WASHINGTON, June 25, 2014 – Spokane, Washington, joined fellow Pacific Northwest cities Eugene, Oregon and Seattle in banning the use of insecticides containing neonicotinoids on city property in an effort to ease pressure on declining pollinator populations.
“This ordinance simply says Spokane prioritizes the protection of our food supply over the ornamental use of pesticides,” City Council President Ben Stuckart said in a statement.
A press release from Stuckart’s office indicated the neonicotinoids ordinance was timed to be released on the same day that President Obama announced a federal strategy for the protection of pollinator health. As part of that strategy, the president tasked the EPA with assessing the effects of pesticides, including neonicotinoids, on pollinator health. Obama also ordered executive departments and agencies to avoid the use of pesticides in sensitive pollinator habitats.
Stuckart’s office says the ban is a response to a 2013 incident in Oregon – in which 50,000 bees died – that was blamed on pesticides containing neonicotinoids. Though the Oregon Department of Agriculture does not forbid the use of the class of pesticides, the agency writes on its website that neonicotinoids “may pose a potential risk to bees and other insects that benefit us.”
According to the Oregon-based Xerces Society, which advocates for the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats, sub-lethal levels of neonicotinoids can harm honey bees by impairing forage ability, affecting the ability of the queen to lay eggs, and making the animals more susceptible to pathogens.
Bayer CropScience - the multinational agribusiness that produces some pesticides with neonciotinoids - argues that science on the products is in dispute. Though scientists have observed adverse reactions to the pesticide in controlled laboratory environments, the company says, those same effects were never observed in field studies at field-realistic exposure conditions.
“Such research is useful for product evaluation, but results do not imply that they are transferable to ‘real world’ field exposure conditions,” the company writes on its website.
The number of managed U.S. honey bee colonies has dropped from 6 million in 1947 to just 2.5 million today, according to a White House’s memorandum. The decline threatens more than $15 billion worth of agricultural production - including over 130 fruits and vegetables - that depends on the health and well-being of honey bees. Pesticides, but also poor bee nutrition, loss of forage lands, parasites, pathogens and lack of genetic diversity may have a role in what scientists call “Colony Collapse Disorder.”
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