Can New York protect bees, birds and humans from toxic pesticides?

New York’s Bird and Bee Protection Act (A7429/S699B) by Assemblyman Steve Englebright and State Senator Brad Hoylman would build on recent momentum to curb harmful neon pesticides, including including the state environmental agency. New Yorkers can TAKE ACTION by signing the petition HERE.

People are becoming aware of neonicotinoids (aka “neonics”) – the neurotoxic pesticides linked to mass losses of bees, birds and fish; extensive water contamination; and, increasingly, risks to human health. In June, Maine became the first state to ban harmful pesticides in residential areas. In January, New Jersey went further by banning nearly all non-agricultural outdoor uses (responsible for the vast majority of neon pollution in this largely urban/suburban state).

Now New York appears poised to take the next step with the Bird and Bee Protection Act (A7429/S699B) – a bill based on the findings of a recent massive Cornell University report – that would eliminate 80-90% of neonicotinoids entering New York. the environment each year by only prohibiting uses that provide little or no benefit to users or that are easily replaced by safer alternatives. The bill passed the state Senate last June and is gaining momentum after an Assembly hearing on neonics in September. The bill would also complement a recent decision by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to restrict certain uses of neonics to “protect public health and the environment.”

Today, a group of advocates from public health, agriculture and environmental groups took to the electronic rooms of the Capitol with a day of virtual lobbying in support of the bill and the critical need to curb the neon pesticide contamination.

Some sharp-looking advocates from today’s virtual lobbying day.

Neonics: bad news for bees, bad news for everyone

For those who have heard of neonics, this is likely due to their major role in the mass losses of honey bees and wild bees, both essential for food production. Recent research shows that many top crops, such as apples, blueberries and cherries, are “pollination limited”, meaning that a lack of bees and other pollinators is already reducing yields. . As neon pollution continues to cause these losses, the situation is only getting worse. Indeed, last year was the second-worst on record for honey bee losses, both in New York and nationwide.

The critical role of bees in food production—responsible for one in three bites of food we eat—as well as ecosystem health would be reason enough to be concerned about neonicotinoids. If current trends continue, some of our most delicious and nutritious foods will become scarcer and much more expensive, hitting disadvantaged communities the hardest. But we also know now that the problems with neonics are much bigger.

Neonics are among the most insect-toxic pesticides ever created. Designed to permeate plants – making their fruit, leaves, pollen, nectar, etc. toxic – neonicotinoids are often literally painted on the seeds of crops, which the growing plant is destined to absorb through its roots. Just one of these corn seeds usually contains enough active chemical ingredients to kill a quarter of a million bees. And only 2-5% of them penetrate the target plant, leaving the remaining 95% in the environment where they easily migrate with rainwater to contaminate other soils, plants and water supplies.

The widespread overuse of neonicotinoids has resulted in chronic and widespread pollution of large swathes of our environment, reducing bird and fish populations by wiping out their insect and invertebrate food sources. Eating a seed treated with neonics can kill a small songbird, and even in non-lethal doses, neonics impair the immune system, fertility and navigation of birds, and cause rapid weight loss, reducing their chances of surviving in nature. Research also links neonic levels commonly found in white-tailed deer in the wild to birth defects and higher death rates in fawns.

Levels of neonics commonly found in white-tailed deer have been linked to birth defects and higher mortality rates in fawns.

This research, along with other animal studies, neonicotinoid poisoning reports from the EPA, and early human health studies, are of growing concern to health experts. Earlier this month, more than three dozen New York health researchers, doctors and nurses sent a letter to Governor Hochul and state legislative leaders to limit the use of neonics to protect the health of New Yorkers, especially that of children.

New York is no stranger to neon pollution

In New York, evidence of widespread neon contamination is emerging in the water and among New Yorkers themselves. Tests frequently reveal neonicotinoids in surface waters — as well as a third of Long Island’s groundwater samples — at levels that could cause “wider ecosystem damage.” Surveillance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reveals that, every day, neonicotinoids or their breakdown products are found in the bodies of about half of the US population.

New Yorkers may also be more likely to see neonics in their tap water than elsewhere. Activated carbon filtration can remove neonics from water, which conventional chlorination treatment cannot – a concern for the notorious unfiltered water supplies of New York and Syracuse, as well as many others who do not use the new technology. Neonics also commonly appear in foods, including baby foods, which, because they permeate foods, cannot be washed away.

Neonics commonly contaminate New York water. Users of Long Island groundwater and unfiltered water supplies in New York and Syracuse may be at higher risk of seeing neonics at the faucet.

Of course, New Yorkers can reduce their risk of exposure to neonics by installing filtration systems at their taps and buying only organic foods. But those options aren’t possible for all New York families, especially those struggling to make ends meet.

The Bird and Bee Protection Act: A Common-Sense, Science-Based Solution for New York

Fortunately, New York now has the opportunity to be a leader in significantly reducing neonic pollution in a smart, purposeful way through the Bird and Bee Protection Act (A7429/S699B), which eliminates the two largest sources of neonics in the state that the Cornell report emissions are also the least beneficial.

Specifically, he finds that neonic-treated corn, soybean, and wheat seed—which accounts for about three-quarters of all neonic use in New York agriculture and covers well over a million acres – pose “substantial” risks to bees, but “no overall net income benefit to farmers. Neonic treatments on these seeds rarely benefit crop yields. But even when they do, the added cost of the pesticide on the seed negates the benefit.

Likewise, most non-agricultural neonic uses, such as those banned in Maine and New Jersey, are generally best substituted with nothing, but even where insecticides may be justified, safer and effective alternatives abound.

The Bird and Bee Protection Act prohibits these two unnecessary and harmful uses, which account for 80-90% of all neonics use in New York, without prohibiting any other use of neonics in agriculture or pest control. invasive species. It also builds on DEC’s recent action to ban “over the counter” consumer neonicotinoid products to protect bee and human health.

As the harms of neonics continue to mount year after year, we will fight with our coalition partners to get New York to take the next step in protecting neonics by passing this common-sense and much-needed legislation. If you live in New York and also want to take action, please sign the online petition.

About Sherri Flowers

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