Published since 1946
New York Protects ‘The Birds and the Bees’ with Legislation Restricting Use of Neonicotinoid Pesticides
The New York State Legislature has passed the Birds and Bees Protection Act (A.7640/S.1856A), a first-in-the-nation bill that would restrict the use of neurotoxic neonicotinoid pesticides (“neonics”), which now heads to Governor Hochul’s desk for her signature. The bill would prevent corn, soybean, and wheat seeds from being treated with neonicotinoid chemicals starting in 2027. The bill would not apply to other application methods, such as foliar sprays. This eliminates 80%-90% of the neonics entering New York’s environment yearly. In January, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation reclassified key neonic products as restricted-use pesticides, meaning they can only be used by licensed applicators.
Neonics are linked to bee and bird losses that impact food production, contaminate New York water and soil, and create human health concerns, especially with recent testing showing rising levels of neonics in 95+% of pregnant women from New York and four other states. While the Birds and Bees Protection Act does not go as far as Europe’s total outdoor neonic ban, and Canada has largely phased out neonic-coated corn and soybean seeds, it is the first law to address neonic seed coatings in the U.S.
On May 5, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new analyses identifying federally endangered or threatened (listed) species that it predicts face the greatest risks from clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam, part of a group of insecticides known as neonicotinoids used on a variety of crops, turf, and ornamentals, and for other residential and commercial indoor and outdoor uses. While these types of analyses—which predict which species could be at jeopardy and which critical habitats could face adverse modification from the use of these pesticides—have not historically been part of EPA’s Endangered Species Act (ESA) assessments, EPA has recently conducted some of these analyses in order to expedite ESA consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (the Services). The analyses will also help EPA and the Services prioritize mitigation measures for the highest risk species. These analyses were completed as part of EPA’s efforts to meet its obligations under the ESA and furthers the goals outlined in EPA’s April 2022 ESA Workplan to provide practical protections for listed species from pesticides.