House Task Force, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Congress to suspend the registration of neonicotinoids. Along with encouraging federal action, the resolution asks retailers within Seattle to stop selling plants, seeds or any other products that contains neonicotinoids.
“This is a modest step to help protect bees and other pollinators, which help make the Emerald City blossom every spring,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “I hope the City’s move helps raise awareness about what we can all be doing to promote the health of pollinators through sustainable pest management practices.”
This success can be attributed to activists who raised community awareness and began a petition drive that collected over over 4,300 signatures and was supported by 24 organizations. Of these groups, Central Co-Op and Seattle Sierra Club led the charge and drafted the original petition.
Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. Moving through the plant’s vascular system and expressing themselves through pollen and nectar, these systemic pesticides include imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. A large and growing body of science continues to link recent global bee die-offs to neonicotinoids, which are applied to or incorporated into seeds for agricultural, ornamental and garden plants. Beekeepers across the country reported losses of 40-90 percent of their bees last winter.
However, because of Washington state preemption of local authority to adopt pesticide restrictions more stringent than the sate, the ban can only go so far. That is why the city is urging the federal government to take a more proactive role in ensuring the health of bees. Even though the majority of states have to deal with preemption laws, seven states do not establish these regressive restrictions. In fact, just this past week Skagway, Alaska enacted a comprehensive cosmetic pesticide ordinance. This particular ordinance takes additional steps to protect bees by prohibiting the sale and private use of neonicotinoid products. The Skagwag ordinance includes a provision for civil fines in the case of violations, $1,000 for each day in violation.
Beyond Pesticides strongly encourage communities to push their local and state leaders to fight to save the bees. Where local private property bans are not currently possible under state law, work can focus on restricting pesticide use on public property. Whether a small municipality or a large city, education and action on unnecessary pesticide use makes an enormous difference in protecting drinking water, those most vulnerable to pesticide exposure (including children and elderly), pollinators, and unique and sensitive ecosystems where people live.
BEE Protective in Your Community
One in every three bites of food are reliant on bees, and pollinators contribute between $20-30 billion in agricultural production annually in the U.S. The decline of honey bees and other pollinators due to pesticides and other man-made causes demands immediate action. Encourage your community or campus to be pollinator-friendly and make changes that will protect your local pollinator population. Get the Model Community Pollinator Resolution in the hands of local elected officials or school administrators. For help with your campaign, contact Beyond Pesticides.
For additional tools to support your efforts to adopt pesticide policy in your community, see Beyond Pesticides’ Tools for Change, and visit the BEE Protective webpage, or give us a call at 202-543-5450.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.