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Minnesota lawmakers consider banning neonicotinoid pesticides decimating bees and the environment

Neonicotinoid pesticides

(NaturalNews) Like people in other states across the U.S., Minnesotans are concerned about their declining honeybee populations, and are pushing state regulators to take action. In October, the state Department of Agriculture released an outline on the study of neonicotinoids, a class of neuro-active insecticides similar to nicotine that are killing beneficial insects like honeybees.

The state's overview of neonics quickly drew criticism, as the study did not include the possibility of banning the chemicals, according to a report by the StarTribune. More than 400 upset citizens wrote the agency, complaining that the study made no mention of banning the chemicals, despite their known adverse environmental effects.

"Obviously people are very interested in this," said Gregg Regimbal, an official with the department's Pesticide and Fertilizer Management Division. "It's a very complex issue and it's highly charged."

Hundreds of Minnesotans pushing state legislators for statewide ban on neonics

Both Bayer and Shell assisted in the development of neonicotinoids, introducing them to the market in the 1990s. Praised for their ability to kill a variety of pests, neonics work "best" when applied to soil, which is then subsequently taken up by the plant.

This is problematic for pollinator insects, as they become exposed to the chemicals through nectar and pollen. Neonics may not result in the bees' immediate death, but instead impact their ability to forage for nectar, learn and remember where flowers are located, and even find their way back to the hive, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

Honeybees are critically important to humans and the food that we consume. Without their existence, 80 percent of crops would not produce fruit, reported Natural News, and the beneficial honey produced by bees and used by humans in a variety of ways would disappear.

Cities, states, countries and continents all recognizing the dangers of nicotine-like insecticides

When examining the science behind the effects of neonics, it's no wonder that the public is up in arms about its continued use. Nearly 60 million pounds of neonics were applied in the U.S. in 2011, compared to zero in 2002, according to a new report[PDF] by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Studies are also beginning to link the use of neonics to declining bird populations, as well as adverse impacts to aquatic life.

So far, Eugene and Portland, Oregon; Tucson, Arizona; Seattle and Spokane, Washington; New York; Europe; and the Ontario government have either banned or proposed bans on the use of neonics.

The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service also announced plans to eliminate the use of neonics on growing crops used to feed wildlife on federal refuge lands. The agency expects usage to be completely phased out by 2016 in Pacific Northwest areas.

"We wanted to make sure it was clear that it's in our authority... and that that would be an option"

A suspension, restriction or ban in Minnesota is plausible pending a careful study on the effects of neonics, said Lex Horan, a Minneapolis-based organizer for Pesticide Action Network.

"The state needs to take this seriously," stressed Horan. "They put out a strong scoping document because of the feedback they received."

Horan also believes heightened backlash against neonics stems from a U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finding that neonicotinoid seed treatments in soybeans "provide little or no overall benefits to soybean production for most farmers."

The state's in-depth review is expected to take more than six months, reports the StarTribune, a time frame much shorter than the EPA's review, which the agency says will be completed by 2019.

Minnesota's insecticide use is governed by both state and federal law, making it more difficult to for amendments to be made.

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