On Democracy Day 2023, we’re empowering readers to protect our food systems and save the bees- one of our most vital pollinators.
Today, September 15th, marks the International Day of Democracy. Each year, the day is reserved by the United Nations General Assembly to promote the principles of democracy by highlighting a new theme or area of focus on this topic. This year’s theme, “Empowering the next generation,” focuses on empowering, protecting, and ensuring that young people’s voices are heard and included in discussions about the future in a profound way. Fittingly, The Wellness Feed has partnered with Montclair University through its Collaborative Journalism project to research, write, and share stories with newsrooms across the United States promoting democracy. As a partner, we’re focused on empowering the next generation with a call to action to collectively use their voice and protect and preserve one of our most precious resources for the future- food.
Democracy Day 2023
Our food systems must be protected. Our current economic model often places profit over purpose, putting our food systems at risk. One threat is the use of pesticides that endanger plants, wildlife, and pollinator species. In particular, neonicotinoid, the most widely used class of insecticides in the world in both farm and urban landscapes, is considered toxic to one of our most important pollinators- bees. Love food? Save the bees because one out of every three bites of food we take is dependent on animal pollinators.
The State of U.S. Bees Pollutions Today
Bees are vital to our ecosystem, playing a crucial role in pollinating plants and ensuring the production of food crops. However, their populations have been declining at an alarming rate due to various factors, including the widespread use of pesticides. Since 1962, Green Peace estimates that the number of bee colonies per hectare has reduced by 90%.
- In February, upwards of 70% of all commercial honey bees are sent to California to pollinate agricultural products.
- California is home to 980K honey bee colonies.
- Honey bee populations continue to decline slightly despite recent improvements.
- US bee populations are declining due to parasites, pesticides, habitat loss, disease, and more. These losses have critical implications for food production and ecosystem health.
In an effort to protect these essential pollinators, the California Legislature recently passed a bill, AB 2146, to ban most non-agricultural uses of neonicotinoid pesticides, commonly known as neonics. Unfortunately, on September 8, 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed the legislation, sparking disappointment and concern among environmental advocates.
The Impact of Neonics on Bees, Water, And Food
Neonicotinoids have been extensively studied, and the research consistently shows their detrimental effects on bees. These pesticides have been found to affect bees’ brain and reproductive development, making pollen-collecting trips longer and more exhausting, and preventing bees from ridding themselves of parasitic varroa mites. The toxicity and pervasiveness of neonics also harm and kill other pollinators, threatening native plants and valuable crops that rely on insect pollination.
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One of the significant issues with neonicotinoids is their systemic nature, which means that they can contaminate local bodies of water through urban or agricultural runoff. A study found that 58% of Northern California and 92% of Southern California urban waterways contained the neonic imidacloprid. This contamination poses a serious threat to aquatic ecosystems and further exacerbates the negative impact on pollinators and native plants.
“We’re in the midst of a heartbreaking extinction crisis and neonicotinoids are playing an outsized role in driving it,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). “Now that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed its analysis, the only question is whether it will muster the courage to stand up to Big Ag and ban these chemicals or will choose to facilitate extinction.”
On September 13, 2023, the CBD had a historic win committing the EPA to “a suite of proposed reforms to better protect endangered species from pesticides. The settlement, which covers more than 300 pesticide-active ingredients, marks the culmination of the largest Endangered Species Act case ever filed against the EPA.”
Governor Newsom’s Veto Decision
Despite the bipartisan support for AB 2146 in the California Legislature, Governor Newsom chose to veto the bill. In his veto message, he acknowledged the urgency of addressing the issue but called for new rules at the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to handle both agricultural and non-agricultural uses of neonics. The governor stated that the DPR is finalizing regulations on the agricultural use of neonicotinoids and will begin evaluating non-agricultural uses in the coming year.
Criticism and Disappointment
The veto of AB 2146 has sparked criticism and disappointment among environmental advocates, who believe that urgent action is necessary to protect bees and other pollinators. Laura Deehan, the state director of Environment California, expressed her disappointment in the governor’s decision. She emphasized the need for swift action to safeguard pollinators and highlighted the fact that other states have already implemented similar restrictions on neonics. Advocates remain hopeful that the necessary protections for bees will be put in place in the future.
The Impact of AB 2146
Had AB 2146 been signed into law, California would have become the largest state to restrict non-agricultural uses of neonics. The bill aimed to ban these pesticides on most lawns, gardens, and golf courses, with exceptions for combating invasive pests and other specified cases. The implementation of these restrictions would have provided significant protection for bees and other pollinators, as well as native plants and valuable crops that rely on their pollination services.
The Need for Nationwide Action
While California has been at the forefront of environmental legislation, other states must follow suit and implement similar restrictions on neonics. Several states, including Connecticut, Maryland, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, have already taken steps to limit the use of these pesticides. A coordinated nationwide effort is necessary to address the widespread use of neonics and protect pollinators on a larger scale.
The Future of Bee Conservation
The veto of AB 2146 is undoubtedly a setback for bee conservation efforts in California. However, the governor’s call for new regulations at the DPR provides a glimmer of hope for the future. These forthcoming rules must be well-crafted and comprehensive, addressing both agricultural and non-agricultural uses of neonics. The advocacy for pollinators will continue until the necessary protections are in place, and California can join other states in leading the way toward a more sustainable and bee-friendly future.
Taking Action: Petition to Save the Bees
In response to Governor Newsom’s veto, concerned citizens and environmental advocates have launched a petition urging him to reconsider his decision and take immediate action to protect bees. The petition emphasizes the urgency of the situation and calls for strong regulations to limit the use of neonics in both agricultural and non-agricultural settings. By signing the petition, individuals can contribute to the collective voice advocating for the conservation of bees and other pollinators.
The declining populations of bees and other pollinators pose a significant threat to our food system and ecosystem. While the veto of AB 2146 by Governor Newsom was a disappointing setback, it highlights the urgent need for comprehensive regulations to protect bees from the harmful effects of neonicotinoid pesticides. The collective efforts of concerned individuals, environmental organizations, and policymakers are crucial in advocating for the conservation of bees and other pollinators. By taking action and raising awareness, we can contribute to the preservation of these vital creatures and ensure a sustainable future for our planet.
Copy, Paste, and Send the petition or sign your name at Environment America.
Dear Governor Gavin Newsom,
Bees are dying at unsustainable rates, and one clear contributor is the widespread use of bee-killing neonic pesticides. I urge you to take action to restrict bee-killing neonicotinoids (neonics) this summer in lawns, gardens, and golf courses.
Neonics are poisonous to bees, butterflies, and other wildlife. The pesticides attack bees’ central nervous system, causing neurological damage, paralysis, and death.
California can become the tenth state to limit the worst uses of neonics, and doing so will reinforce our commitment and leadership to the environment. Pollinators should be protected, not poisoned. Please take action to protect pollinators and the environment that they depend on by supporting and signing bill AB363 when it comes to your desk.