Going backward on pollinator protection when science is telling us to go forward

The Agriculture Policy bill, HF 1554, passed the House floor with two anti-pollinator provisions that move Minnesota backward.

Last year the legislature adopted pollinator friendly legislation that said a seller couldn’t advertise a bedding plant or similar nursery stock as beneficial to pollinators if the plant has a detectable level of systemic insecticide. Consumers who didn’t want plants with systemic pesticides in the soil were pleased. Big chemical was not pleased.

Language was added in HF 1554 that erases “detectable level” and would allow a seller to advertise a bedding plant or similar nursery stock as pollinator friendly if it is treated with a systemic pesticide unless “a concentration in its flowers (is) greater than the no observed adverse effect level of a systemic insecticide.” “No observed adverse effect level” is defined in HF 1554 as “acute oral toxicity for adult honeybees.” The House author, Rep. Paul Anderson, said this was the language that the nursery industry wanted.

“No detectable level” is clear, measurable, and designed for the consumers who want to protect pollinators and to make sure that they are not adding unwanted pesticides to their gardens. The new language is not clear and may be misleading to those who don’t want to add unwanted pesticides to their gardens.

Importantly, toxicity is measured by the effect on adult honeybees. Any effect on native pollinators is ignored. Science is ignored. A recently published article in Nature reports on research that looked at the question of how neonicotinoids (a group of systemic insecticides) influence bees and wild bees in particular in agricultural landscapes. The research found a “substantial risk” to wild bees and that the contribution of pesticides to the global decline of wild bees may have been underestimated. The article further said that reported pesticide effects on honeybees cannot always be extrapolated to wild bees. nature14420_rundlof-1

Last year the legislature also provided that the owner of bee colonies would be compensated if the bees died from pesticide poisoning. In doing so the legislature treated bee keepers the same way that farmers would be treated if their livestock were subject to wolf depredation or if their crops were subject to elk depredation.

HF 1554 would require a bee keeper to register colony locations if they wanted to be compensated. Farmers don’t have to register their cows, pigs , etc to be eligible for compensation. Turkey farmers do not have to register their flocks in order to be compensated for the devastation caused by the avian flu and rightly so. Inquiring mind will want to know why bee keepers are treated differently.