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Daily News Blog

09
May

Colorado Limits Bee-Toxic Pesticide Use, as EPA Details Harm to Endangered Species

(Beyond Pesticides, May 9, 2022) The Colorado legislature last week passed SB23-266, a bill limiting the use of bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides in the state. The news comes as other states consider their own restrictions, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is publishing details on exactly which endangered species are set to be harmed by the ongoing use of these harmful insecticides. This latest news shows that protecting pollinators is possible, and urgently needed given growing understanding of the dangers these chemicals pose to the most vulnerable wildlife in the country.  

The Colorado bill requires the state’s commissioner of agriculture to adopt rules designating neonicotinoid pesticides as ‘limited-use’ pesticides in the state. With this designation, only licensed pesticide dealers may sell products containing these chemicals. Per the state’s legal code, the “limited-use” designation means the same as a federal “restricted-use” pesticide, which permits sales and use only for certified applicators. Passage of this bill marks an important step forward for pollinator protection efforts in the state. It will help ensure that homeowners are not able to easily purchase this product at big box retailers, but will allow continued use in residential areas and in agriculture.

Colorado’s bill fulfills guidance that EPA itself has advised but is not actually proposing. In releasing the interim decisions to reregister bee-toxic pesticides for another 15 long years, EPA noted that it is proposing “language on the label that advises homeowners not to use neonicotinoid products.” That is correct – the agency is planning to approve chemicals it is advising individuals not to use. In this context, actions by state lawmakers represent the bare minimum in instituting protections that the federal government itself apparently believes that it should be implementing.

Colorado’s bill is similar to restrictions implemented in the states of Maryland, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. However, it falls short of the strongest state models that have been passed in New Jersey and Maine that eliminate all outdoor uses of these chemicals, even by certified applicators. This is a result of a recognition that, even if applied perfectly according to the label, there is no safe level of exposure to these pesticides for pollinators. Connecticut, Nevada, and New York are considering legislation that would enact broader restrictions.

All of these state level bans pale in comparison to the robust protections currently implemented in the European Union (EU). The EU has banned neonicotinoid pesticide use on all outdoor areas, allowing use only in enclosed greenhouses.  

It is evident from EPA’s own data that similar restrictions are urgently needed in the United States. According to a biological evaluation that EPA is required to perform (and yet did so only as a result of several legal challenges), neonicotinoid have been found to adversely effect a majority of nontarget endangered species. According to EPA, endangered species are likely to be harmed at the following percentages: for imidacloprid, 1,445 (79%); for clothianidin, 1,225 (67%); and, for thiamethoxam, 1,396 (77%).

New data released this month is focused on exactly the species and their habitats whose existence is threatened by ongoing use of these chemicals. This list includes species one may expect to be impacted, like the imperiled rusty-patched bumblebee and the Karner blue butterfly, but also includes the greater prairie-chicken, vernal pool fairy shrimp, American burying beetle, and even plants like the Western prairie fringed orchid.

Local and state level action indicates that many lawmakers are paying attention to the latest science and willing to act. However, it will take significant efforts from consumers and U.S. residents at all levels to get EPA and the U.S. Congress to take meaningful action to protect pollinators.

Join Beyond Pesticides today in urging President Biden and Congress to take actions to restore scientific integrity to EPA and eliminate pesticide industry corruption within the agency. These actions are critical for the agency to make unbiased decisions about the registration of well-known hazardous pesticides like the neonicotinoids. For more information on how you can get involved in protecting pollinators, see Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective webpage.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Colorado General Assembly, EPA, Common Dreams

Image source: Wikimedia

 

 

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