Just before Christmas, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Birds and Bees Protection Act, which will prohibits the use of corn, soybean, or wheat seeds treated with certain neonicotinoid pesticides, also known as neonics.
It will also ban neonicotinoid pesticides for outdoor ornamental plants and turfs, in an effort to protect New York’s pollinators, birds, and other wildlife.
These groups of pesticides, which are widely used in agriculture and urban landscaping, not only can kill pollinators, but can also cause those it doesn’t kill to experience difficulty flying and reduce their ability to navigate, taste and perform new tasks. This leads to a decline in their ability to forage and contribute to a hive.
The pesticides involved in the ban include the active ingredients clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, dinotefuran and acetamiprid.
The state law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2027.
The New York State Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Consultation, in consultation with the Commissioner of Agriculture & Markets, would make a determination by October 1 of each year whether the ban will be in place for the following year — the ban may be temporarily suspended if there is an “insufficient amount of commercially available seed to adequately supply the agriculture market that has not been treated with pesticides.”
“By signing the Birds and Bees Protection Act, New York is taking a significant stride in protecting our kids, environment and essential pollinators,” said Governor Hochul. “This law underscores our commitment to fostering a thriving ecosystem while we prioritize sustainable farming and agricultural practices.”
According to the Governor’s office, the law “allows sufficient time for innovative research on alternatives and the development of more cost-effective products that are less harmful to the environment. After this period, the use of neonicotinoids will be subject to science-based evaluations and waiver provisions to assist farm and agriculture operations in the transition to this new program.”
The bill was put forth in January of 2023 by State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assembly Member Deborah Glick. East End State Assemblyman Fred Thiele was among the co-sponsors.
“The EPA recently found thatneonicotinoid pesticides are driving more than 200 species towards extinction, marking them as the most ecologically destructive pesticides since DDT,” said Senator Hoylman-Sigal. “I’m also extremely thankful to the coalition of advocacy groups that helped get our bill across the finish line, including NRDC, the Sierra Club, NYLCV and environmental advocates.”
“We are thrilled and buzzing with excitement!” said Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito. “This legislation will leave a legacy of cleaner, safer drinking water and saves our pollinators so that they can continue to pollinate 75 percent of the fruit, nuts and vegetables we eat.”
“This bill accommodates concerns about seed supplies while ensuring transparency and agronomic justification through a waiver process … with time built in for the market and farmers to adjust,” added Assembly member Glick.
Pollinators contribute substantially to New York’s environment and economy. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinators provide approximately $344 million worth of pollination services to New York and add $29 billion in value to crop production nationally each year. Crops such as apples, grapes, cherries, onions, pumpkins, and cauliflower rely on pollinators.
“Science has shown us that even low doses of neonics can prevent songbirds from orienting themselves for their migration, cause significant weight loss, and interfere with their reproductive success,” said National Audubon Society Senior Policy Manager Erin McGrath. “Due to these impacts, the use of neonicotinoid insecticides should be greatly reduced to help reverse the steep declines observed in many bird populations.”