Will This Bee the Year New York Tackles Neonics?

A new NRDC report shows, neonics now contaminate soil and water across the Empire State at levels capable of hollowing out ecosystems from the bottom up.
Neonics have been implicated in declines of insect-eating birds. Insects are an important food source for New York's state bird, the eastern bluebird.

It’s time we talked about the birds and the bees.

They’re in rough shape. We’ve lost nearly 30% of our bird population in the last 50 years. And in the last 15 years, we’ve seen bees and other pollinators dying at record rates.

While the causes for these losses are many, one leading and preventable cause—the widespread use of highly insect-toxic neonicotinoid insecticides, or “neonics”—is an issue that New York state lawmakers are poised to take on this legislative session. The Birds and Bees Protection Act (A.7639 Englebright/S.5816 Hoylman) would halt outdoor use of the popular pesticides for five years while the state conducts further study. What we already know about neonics, however, is cause for alarm.

As an NRDC report released today shows, neonics now contaminate soil and water across the Empire State at levels capable of hollowing out ecosystems from the bottom up. The extensive pollution affects New Yorkers too—Centers for Disease Control testing reveals that half the U.S. population is regularly exposed to neonics.

Long thought of as a problem “just” for bees, neonics are now implicated in broader wildlife losses often described with terms like “the insect apocalypse” and a “second Silent Spring.” NRDC’s report highlights new research and analysis showing:

Trout Pond Park in Noyack, New York. Neonic water contamination on Long Island may be harming populations of insect-eating trout.
Credit: Photo by DanTD.
  • Neonics Raise Human Health Concerns – Millions of New Yorkers are exposed to neonics every day. Thus, studies suggesting those exposures may increase risk of developmental or neurological damage, including malformations of the developing heart and brain, memory loss, and finger tremors, are of serious concern. For many people, neonic exposure may be hard to avoid. Conventional drinking water treatments generally do not remove neonics from neonic-contaminated water, and neonic residues commonly contaminate produce and baby food. Because neonics permeate foods, they cannot be washed off.

The pesticide industry, of course, does not want you to know any of this. It’s waged a multi-million dollar marketing campaign blaming the “varroa mite” parasite for mass honey bee losses, intentionally ignoring the science, including new evidence showing neonics make honey bees more susceptible to varroa. This disinformation campaign has been so wildly successful that the U.S. has failed to take action, even as the European Union and Canada have moved to ban harmful neonic uses.

This year, however, must be different. New York’s leaders need to give the state a much-needed break from widespread neonic contamination by passing the Birds and Bees Protection Act. Industry pressure will be fierce, so it’s more important than ever to make your voice heard. If you live in New York, let your state representatives know: It’s time to protect bees, birds, butterflies, bats, amphibians, fish, deer, the state’s clean water and soil, and, quite possibly, New Yorkers themselves from the harms of rampant neonic contamination.

To take action now, click here.