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Originally published April 3 2015

Unanimous vote: Portland bans neonicotinoids to protect bees from deadly pesticide

by Sandy J. Duncan

(NaturalNews) After the disturbing death in 2013 of tens of thousands of bees in Wilsonville, Oregon believed to be linked to a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids, Portland, Oregon has decided -- after a recent unanimous vote -- to ban use of these toxic chemicals on city-owned property. The ban does not prevent people from using neonicotinoids on private property within the city.

The City Council initially presented the proposal to bee advocates, local residents, several biologists and conservation groups -- all of whom testified in favor of the plan to ban neonicotinoids. Focus on the Wilsonville incident was frequently referenced, undoubtedly serving as grounds for the decision.

Vote prompted by earlier massive bee death incident involving neonicotinoids

When the Wilsonville incident occurred right outside a Target store, people immediately knew something was drastically wrong. "Wild bees are killed all the time in agricultural fields where nobody sees it happen," said Mace Vaughan, the Xerces Society's Pollinator Conservation Director. "The fact that this happened in an urban area is probably the only reason it came to our attention."

Although large numbers of deaths of domestic honey bees have occurred in recent years, this case was exceptional. It documented an estimated 50,000 wild bumble bees' simultaneous death, considered by experts to be an extraordinary occurrence.

In that instance, after interviewing the landscaping company that maintains the Target parking lot, Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) investigators learned that dinotefuran, an active pesticide ingredient, had recently been used by the landscapers. Investigators confirmed that dinotefuran, sold under the trade name "Safari," contains neonicotinoids. Unfortunately, neonicotinoids have been linked to bee deaths over the years.

In fact, according to the ODA, it's been confirmed that the 2013 bee deaths were directly linked to aphid-controlling pesticide application of Safari on area trees.

Vote for ban viewed favorably

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales agrees with the decision, saying, "I think it's appropriate for us to take this kind of action." He's likely referencing the city's eco-friendly initiatives for which its come to be known for.

The vote calls for the adoption of an ordinance in which the city is banned from purchasing or using neonicotinoid pesticides on city property. Furthermore, retailers are encouraged to label their plants and seeds accordingly.

There are other cities that have already banned neonicotinoids including Eugene, Oregon and Spokane and Seattle in Washington state.

Specific rose gardens: exception to ban

There is one exclusion to the ban and that is for two of the city's prized rose gardens.

Roses are the city's symbol, but the rose midge, a pest that destroys roses, is difficult to kill without the insecticide. The city plans to look for an alternative method, starting with a small trial at Peninsula Park in North Portland, where testing with non-toxic insecticides will take place. That plan is to phase out all neonicotinoid-based products by December 2017.

The serious ripple effects of pollinators dying is bad for our food system; bees add several billions of dollars to crop value through pollination in the U.S. alone, which is approximately about one-third of all that we eat. If colony losses continue, crops, as well as our food choices, will drastically diminish.


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