• Justin Hein

Neonics Ban Passes in California Assembly

AB 2146, co-sponsored by NRDC, Environment California, and the California Native Plant Society, would prohibit most outdoor, non-agricultural uses of the five major neonics, now advances to California Senate

The California State Assembly voted 45-14 to pass AB 2146, a bill that would restrict most outdoor, non-agricultural uses of neonicotinoid insecticides, or “neonics.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half the U.S. population is exposed to neonics on a regular basis—a concerning statistic given that studies suggest that neonics may increase risk of developmental or neurological damage in humans, including malformations of the developing heart and brain, memory loss, and finger tremors.

“California is far behind other states and countries in limiting these highly toxic chemicals," stated AB 2146 author Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan. "We must address the home and garden uses that seriously threaten ecological and human health.”

A large and growing body of evidence also identifies neonics as a leading cause of widespread pollinator declines. “Bees are the backbone of our state’s ecosystem,” continued Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan. Neonics are extraordinarily toxic to insects—just one square foot of grass treated with a typical neonic lawn product at approved levels can contain enough neonics to kill one million bees. California beekeepers lost 41.9% of their honey bee colonies last year, the second worst annual loss on record. But European honeybees aren’t the only ones in peril; California is home to over 1,600 native bee species, many of which are also struggling.

“A perfectly manicured lawn or rose garden isn’t worth the destruction of our bee populations, which are vital to our environment and our food systems," added Laura Deehan, Environment California state director. "Passing this bill is so meaningful because it ups the odds that California’s meadows and gardens continue to buzz with the sound of bees.” These and other insect pollinators are critical to California’s agricultural economy, helping to pollinate crops worth upwards of $11 billion annually.

But that is not all - neonics can also remain in soil for years and move easily through the environment in irrigation or rainwater. As a result, they broadly contaminate California’s environment; state water testing found neonics in 92% of surface water samples in urban areas of Southern California. Neonic contamination has been linked with mass losses of birds, about 30% of which have disappeared in the past 50 years. They have also been linked with the collapse of fisheries and a variety of other harms to wildlife—including birth defects in deer.

“Today's vote brings California one step closer to being a national leader in addressing harmful neonic contamination,” said Lucas Rhoads, a staff attorney at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “This bill benefits everyone—our struggling pollinators, Californians who care about clean water and healthy ecosystems, and farmers who depend on pollinators to grow their crops. Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan’s leadership made it possible and we look forward to our continued work together to ensure that this urgently needed bill passes the full legislature as soon as possible.”

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