A closer look into the implications of Maryland’s state-wide ban on the neonicotinoids.
There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the Maryland Pollinator Protection Act. In many ways, the Act’s passage is a revolutionary step forward in the fight for protecting pollinators against toxic pesticides. Pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids, are increasingly becoming regarded as harmful to the environment – and not just by activist groups.
Average losses in the past have been at the most 30% annually, which is still higher than a sustainable number. But last year, Maryland experienced an unprecedented loss at 60% of their bee colonies. The bill seeks to rectify this enormous loss by significantly curbing the use of pesticides.
What the bill accomplishes: Maryland’s passage of the Pollinator Protection Act would be the first action of its kind on a state level. This is important because the other bans that have been passed so far (discussed more in depth here) only apply to public land. Maryland’s bill, by contrast, regulates pesticides for consumer use. It can be argued that this may be even more effective than the bans already in place – often, the most concerning factor of the use of neonics is the lack of regulation on application concentration. While these pesticides ideally wouldn’t be used at all, it is in the hands of the least informed users that make the biggest impacts on the environment. For example, residual concentration is poised to happen more to an amateur gardener than a trained pesticide applicator. Private use is much more subject to overuse, says Tiffany Finck-Haynes, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, “For someone that isn’t certified and doesn’t know how to use them, they might spray heavily. Making sure that we’re eliminating that use is a significant step in getting them out of the environment and helping to protect bees…Different studies come out showing that for home garden use these products are used 120 times more.”
Maryland’s bill can also protect against consumer misinformation. For example, when consumers buy seeds at nurseries, it is often unclear whether the seeds have been treated with pesticides – many times, consumers are unknowingly contributing to the impact on pollinators.
What the bill doesn’t accomplish: Since Maryland’s bill restricts use to only those who have been trained or have experience using the pesticides, there will still be a high volume of use by farmers and veterinarians. While this is no doubt an incredibly meaningful step toward pollinator protection, a lot of concern remains as to the use of neonic pesticides at all.
The gap is not only left open by Maryland, though. The other counties, municipalities, and cities that have passed regulation on neonics only regulate the use of pesticides on public lands. This post aims to explain why it is important to attack the issue of pesticide use on both sides of communities. Hopefully Maryland’s actions will spur private consumer regulation in these and other areas as well.
If Maryland’s bill is passed, it will be the first state-wide regulation on neonics, making Maryland a pioneer for pollinator health. Moreover, the attention from the public that this bill’s potential passage carries is another important element – the use of neonics and their impact on bees has become (and continues to be) an important focus of media, public, and legislature attention.
The act has been approved by Maryland’s House Delegates and now awaits signature by the Governor, Larry Hogan (R).