Press Release

Birds and Bees Protection Act Public Hearing Sparks Debate

Environmental, Health, and Farming Groups Flocked to Public Hearing on Neonics

Rita Yelda
ryelda@nrdc.org, 732-979-0655

Photos and video will be available by 2 p.m. here.

Albany, N.Y. - The Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee held a public hearing on neonicotinoid pesticides (“neonics”) targeted by the Birds and Bees Protection Act (A7429/S699B) today. Over a dozen environmental, health, and farming groups spoke at the hearing to express support for New York State’s first-in-the-nation legislation that would rein in the use of neonics. Some of these organizations included NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), Sierra Club - Atlantic Chapter, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Norwich Meadows Farm, The Bee Conservancy, and Citizens Campaign for the Environment. 

Advocates for the bill detailed concerns about neonic-treated seeds threatening pollinator and bird populations, extensively contaminating New York water, and may be harming human health. A recent Cornell Report shows that neonic seed treatments provide “no overall net income benefit” to farmers. The Cornell Report supports the fact that neonic treated seeds are a leading cause of pollinator losses, and recent research reveals that top New York crops like apples and cherries are “pollinator limited” across the nation—meaning a lack of pollinators is already hampering food production.

According to a November 2020 poll, 66% of New Yorkers support stronger state regulations of neonics when first asked. The Birds and Bees Protection Act passed the Senate in June, but ran out of time to pass the Assembly before the session ended. The Senate and Assembly are expected to take up the bill when they return for legislative session in January 2022, or possibly sooner if a special session is called.

Following are quotes from lawmakers and groups advocating for the bill:

"Neonicotinoid pesticides are the most commonly used insecticides worldwide, and designed to spread throughout plants, making the whole plant toxic to insects," said Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee and Assembly sponsor of the Birds and Bees Protection Act. “That makes them not only good at killing pests, but also bees, butterflies, and every other kind of insect with devastating effects on birds and fish too. It also makes them able to spread through our environment, contaminating water and even our own bodies. That’s why I am sponsoring the Birds and Bees Act—to protect New York’s people, pollinators, and ecosystems.”

"New York beekeepers have lost more than 40% of their bee colonies almost every year for the last decade. The Birds and Bees Protection Act is a transformative piece of legislation that provides targeted, science-based restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides that are contributing to our loss of bees, birds and pollinators and threatening many sectors of our economy. I’m proud the New York Senate has passed this bill. Now we have an opportunity to be a leader in protecting pollinators. I’m eager to continue to work with Assembly Member Steve Englebright and the NRDC to fight for the birds, bees and humans of the Empire State,” said NYS Senator Brad Hoylman.

“Scientific studies in recent years paint an increasingly scary picture of neonic pesticide impacts,” added Dan Raichel, Acting Director of NRDC’s Pollinator Initiative. “We’ve long known neonics kill bees, but we now see links between neonics and mass losses of birds, the collapse of fisheries, developmental risks in people, and vast water contamination in New York. The eye-opening realization from recent in-depth Cornell University research is that the vast majority of neonic contamination in New York comes from uses that either don’t provide benefits to users or are easily replaced with safer alternatives. The Birds and Bees Protection Act bans these needless uses.”

“The Birds & Bees Protection Act provides a welcome transition away from neonicotinoid pesticides toward safer alternatives,” said Dr. Kathy Nolan, Board Member for Physicians for Social Responsibility, New York. "Children and families in New York will be able to drink their water and eat their food, without having to fear pervasive contamination by nicotine-like chemicals that emerging research links to birth defects and autism. New York’s farms and natural areas should see benefits, as well, to native populations of bees, birds, bats, worms, soil organisms, fish, and large mammals.”

“A major realization in the developed world, during my lifetime, is the crucial link between the health of the environment and human well being, if not survival,” said Dr. Yusuf Harper, a farmer and co-owner of Norwich Meadows Farm. “Neonicotinoids disrupt and damage this dynamic interconnectedness, due to the massive volume of use, indiscriminate broad application, key species effects, and persistence of both parent compounds and metabolites. As an organic farmer, beekeeper, and physician I understand the interactions of agriculture and food, chemicals as medicines and poisons, and their environmental and health consequences. The use of neonicotinoids needs to be thoroughly revised and restricted, at least to the extent most European countries have taken.” 

"We cannot afford to lose our pollinators, much less the thousands of other species interconnected with these essential insects,” said Caitlin Ferrante, Conservation and Development Program Manager, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “New York can be a leader in science-based neonic regulation by eliminating unjustified high-cost, low-benefit neonic uses. This reasonable approach would not prevent invasive species treatment nor agricultural uses beyond treated corn, soybean, and wheat seeds, and it would benefit pollinators, our state’s farmers who depend on them, New York’s ecosystems, and all New Yorkers who value clean soil, clean water, and their own health. We look forward to the Legislature passing the Birds and Bees Protection Act as soon as possible."

“Contamination of New York’s water resources from neonic pesticides is widespread, threatening our health and environment across the state,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “The unnecessary yet ubiquitous use of neonic treated seeds has contributed to neonics becoming some of the most commonly detected pesticides in New York’s ground and surface waters on Long Island and across the state. The Birds and Bees Protection Act will protect pollinators, public health, and water quality by banning the most dangerous and unnecessary uses of neonics. We commend Assemblyman Englebright and Senator Hoylman for sponsoring this important legislation, and urge the legislature to pass this bill without delay.”

"Bees lie at the heart of our survival. They pollinate 1 in 3 bites of food we eat and are essential to the health and prosperity of countless ecosystems," said Rebecca Louie, Managing Director of The Bee Conservancy. "Sadly, more than half of North America’s 4,000 native bee species are in decline, and one in four species are at risk of extinction -- which means New York State must act now to limit the use of harmful neonics that threaten our pollinators."

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NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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