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U.S. States Begin Ban on Neonicotinoids

Posted By Cindy Slone, Friday, July 1, 2016
The first ban on sales of products containing the neonicotinoid class of pesticides will begin on January 1, 2018 in Maryland after Governor Larry Hogan announced he would allow the legislation (S.B. 198/H.B. 211) to become law without his signature. The Governor invoked a provision in the state constitution that allows legislation to become law within a thirty day time period if he does not sign or veto it. Exempt from the law are certified applicators, farmers and veterinarians.

Connecticut followed suit about a week later with a similar ban.

For the past decade, there has been a decline among bees. Many studies have been published over the past several years – some with conclusive results -  that neonicotinoids are to blame for the decline in bee pollinators and some have found inconclusive results.

The Maryland bill was brought forward based on the same concerns that neonicotinoid pesticides are contributing to the mortality of bees and other pollinators. According to a 2015 USDA survey, Maryland lost about 60% of hives last year, which is much higher than the national average of approximately 42%.  But many researches remain uncertain if there is enough evidence to prove that neonicotinoid pesticides have a fatal impact on pollinators.  One theory is that low level exposure to neonicotinoids does not kill bees directly, but impacts their ability to forage for nectar and find their way back to the hive.

Other factors also influence the health of bees such as disease, parasites, and loss of habitat. How influential is the use of pesticides in the bee population along with the other factors?

The EU banned some neonicotinoids in 2013 and is currently assessing data to be released in January 2017.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the first of four studies on many of these pesticides in January. The preliminary study on imidacloprid finds that it is a potential threat to bees and will release a risk assessment on all ecological effects in December of this year.

Neonicotinoid insecticides (which include acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, nitenpyram, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam) were introduced to the market in the 1980s and were targeted to specific pests and considered less harmful to humans. Neonicotinoids are absorbed when applied and remain in the tissue of the plant. The bans that have been passed have considered the fact that mis-application of the pesticide can be a hazard thus allowing professionals to continue use of them.

If more research continues down the path of neonicotinoids being harmful and professional use is banned–what will happen? Crops, including self-pollinating crops, use these insecticides for crop management. Will it fall to the manufacturing companies to develop new insecticides or to the breeders to identify and incorporate multiple insect resistance genes?
How do you fall on this continuing research and debate? ASHS would love to hear from the membership. If you have something to say, please comment on this post.

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