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Common pesticide facing ban in California

Going for the “low hanging fruit,” state lawmakers are proposing to ban “neonicotinoids” — chemicals known to harm bees and other pollinating creatures.

Assembly Bill 2146 prohibits backyard gardeners, schools and golf courses from using the chemical widely-used to kill plant pests in “non-agriculture” use. The legislative session is due to wrap up Aug. 31.

The California Department of Pesticide manages pesticides in the agriculture industry, and a draft of new rules is expected to be finalized by next year. Currently, the agency mandates how the chemicals can be used on certain crops in whatever season, under particular quantities and whether pollinators are present.

For non-agriculture use, California Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, D-San Ramon, believes it’s time to ban the pesticides outside of the ag industry.

“The bill makes their use more restrictive,” Solano County Agriculture Commissioner Ed King said.

The state is now trying to fill in the gaps between regulated and non-regulated use.

“We think the non-ag use is responsible for more contamination,” Natural Resources Defense Council Staff Attorney Lucas Rhoads told the Business Journal, from the national environmental advocacy group’s offices. “(The Legislature) is going after the low-hanging fruit.”

Rhoads was referring to backyard gardeners’ limited clout compared to large scale farm operators who may use them under certain circumstances.

Some golf courses have shied away from using this type of chemical on its grounds anyway.

Bauer-Kahan, the bill’s author, believes farms are sufficiently monitored by the pesticide regulator, her aide said.

The pesticide regulatory agency has studied the ingredients in the pesticide and determined their properties are harmful to bees and other pollinators. They include: imidacioprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin and dinotefuran.

Sonoma County beekeeper Candice Koseba has seen the effects of the chemicals on bees, supporting her practice of never using chemicals in her business — especially since the pollinating insects have endured time periods in which they were threatened.

“It’s kind of a no brainer. We’ve seen a lot of jumping around on the ground,” she said, describing the abnormal behavior. “They have no control over their nervous system.”

Despite farms being left out of this bill prohibiting pesticide use, the state’s pesticide department Director Julie Henderson makes the case that her agency may do a better job evaluating the big picture of how chemical use impacts the entire ecosystem and environment.

“Our continuous evaluation of pesticides plays a critical role in accelerating a transition to safer, more sustainable pest management that protects the health of our communities, our pollinators and the environment as a whole,” Henderson said in a statement.

Susan Wood covers law, cannabis, production, tech, energy, transportation, agriculture as well as banking and finance. For 27 years, Susan has worked for a variety of publications including the North County Times, Tahoe Daily Tribune and Lake Tahoe News. Reach her at 530-545-8662 or susan.wood@busjrnl.com.

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