Albany, NY — 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 rein in the use of neurotoxic neonicotinoid pesticides (“neonics”), which now heads to Governor Hochul’s desk for her signature. The Birds and Bees Protection Act bans the neonic uses that in-depth Cornell University shows provide no economic benefits to users or are replaceable with safer, effective alternatives — specifically neonic coatings on corn, soybean, and wheat seeds and lawn and garden uses (with an exception for invasive species treatments). This eliminates 80%–90% of the neonics entering New York’s environment yearly.
Neonics are linked to massive 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 & 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. — far and away the largest and most widespread neonic use nationwide.
On May 5, 2023, the EPA released an assessment finding that use three neonic chemicals likely jeopardizes the continued existence of 200+ species — or ~11% of the entire endangered species list — effectively admitting EPA’s approvals of the pesticides broadly violated the Endangered Species Act. The astounding finding is unprecedented in scope, although perhaps not as shocking considering what we already know about neonics.
Support for the Birds & Bees Protection Act came from a wide range of environmental, health, garden, social justice, and farm groups. This includes NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), Sierra Club – Atlantic Chapter, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY), Environmental Advocates of New York, Clean + Healthy, Riverkeeper, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Catskill Mountainkeeper, NAACP New York Conference, New York League of Conservation Voters, National Audubon Society, Friends of the Earth, the Bee Conservancy, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, American Bird Conservancy, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Just Green Partnership, Mothers Out Front Capitol Region, Physicians for Social Responsibility – NY, Earthjustice, League of Humane Voters of New York, Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition, The Climate Reality Project, the New York Sustainable Business Council, Pollinator Pathway, and the Bedford, Rochester, and Fort Orange Garden Clubs.
“Every year for the past decade, New York beekeepers have lost more than 40% of their bee colonies – largely due to neonic pesticides. Today, in this landmark victory for our pollinators, economy, and farming industry, New York is working to reverse that trend. I’m proud that both the State Senate and Assembly passed our Birds and the Bees Act (S1856A) with Assembly Member Glick, which will end the pervasive use of toxic neonics on many New York farms that don’t need them to be effective,” said bill sponsor State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal. “I’m grateful to NRDC and the Sierra Club for their advocacy, as well as Senate Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Leader Carl Heastie for protecting our birds and bees. I look forward to Governor Hochul signing our environment-saving legislation into law.”
“Pollinators are vital members of healthy ecosystems and our food supply chain. Protecting them by limiting toxins that pose adverse effects and health risks is an important step forward in our work to stop poisoning the environment and create a healthier New York,” said Assemblymember Glick. “I am proud of the Assembly’s leadership in environmental conservation and appreciate continued partnership and collaboration with my Senate colleagues to protect our environment, including ensuring the health of our birds and bees.”
“I congratulate my colleagues in the State Senate, and especially bill sponsor Senator Hoylman-Sigal, and all of the advocates for taking action to regulate neoicotinoid insecticides. These dangerous chemicals damage the central nervous systems of insects, including pollinators like honeybees, and are the main cause of hive collapse,” said Senator Pete Harckham. “They also harm the development of birds and mammals; and studies have linked ingredients of neoicotinoid insecticides with adverse human health outcomes as well. It’s critical that we passed this bill to protect the health of humans and other living beings on our planet.”
“The Birds and the Bees Protection Act is the first-in-the-nation to limit neonic coated seeds, which contaminate our soil, our waterways, and our bodies. We’ve long known neonics kill bees, but we now see links between neonics and mass losses of birds, the collapse of fisheries, developmental risks in people, and vast water contamination in New York,” said Dan Raichel, Acting Director of NRDC’s Pollinator Initiative. “The eye-opening realization from an in-depth Cornell University research is that nearly all of the most harmful neonic uses in New York are easily replaced with safer alternatives. We thank Senator Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblymember Glick for their leadership in advancing the bill’s commonsense and much-needed protections for New York’s birds, bees, water, and people ”
“Today is a great day for pollinators, clean water, and healthier communities,” said Caitlin Ferrante, Conservation Program Manager, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “The Sierra Club applauds the leadership of the bill sponsors — Senator Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblymember Glick — as well as the devotion shown to the issue by Senators Harckham and Serrano. By following the science and addressing the high-cost, low-benefit neonicotinoid uses in NY, our state is making a major commitment to protecting biodiversity and the survival of our most threatened species. We look forward to working with Governor Hochul in getting this bill signed into law in 2023.”
“With the climate crisis already jeopardizing food security, public health, and the economy, New York must do everything it can to protect pollinators and people from toxic pesticides,” said Peter Lehner, Managing Attorney for Sustainable Food and Farming at Earthjustice. “We thank our partners and the bill sponsors for their tireless efforts and applaud the Legislature for taking action to address needless uses of dangerous neonicotinoid pesticides by passing the Birds and Bees Protection Act. With farmers having numerous safer tools to manage pests and study after study showing uses of these pesticides provide few benefits and impose great harm, Governor Hochul should not hesitate to sign this bill into law.”
“Neonicotinoid pesticides are harming birds, pollinators, and people, and we need to act now to reduce their negative impacts. Neonicotinoids have become widespread in our environment – causing insect populations to decline and interfering with the migration of songbirds suffering from the neurological impacts of these dangerous toxins,” said Erin McGrath, Senior Policy Manager, National Audubon Society. “Decreasing the use of neonicotinoids and other pesticides will help us protect birds and the insects they rely on for food and alleviate one of the many threats they are facing alongside habitat loss and climate change. We thank the Senate and Assembly for taking decisive action to curtail the unrestricted use of neonicotinoid pesticides, which will help protect birds and the places they need to survive.”
“The Birds and Bees Protection Act defends our most salient animal relatives, our pollinators. This legislation ensures that farmers can continue to grow our staple crops while limiting the amount of damage done onto our environment, our waters, and our pollinators by neonic pesticides. We as advocates would like to thank Assemblymember Glick and Senator Hoylman-Sigal for their tireless work to ensure our pollinators can continue to thrive in New York State,” said Adriana Ortega, Clean Water Associate at Environmental Advocates NY.
“We are buzzing with praise for our Senate and Assembly members taking action to address toxic neonic pesticides and protect our pollinators,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Neonics are very good at contaminating our entire ecosystem and this bill will protect our pollinators, food security, human health, and water quality from these toxic pesticides. CCE applauds Senator Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblywoman Glick for their leadership and dedication to passing this landmark legislation.”
“The New York League of Conservation Voters is thrilled that the state legislature passed the Birds and Bees Protection Act. By eliminating unnecessary and harmful chemicals in our treatment of pests, we will help protect New York’s environment, food security, and agricultural economy,” said Andrew Williams, Deputy Director of State Policy for the New York League of Conservation Voters. “We thank Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblymember Deboarah Glick for sponsoring this measure as well as Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie for their continued commitment to passing strong environmental legislation.”
“We are thrilled that the New York State Legislature has prioritized the restriction of harmful neonicotinoid pesticide use. These toxic chemicals serve no value to corn, soybeans, wheat crops, but compromise human health and contaminate the environment instead,” said Sophia Longsworth, Campaign Manager at Clean+Healthy. “We thank Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblymember Deborah Glick for championing this bill and look forward to Governor Hochul signing it into law.”
“The passage of the Birds and Bees Protection Act is an important step forward for protecting water quality and wildlife in New York,” said Jeremy Cherson, Senior Manager of Government Affairs for Riverkeeper. “We are deeply grateful for the work of Assemblywoman Glick and Senator Hoylman-Sigal on behalf of this legislation. Now, Riverkeeper strongly urges Governor Hochul to sign this important and timely legislation.”
Originally published on Natural Resources Defense Council.
NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Established in 1970, NRDC uses science, policy, law, and people power to confront the climate crisis, protect public health, and safeguard nature. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, Beijing and Delhi (an office of NRDC India Pvt. Ltd). Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.
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