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Healey And Rep. Dykema Work With Statewide Coalition To Secure Limits On Pesticides Shown To Harm Pollinators

State Pesticide Board Subcommittee finds adverse impacts of neonicotinoid pesticides on pollinators and votes to limit use 
Attorney General Maura Healey and  Representative Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston) joined with a coalition of environmental advocates and agricultural interests to endorse the first statewide limits on neonicotinoid pesticides, a class of insecticides shown to harm bees and other pollinators. In March, state Pesticide Board Subcommittee voted to recategorize these as pesticides “state restricted use,” removing them from retail shelves.
For the past decade, Massachusetts has lost 45% of its bee colonies each year on average, with annual losses peaking as high as 61% in 2017. A growing body of evidence is showing that neonicotinoid pesticides are contributing to this decline. A 2019 study of these pesticides commissioned by the Legislature, found that “recent and more comprehensive reviews point to a large body of evidence documenting the ability of neonicotinoids to adversely affect pollinators.” The federal Environmental Protection Agency has also identified impacts on butterflies, invertebrates, and other aquatic organisms. Since their introduction in the mid-2000s, neonicotinoids have grown to be the most widely used class of insecticides in the U.S.

Declining pollinator populations are of great concern to environmentalists as well as many farmers and the agricultural sector because pollinators are essential to crop pollination. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinators are crucial to the production of 1/3 of our food supply.  
The motion adopted by the Pesticide Subcommittee on Monday reflected key elements of HD1267, An Act to protect Massachusetts pollinators, including the requirement to remove neonicotinoid pesticides labeled for gardening and landscaping use from retail shelves. An Act to protect Massachusetts pollinators was recently re-filed in the legislature by Rep. Dykema and Attorney General Healey and garnered the overwhelming support of 153 legislative co-sponsors in both the House and Senate in the 2019-2020 legislative session. The legislation will be withdrawn once the provisions of the regulatory change take effect in 2022.
Since 2012, Attorney General Healey and Representative Dykema have been joined by a broad coalition of stakeholders in advocating for these restrictions, ranging from environmental advocates to agricultural interests, including landscaping and horticulture. Among members of the coalition were members of the Massachusetts Beekeepers Association and county beekeepers’ associations across the state, the Northeast Organic Farming Association, MassPIRG, the Sierra Club, and Environment Massachusetts. The coalition also included key members of the agricultural sector including the Massachusetts Nursery and Landscape Association, and the Massachusetts Flower Growers Association who recognized the potential impacts of these pesticides on the agricultural sector.
“In the United States, pollinators like honeybees, bumble bees, butterflies, and songbirds are responsible for a third of food we consume,” said Attorney General Healey. “Statewide limits on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides will provide critical protections for pollinators and help reduce the risks these pesticides pose to our agriculture, ecosystem, and economy. I’m grateful to Representative Dykema for her leadership on this issue over the years, and to the coalition of stakeholders who have helped us raise the alarm about the serious harm neonicotinoid pesticides pose to bees and other crucial pollinators.”
“I’m thrilled that the public and our broad coalition of voices have finally been heard,” said Rep. Dykema. “The adoption of these pollinator protection measures is an important step forward in protecting our precious natural ecosystems in Massachusetts, as well as our agricultural economy. The measures adopted on Monday reflect a recognition of the harms these products pose and the broad support of the public for common-sense, science-based policies that protect our environment, our farmers, local agriculture, and the consumer. I’m also grateful for the tremendous support for this effort from my colleagues in government, including Attorney General Healey, Speaker Mariano, Secretary Theoharides, the Department of Agricultural Resources, the members of the Pesticide Subcommittee, and so many of my legislative colleagues who were persistent in their support over many years. There’s more work to do, but this is an important step forward.”
“I want to express my deep appreciation to Representative Carolyn Dykema and Attorney General Maura Healey, for their tireless work getting the state to finally regulate neonicotinoid pesticides, which are so harmful to bees,” said Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton). “As the Senator sponsor of SD207, An Act protecting pollinators by eliminating harmful products, to completely ban neonics to be used in all farming and growing, I salute the persistence of my friend Carolyn Dykema, now House Chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, for her continued leadership on protecting our environment and ecology from toxic chemicals. She is truly the ‘bee’s knees.’”
“The Massachusetts Beekeepers Association is pleased that the Massachusetts Pesticide Board Subcommittee voted today to put restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids.” said Mary Duane, president of the Massachusetts Beekeepers Association. “These restrictions are a small step in the right direction to protecting all the pollinators in our state.”
“This is good news. Removing these dangerous pesticides from store shelves is an important step forward toward our ultimate goal of significantly curtailing the use of neonics and protecting our bees and other pollinators,” said Deirdre Cummings, Legislative Director for MASSPIRG. “Without bees, we wouldn’t have cranberries, apples, broccoli, coffee beans or even chocolate. We need to protect our bees and our public health as almost all the food we eat has been pollinated by these incredible little insects.”
“This marks an incremental victory which took us 6 years to land, and it only happened because of immense, ongoing grassroots action and legislative allies who are willing to hold state regulators accountable,” said Martin Dagoberto, Policy Director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association, Massachusetts. “We still have a monumental endeavor ahead if we are to reduce toxins and rein in the toxic influence of the chemical lobby.”
The Department of Agricultural Resources will conducting outreach to manufacturers and retailers in the coming months prior to the statewide limits taking effect on July 1, 2022.
Maura T. Healey is the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Representative Carolyn Dykema represents the communities of Holliston, Hopkinton, Southborough, and precinct 2 of Westborough in the House of Representatives.