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California Lawmakers Considering Bill to Delay Needed Honeybee Protections

AB 1789 would postpone action on bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides to 2020
A honey bee alights on a cherry blossom in Oakdale, CA.

A honey bee alights on a cherry blossom in Stockton, California.

Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice
August 21, 2014
Sacramento, CA —

In a move that could spell disaster for California’s beleaguered honeybees, lawmakers are voting today on a bill that would allow the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to delay until 2020 taking action to protect bees from neonicotinoid pesticides.

A growing body of independent science links a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids (neonics) to staggering honeybee declines, both alone and in combination with other factors like disease and malnutrition. Twenty-nine independent scientists recently conducted a global review of 800 independent studies and found overwhelming evidence of pesticides linked to bee declines.

DPR began a scientific “reevaluation” of neonicotinoids in early 2009 after it received evidence that neonicotinoids are killing bees, but five years later, DPR has yet to take meaningful action to protect bees.

Under existing law, DPR is supposed to complete its reevaluation in little more than two years. AB 1789, authored by Assemblymember Das Williams (D-Carpenteria), would give DPR until 2020 to complete its reevaluation and adopt needed “control measures” to protect bees.

“The Department of Pesticide Regulation has been dithering since 2009 while our bees continue to die in droves, and this bill essentially tells the department to sit on its hands for another six years,” said Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie, “AB 1789 would amount to a death sentence for honeybees.”

Pesticide Action Network, Center for Food Safety, and Beyond Pesticides, represented by Earthjustice, filed the legal challenge in the California Superior Court for the County of Alameda, urging the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to stop approving neonicotinoid pesticides pending its completion of a comprehensive scientific review of impacts to honeybees.

One in every three bites of food depends on bees for pollination, and the annual value of pollination services worldwide are estimated at over $125 billion. In the United States, pollination contributes $20-30 billion in agricultural production annually. And in California alone, almonds crops—entirely dependent on bees for pollination—are valued at over $3 billion.