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New MA Pesticide Rules Made to Protect Pollinators

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In the 2019-2020 winter, Massachusetts beekeepers reported a 47% drop in colony numbers. (Vadim/Adobe Stock)
In the 2019-2020 winter, Massachusetts beekeepers reported a 47% drop in colony numbers. (Vadim/Adobe Stock)
 By Lily Bohlke - Producer, Contact
March 5, 2021

BOSTON -- Massachusetts has some new rules to restrict the use of pesticides.

Neonicotinoids, or 'neo-nics' for short, will no longer be found on retail shelves in the Commonwealth.

The Massachusetts Pesticide Board Subcommittee made the decision to minimize harm to bees and other pollinators.

Marty Dagoberto, policy director for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Massachusetts, said the benefits of having a stable, healthy population of pollinators can't be replicated by technology, and many fruits and veggies; berries, apples, carrots, broccoli as well as almonds, coffee and chocolate, rely on them.

"Honey bees and other pollinators are responsible for one out of every three bites of food that we eat," Dagoberto explained. "So, as a matter of food security, we need to make sure that we are not poisoning our ecosystems to the point where we don't have these valuable services of the pollinators."

He noted pollinator health has been declining in the last decade, and companies that make neo-nics say many other factors affect the health of bee colonies.

In the winter of 2019 to 2020, Massachusetts beekeepers reported a 47% drop in annual colony numbers, according to a survey from the Bee Informed Partnership.

The European Union banned neo-nics in 2018, and Massachusetts joins Connecticut, Maryland and Vermont in following that example.

But Dagoberto said more could be done, such as banning neo-nic-coated corn and soybean seeds, and requiring growers to label any nursery plants treated with neo-nics.

"This marks an incremental victory, which took us six years to land," Dagoberto recounted. "It really only happened because of immense, ongoing grassroots action and working with legislative allies who are willing to hold state regulators accountable."

He added part of what held up this regulation change for so long was the chemical lobby, which he said creates roadblocks for attempts to reform pesticide-use laws.

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