Last week, 17 Minnesota legislators submitted comments encouraging the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) to consider restricting or de-registering neonicotinoids, the most widely used class of insecticides in the world and a key contributor to declining bee populations. These comments came on the last day of an open comment period on MDA's review of neonicotinoids, which began in November 2013.
MDA began a review of neoncotinoids at the request of the state legislature, and in the midst of growing statewide momentum to protect Minnesota bees from pesticides. In March, MDA released a document outlining the scope of the neonicotinoid review, emphasizing the Agency's intent not to "be redundant" of EPA pesticide registration process. Pesticide Action Network joined Minnesotans from across the state, calling on MDA to use its authority to restrict the use of neonicotinoids.
In addition to organizational and individual comments, MDA received comments authored by Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-52A) and signed by sixteen other state representatives. These comments encouraged MDA to consider a policy option that was left out of the Agency's original scoping document: "refusal to approve or renew the registration for some or all neonicotinoid pesticides."
"The legislature did not intend the the Department would simply rubber stamp USEPA's registration decisions for fear of being 'redundant.' This implicit interpretation of the law is nonsensical and--more troubling--at odds with legislative intent. What exactly is the purpose of this 'special registration review' if not to review and evaluate the Department's registration decision in light of the latest evidence on 'insect pollinator impacts'?"
In addition, legislators expressed concern that MDA did not create enough opportunities for public participation in the comment period, and called on the Agency to hold well-publicized open meetings around the state to solicit feedback.
In response to the legislator's comments, Lex Horan of Pesticide Action Network said:
"Minnesotans have been incredibly vocal about our concern over declining bee populations and neonicotinoids. The legislature has heard us loud and clear, and these seventeen representatives have taken on the challenge of advancing truly bee-protective policy. If MDA's review doesn't consider restricting or de-registering neonicotinoids, the Agency risks being out of step with many Minnesotans. As this year's legislative session has shown, our state has a unique opportunity to be a leader in shifting away from neonicotinoids and towards safe alternatives and true integrated pest management."