Maryland Residents Asked to Urge Governor to Sign Pollinator Protection Act, Under Threat of Veto this Week
(Beyond Pesticides, May 26, 2015) Maryland’s historic Pollinator Protection Act, (SB 198 and HB 211) may be in danger. Last month, lawmakers approved the bill by a 98-39 vote in the Maryland House of Delegates, however it faces the possibility of a veto by Governor Larry Hogan (R). While the governor’s office says that the bill is currently under review, according to local news source WBAL, the governor is prepared to veto the bill, which he has until tomorrow, Friday, May 27, to do. If the governor does veto the bill, Maryland’s Pollinator Protection Act will go back to the legislature for an override vote, which will take place in early 2017.
Meanwhile, beekeepers continue to lose their bees at unprecedented rates. Last week, we reported results of 2015-16 Colony Loss Survey, which show no sign that the crisis of abating. According to the survey, beekeepers lost 28.1% of their colonies over this past winter, and a total of 44% of their colonies over the last year. This marks the second year in a row that summer declines (28.1%) were on par with declines experienced during winter.
WBAL reports that the governor is likely to veto the bill because of the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s testimony submitted in opposition to the Pollinator Protection Act, which cites a lack of scientific evidence linking neonicotinoids to pollinator decline. However, there is an overwhelming amount of research demonstrating that neonicotinoids, such as imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin working individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of bees and other pollinators. Neonicotinoids affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and eventual death. These pesticides have consistently been implicated as a key contributor in pollinator declines, not only through immediate bee deaths, but also through sublethal exposure that causes changes in bee reproduction, navigation, and foraging. Pesticide exposure can impair both detoxification mechanisms and immune responses, rendering bees more susceptible to viruses, parasites, and other diseases, and leading to devastating bee losses.
The bill represents an important step by the Maryland legislature, since consumers in the state would be prohibited from using products containing neonicotinoid pesticides starting in 2018. However, the legislation’s reach does not extend to farmers, veterinarians, and certified pesticide applicators, who will still be permitted to apply the chemicals. Consumers can also buy treated plants and seedlings from stores without any labeling. Cumulatively, these present major sources of exposure for bees and other pollinators.
Shortly after Maryland’s Pollinator Protection Act was passed through the legislature, the Connecticut legislature unanimously passed a wide-ranging bill, Bill No. 231, An Act Concerning Pollinator Health to protect declining pollinator populations from neonics, which was signed into law by Governor Dannel P. Malloy earlier this month.
Numerous local communities, universities, and retailers have also taken steps to remove neonicotinoid pesticides from use. At the federal level, Congress has an opportunity to suspend the use of neonics until they have been proven not to result in unreasonable adverse effects on pollinators through the Saving America’s Pollinators Act. While the White House has established a National Pollinator Health Strategy, it is evident that more will need to be done to address pesticide use in order to achieve President Obama’s goal of no more than 15% annual winter losses within the next decade. In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office concurred that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture are not doing enough to protect pollinators.
Proactive state and local steps to address the issue of pollinator decline is critical in the absence of federal action. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits toxic pesticide use and requires alternative assessments. We suggest an approach that rejects uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, and instead focuses on safer alternatives that are proven effective, such as organic agriculture, which prohibits the use of neonicotinoids. See Bee Protective to learn how you can help.
Take Action: If you are a Maryland resident, send a letter to Governor Hogan in support of The Pollinator Protection Act. Tell the Governor not to veto this important measure, because pollinators can’t wait.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.