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Vermont bans pesticides cited to cause local bee die-off

MONTPELIER — A coalition of scientists, beekeepers, environmental advocates and farmers said they were extremely pleased that the Senate voted 29-0 to ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, a leading driver of bee decline, on all ornamental, non-agricultural plants in Vermont. The bill, which the Senate passed last week, also will require that seed dealers accept orders for corn and soy seeds that are untreated with neonicotinoid pesticides for the 2019 planting season.
“The Vermont Senate listened to concerned constituents and adopted a key recommendation from the Vermont Pollinator Protection Committee that urged restrictions on bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides,” said Judy Bellairs, Co-Chair of the Pollinator Team, Sierra Club Grassroots Network. “We call on the House to follow suit and to ban uses of these toxic pesticides to protect the environment and agricultural economy of Vermont.”
A growing body of science shows that neonicotinoids can have alarming impacts on pollinators, causing death at very low doses and sub-lethal effects that make bees less able to forage, pollinate and reproduce. In 2016, the Vermont Legislature ordered that a commission be created to study pollinator decline in the state and established the Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets’ Pollinator Protection Committee. This Committee worked for months to collect stakeholder input and submitted a report with recommendations that would help advance pollinator protection across the state. The recommendations included eliminating the use of neonicotinoids on ornamental plants.
During the legislative session, more than 40 Vermont scientists and academics sent a letter to the Vermont legislature urging immediate action to protect bees and other pollinators by passing restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides. In addition, more than 25 farms and organizations across the state urged the legislature to add provisions to H.915 that would ban consumer use of neonicotinoids.
“Bees and other pollinators are responsible for one in every three bites of food we eat and their decline poses a serious threat to our food supply, environment and agricultural economy in Vermont,” said Molly Anderson, Professor of Food Studies, Middlebury College. “By passing this strengthening amendment, the Senate is demonstrating that it is standing with Vermont academics and scientists by taking action on this issue.”
Bees and other critical pollinators have been declining rapidly. Thousands of scientific studies implicate neonicotinoid pesticides as a key contributor. The EPA’s own assessments find that neonics pose far-reaching risks to birds and aquatic invertebrates. Recent studies find neonics are pervasive in U.S. waterways, including the Great Lakes. In response to clear evidence of harm to pollinators and impact on the environment, more than 200 entities, including the states of Maryland, Minnesota. and Connecticut, cities including Burlington, businesses and federal agencies have taken steps to reduce use of these pesticides.
“We applaud Vermont’s leadership in joining a growing number of states, businesses and cities in restricting bee-killing pesticides,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, senior food futures campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “We urge the Vermont House to listen to its own experts and immediately move to ban these toxic pesticides.”

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