Minnesota Introduces Legislation to Save Bees and Support Farmers
CHICAGO – Legislation introduced today will help both Minnesota farmers and beekeepers by closing a loophole allowing unchecked use of bee-toxic pesticides. Under current Minnesota law, seeds treated with neonicotinoid insecticides (neonics) are not technically counted as a pesticide application, but this bill allows the state to take action to protect bees from neonic exposure through treated seeds.
“To save the bees, we have to protect them from danger, including seeds treated with harmful pesticides. Minnesota is taking a step in the right direction by closing a gaping loophole for the state’s number one use of bee-toxic neonics,” said Dan Raichel, staff attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
A contributor to bee population collapses nationwide, neonics are primarily applied as seed coatings. The bill introduced today is one outcome of the state’s renewed commitment to protect pollinators, announced last year. Research, including a 2016 assessment from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (“MDA”), indicates that neonics are one of the primary causes of the decline in bee populations. High doses of neonics kill bees directly, and a strong and growing body of science shows that even in much smaller doses, neonics impair reproductive functions, learning and memory, hive communication, and immune response in bees. Their use is widespread, even as other evidence shows that neonic coated seeds often fail to increase crop yields.
Bees contribute more than $33 million to Minnesota’s agricultural economy by pollinating key crops and producing honey, but bees are in serious trouble. In addition to habitat loss, lack of food, and disease, the widespread use of neonics has made plants, like corn and soy, harmful to bees. Neonics are the most widely used class of insecticides in the country, and they work by being fully absorbed by the plant, making it (including its pollen and nectar) toxic to insects. Currently, treated seeds are the most common application of the chemical.
In the 2014-2015 season, Minnesota beekeepers reported losing more than 50 percent of their bees. This comes on the heels of recent data showing a significant decline in the state’s native bee populations. Bees and other pollinators are integral to Minnesota’s economy. According to statistics from the MDA, 85% of the state’s crops receive clear benefits from pollinators. Minnesota is one of the top honey producing states in the nation with honey production, contributing upwards of $16 million to the state’s agricultural economy. Pollination is also crucial for apples, the state’s top fruit crop, which was valued at $17.7 million in 2015.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 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, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.