Protecting the Birds and the Bees

Protecting the Birds and the Bees

Our work to save the bees has become one of our most popular campaigns. And for good reason. Bees are incredibly impressive and complicated insects. Plus they are fundamental to our food system. In fact, bees are responsible for 1 in 3 bites of food we eat. But their numbers have been dropping due to toxic neonicotinoid (or neonics for short) pesticides. And in 2023, U.S. beekeepers lost over 48% of their colonies. That was the second highest loss in history. 

We have seen progress restricting neonics or passing consumer bans in states like Maryland, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Vermont. The state of New York took it a step further, introducing a bill to limit these toxic pesticides even further by restricting agricultural use — the most common application of neonics.

The Birds and Bees Protection Act proposed to eliminate 80-90% of the neonics entering New York’s environment yearly. This would be huge in New York — a state where local beekeepers have lost more than 40% of their bee colonies due to toxic neonics.

And while neonics have already been banned in the European Union for almost a decade, the Birds and Bees Protection Act was a first-of-its-kind in the US. 

Research by Cornell University found that neonics provide no economic benefits to users or can be replaced with safer, effective alternatives. And the EPA reported that the toxic pesticide has threatened the existence of over 200 species. That’s 11% of the entire endangered species list!

The evidence for why neonicotinoid pesticides should be banned was mounting. And thankfully, New York State legislators chose to side with science and pass the bill in both chambers. But unfortunately, rumors circulated that the state’s governor, Governor Kathy Hochul, may not be on board with the bill. Her signature was the final step in making the bill law. 

So we ramped up our advocacy for this important bill. Thousands of Friends of the Earth members in New York contacted Hochul, urging her to pass the bill. In November 2023, we gathered in New York City to call on the governor to be a climate leader and sign the bill into law. We also pointed out how neonics can be harmful to human health, especially pregnant women and babies. Studies show that neonics were associated with malformations of babies’ developing hearts and brains. And farmworkers are also vulnerable due to their constant exposure to the pesticide. 

With just a few days left in 2023, we received news that Governor Hochul signed the Birds and Bees Protection Act into law! Environmentalists, farmers, and health professionals all joined in a sigh of relief that the governor chose to listen to proven science, instead of the exploitative pesticide industry. The passage of this bill will set an example for other states to follow. And we hope to see the EPA, which has published its own research on the harms of neonics, ban the pesticide once and for all. Until then, we will continue to campaign to save the bees and others from deadly chemicals.