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The most widely used pesticides in the U.S., neonics can be toxic to insects—including honey bees and native bees—at even small levels, (Photo: Pixabay/cc)

To Protect 'Web of Life,' California Proposal Would Ban Bee-Killing Neonics

"Our pollinators are threatened. We know the cause, and it's time to take action."

Andrea Germanos

Amid "astounding losses" of bees in the U.S., a California Democrat on Tuesday introduced legislation for a state ban on nearly all non-agricultural uses of insecticides linked to pollinator and environmental harm.

"Its passage in the most populous state in the nation would mark a turning point in the years-long battle to rein in neonics."

"Our pollinators are threatened. We know the cause, and it's time to take action," said Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-), who introduced the measure.

The proposal, AB 2146, targets imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, dinotefuran, and acetamiprid. All five are part of a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids or "neonics." Their future use on places like home lawns or golf courses would be banned under the measure.

Bauer-Kahan, in her statement, noted that "the European Union has already banned many of these pesticides altogether" and called it "time to catch up to the rest of the world in protecting bee and human health."

The most widely used pesticides in the U.S., neonics can be toxic to insects—including honey bees and native bees—at even small levels, and the reach and persistence of the chemical compounds can extend harm to many pollinators, with residues remaining in soils and even getting into waterways, according to studies.

A statement from Bauer-Kahan's office points to data from the Bee Informed Partnership showing that beekeepers in California reported a nearly 42% loss in their colonies last year.

That's particularly important for a state where "declining bee populations threaten over $15 billion annually in agricultural production," as Lucas Rhoads, staff attorney with NRDC’s Pollinator Initiative, wrote in a blog post Tuesday. "Many of the state's most valuable crops, including almonds, grapes, and a variety of berries, are dependent—in whole or in part—on pollination by bees and other insects."

Environment California and California Native Plant Society joined NRDC in co-sponsoring AB 2146.

"Its passage in the most populous state in the nation," Rhoads wrote, "would mark a turning point in the years-long battle to rein in neonics, which contaminate lands and waters nationwide and threaten bees, birds, and entire ecosystems—and even people."

Laura Deehan, state director at Environment California, said the legislation can't come soon enough.

“Bees, butterflies, and birds all play a critical role in the web of life—from pollinating the flowering plants that make up much of the food we eat to filling our world with beauty and wonder. The drastic decline in their numbers is disturbing and calls for immediate action," she said in a statement.

"Getting rid of neonics on lawns, gardens, and golf courses," added Deehan, "would provide a lifeline to pollinators and other key species just in the nick of time."

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