(Beyond Pesticides, February 14, 2014) Legislation in Oregon that would have banned the use of four neonicotinoid pesticides for home and garden uses has been severely gutted, following push back from agricultural and nursery interests. The legislative panel will instead propose creating a much weaker requirement to set up a task force that will only examine the possibility of future restrictions.
The original bill language would have added neonicotinoid pesticides dinotefuran, imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam to Oregon’s list of restricted pesticides, which can only be applied by licensed pesticide applicators. However, the bill has now been drastically amended after consultation with scientists, nursery and agriculture interests, and environmental groups, said bill sponsor Representative Jeff Reardon (D-Portland) to the House committee.
“The Oregon Legislature should be ashamed of itself for its failure to act on the face of this clear ecological crisis,” said beekeeper and activist Tom Theobald. “The change to restricted use was a step in the right direction, a small step, but a step,” he continued, voicing his disappointment.
The original bill, HB4139, was introduced by Rep. Reardon earlier this year in response to several bee-kill incidents in Oregon last summer, including one that killed more than 50,000 bumblebees after a licensed pesticide applicator sprayed blooming linden trees, a violation of the pesticide label. After a preliminary investigation, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) confirmed that the massive bee die-off was caused by the use of the insecticide dinotefuran. But the incident only resulted in a small fine of under $3,000, just 6 cents per bee, infuriating beekeepers, environmentalists, and advocates, but spurring legislative action.
Unfortunately, the resulting bill has now been drastically amended, now only requiring Oregon State University, in collaboration with Oregon’s Department of Agriculture, to develop best practices for chemical usage to minimize pollinator harm. It also creates a 10-member Task Force on Pollinator Health that would examine current and potential pesticide regulations. Both stipulations fall short of strong legislation that would protect bees, receiving harsh criticism from beekeepers.
There is mounting scientific evidence implicating the role of neonicotinoids in nationwide bees declines, impairing bees’ ability to learn, to find their way back to the hive, to collect food, to produce new queens, and to mount an effective immune response. While the weight of evidence has spurred the European Union to enact a two-year suspension on the use of these chemicals, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has yet to follow suit. In fact, the agency has done the opposite of what is prudent under current science by continuing to register new systemic pesticides, such as cyantraniliprole and sulfoxaflor, that are implicated as highly toxic to bees.
To take action on the most recent action being taken to protect honey bees, see the Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective campaign, which works with national and local groups to protect honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides and contaminated landscapes.
Continue your commitment to helping pollinators by joining us April 11-12 for Beyond Pesticides’ 32nd National Pesticide Forum, “Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, pollinators, and practices,” in Portland, OR. The Forum will focus on solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficial organisms, strengthening organic agriculture, improving farmworker protection and agricultural justice, and creating healthy buildings, schools and homes. Space is limited so register now.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.