Reclaiming the future of food and farming

Five-year moratorium on bee-harming pesticides proposed in Minnesota

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, March 19, 2015

Contact: Lex Horan, Pesticide Action Network; 651.245.1733;

Five-year moratorium on bee-harming pesticides proposed in Minnesota
Beekeepers and advocates say the cost of using neonicotinoids is too high

Honey bee appleSaint Paul, MN — Today, three members of the Minnesota House of Representatives introduced a bill calling for a five-year moratorium on neonicotinoids and fipronil, pesticides known to be a driving factor behind declining populations of honey bees and other pollinators. The bill, HF 2029, is authored by Representative David Bly (DFL-Northfield), Representative John Persell (DFL-Bemidji) and Representative Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis).

“The science is in: neonicotinoids harm bees, even at very low doses that are commonly found in urban and agricultural environments,” said Lex Horan of Pesticide Action Network. “Minnesota decisionmakers have shown that they’re concerned about pollinators, initiating new studies and increasing pollinator habitat. Now it’s time for our lawmakers to restrict the use of bee-harming pesticides — if they don’t, the rest of these efforts won’t be enough.” 

Honey bee populations have been in rapid decline since 2006. In 2012-2013, Minnesota beekeepers lost more than 50% of their bees, according to the US Department of Agriculture. This decline in vital pollinators is impacting Minnesota agriculture. Pollination is essential for Minnesota’s key crops, such as, melons, cucumbers, squash, strawberries, apricots and berries. Minnesota’s top pollinator-reliant crop, apples, is valued at $11.8 million annually.

Also, Minnesota has historically been one of the top five honey-producing states in the country, with honey production contributing an average of $9-13 million annually towards the state’s agricultural economy. However, Minnesota honey production is falling, in large part due to annual bee losses.

Although neonicotinoids are the most widely used class of insecticide in the world, increasing evidence shows that neonic seed treatments don’t consistently increase yields in Minnesota crops like corn and soybeans. In October 2013, EPA released findings that neonicotinoid seed treatments produce little yield benefit in soybeans. Jim Jones of EPA noted, “In comparison to the next best alternative pest control measures, neonicotinoid seed treatments likely provide $0 in benefits to growers.”

“I’m losing about 50% of my bees every year — and I notice higher losses when my bees are near neonicotinoid-treated crops. Neonics have a long half-life, and they accumulate in the environment, including in the water that bees bring back to the hive,” said Jim Whitlock, a lifelong beekeeper from Peterson, Minnesota. “I look for places to keep my bees that are as far away from neonicontioid-treated fields as I can find. Minnesota needs to do more to protect bees from neonicotinoids.”

“I talk to people everyday about bees and the problems they’re facing. Everyone I meet is doing what they can, planting flowers for bees and spreading the word about bee declines,” said Erin Rupp, beekeeper and founder of Pollinate MN, a honey bee advocacy and education organization. “But reducing bees’ exposure to neonicotinoids is critical in Minnesota, and only our state decisionmakers can do that. Individual action isn’t enough: bees need policy change.”

While Minnesota would be the first state to pass a moratorium on neonicotinoids, other local, state, national and international governments have restricted or banned their use. Ontario will reduce neonicotinoid use in corn and soybeans by 80% by 2017. The European Union implemented a 2-year moratorium on neonicotinoids in December 2013; in the first year of the moratorium, crop yields were well above average. Oregon has banned the use of four neonicotinoids on certain species of bee-attractive plants. And many local municipalities, including Shorewood, MN; Saint Louis Park, MN; Lake Elmo, MN; Skagway, AK; Spokane and Seattle, WA; and Eugene and Ashland, OR, have eliminated neonics from public property.