By Peter Aronson
Few things are as important as protecting our food crops. That’s why we are urging Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign the Birds and Bees Protection Act, which was passed by the New York State Legislature earlier this year.
The bill (A. 7640/S. 1856-A) would prohibit the sale of certain pesticides that kill pollinators, primarily honey bees. The loss of bees and other pollinators means fewer crops are pollinated, resulting in crop loss across the state.
“By eliminating unnecessary and harmful chemicals in our treatment of pests, we will help protect New York’s environment, food security, and agricultural economy, “ said Andrew Williams, deputy director of state policy for the New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV). “It’s time for New York to finally take action to ensure the survival of our essential pollinators and the health of our communities, and that is why NYLCV stands with our partners in calling on Governor Hochul to sign the Birds and Bees Protection Act.”
According to a report by the Office of the New York State Comptroller, the state has more than seven million acres devoted to agricultural production and many of the state’s leading crops, including apples, cabbage and berries, rely heavily on pollination by insects.
“These crops use pollinators to produce a fruit or a seed and cannot reproduce without pollen carried to them by foraging pollinators,” the report states, adding that the pollinator population has declined drastically during the past 30 years, with use of pesticides one of the leading reasons.
The report, citing the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said honey bees pollinate $15 billion worth of crops in the United States each year. About one-third of the food eaten by Americans, including apples, melons, cranberries, pumpkins, squash, broccoli and almonds, to name just a few, comes from food pollinated by bees.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assembly Member Deborah J. Glick, would prohibit the sale and use of certain neonicotinoid pesticides and require the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to review active ingredients in other pesticides.
Neonicotinoids, also known as neonics, are a commonly used insecticide on plants and grass. They also are used to treat seeds to make them resistant to certain agricultural pests. These chemicals can kill or damage the life pattern of bees, impacting crop production. Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has studied the impact of pesticides on pollinators and said, “Cornell’s own New York State Beekeeper Tech Team found thiamethoxam, a neonicotinoid insecticide, posing high risk to bees, present in 39% honey bee colonies across New York in 2021.”
If the bill is signed by Gov. Hochul, the prohibition would take effect in 2027, giving the marketplace time to adapt to the rule change. For more details about the bill, please see the policy statement by the NYLCV.
For an article applauding the passage of the bill by the State Legislature, please see the Wildlife Management Institute website.