Maryland Is First State to Ban Consumer Use of Bee Killing Neonicotinoid Pesticides

Friday, April 8, 2016

Annapolis, MD – On Thursday, Maryland became the first state in the country to restrict consumer use of neonicotinoid pesticides, with the General Assembly passing the Pollinator Protection Act (SB 198 / HB 211) by large bipartisan margins. The Act has been a multi-year priority for the Smart on Pesticides coalition, an organization cofounded by the Maryland Pesticide Education Network and Clean Water Action.

Research confirms that toxic neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics) kill and harm bees and other pollinators, like butterflies and birds. This class of pesticide poses a serious threat to our food supply, public health and environment. Maryland bees in particular have been dying at an alarming rate – last year, Maryland beekeepers lost 61 percent of their bees, about twice the national average. Neonics are believed to contribute since these pesticides suppress their immunity, making them more susceptible to viruses and mites.

“Maryland is leading our country with the Pollinator Protection Act. We don't have time to waste given the alarming decline of pollinators we rely on for our food supply. We are grateful for Maryland's legislators for taking  this major, forward looking step toward protecting our pollinators, food supply, blue crabs and public health,” said Ruth Berlin, Executive Director of the Maryland Pesticide Education Network. “I am also grateful for our Smart on Pesticides Campaign, a coalition of over 75 organizations, groups and businesses that have worked with scientists, beekeepers and farmers to promote passage of this law. We hope other states pass similar laws, to reduce the use of toxic neonic pesticides."

“There’s no denying the swarm of support from Maryland citizens,” said Brittani Garner, Chesapeake Program Organizer for Clean Water Action. “Over 21,000 emails, letters and calls have been made in the past two years alone from people voicing their concerns about the pollinator decline and wondering why legislators had yet to act despite resounding scientific evidence. Many folks were mystified once they found out regular lawn products, including those labeled ‘bee friendly’ contained such chemicals.”

The Pollinator Protection Act, which goes into effect in 2018, reduces exposure of this pesticide by taking products containing neonics off the shelves at retailers, and out of the hands of consumers that frequently overuse them.  While the Act originally required retailers to label plants containing neonics, some local stores like Behnke’s and Cavanos have already phased out these bee-killing pesticides completely. Some major retailers have committed to following this model and advocates encourage that this information be readily available so consumers can make better informed decisions.

“Good legislation isn’t possible without good legislators. This landmark legislation was passed because of the tireless dedication of our sponsors Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam and Delegate Anne Healey, and the strong leadership of Senator Joan Carter Conway, Chair of the Education, Health, and Environment Committee and Delegate Kumar Barve, Chair of the Environment and Transportation Committee,” said Brent Bolin, Chesapeake Regional Director for Clean Water Action.

Brent Bolin