Viewpoint: New York’s ‘Birds and Bees Protection Act’ targeting neonicotinoid pesticides doesn’t protect either and would hurt farmers

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"Bee versus bird" Credit: Matt From London

[Recently,] the New York legislature began advancing the Birds and Bees Protection Act. If it passes both chambers and is signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the law will prohibit the use of neonicotinoid insecticides in the state. 

Neonics are an important crop-protection tool for farmers that are often used as seed treatments. We know large amounts of these pesticides will hurt bees, but so do most insecticides. After all, bees are bugs. But there’s not a lot of data that bees ever encounter large volumes of neonics in the real world. And recent studies trying to establish a substantive link between bee health and neonic use aren’t very convincing.

Those facts didn’t seem to slow down New York legislators though. And now farmers in the state will have to scramble to find replacements that will get the job done. All without evidence that there’s even a problem.

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I’m generally opposed to these measures on a state or — even worse — local level. We saw a similar thing happen with countywide bans of GMO cultivation in Oregon and California. Small groups of voters, likely without any understanding of the issue, were able to dictate crop-production methods. Unfortunately, family farms are stuck with the consequences. 

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