Minnesota House Agricultural Policy Committee to hear bipartisan bill on safe-for-pollinators plants

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Bluestem Prairie’s neighbors here in Maynard are deeply concerned about our disappearing pollinators; it’s the one subject people talk most about, perhaps because the tiny town is a farming community–or because everybody agrees that we need to rescue our bees and butterfly populations.

Being people of good will, many neighbors purchase plants advertised as bee and butterfly friendly; it’s the right thing to do and the flowers are lovely in their own right.

Unfortunately, when plants advertised as pollinator-friendly are treated with neonicotinoids, we’re not helping, as NBC’s science editor Alan Boyle reported last August in Bee-killing pesticide found in garden store plants: What does it mean?:

A type of pesticide that’s a focal point in the controversy over endangered honeybees has turned up in garden-store plants sampled by Friends of the Earth. Other bee experts say the pilot study on neonicotinoids adds an important twist to the plight of the bees — but stress that more rigorous research needs to be done.

The study, co-authored with the Pesticide Research Institute and titled “Gardeners Beware,” reported finding traces of neonicotinoid pesticides, or neonics, in seven of 13 plants purchased from garden stores in California’s San Francisco Bay area; the Washington, D.C. area; and Minnesota’s Twin Cities. The plants included tomatoes, squash, salvia and flowers that would be attractive to pollinators.

“Our investigation is the first to show that so called ‘bee-friendly’ garden plants contain pesticides that can actually poison bees, with no warning to gardeners,” Lisa Archer, director of the Food and Technology Program at Friends of the Earth-US, said in a news release accompanying Wednesday’s 34-page report. “Bees are essential to our food system and they are dying at alarming rates. Neonic pesticides are a key part of the problem we can start to fix right now in our own backyards.”

On Wednesday, the Minnesota House Agriculture Policy Committee will hear HF2798, a bill designed to address this problem by prohibiting plants treated with pollinator lethal insecticide from being labeled or advertised as beneficial to pollinators.

This article is reposted from TCDP media partner Bluestem Prairie. Check out the links below for other recent Bluestem Prairie stories:

It’s a common-sense law authored by Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), and coauthored by rural Republicans like Paul Torkelson, Paul Anderson and Ernie Leidiger andsuburban Republican nursery owner Denny McNamara, as well as environmental stalwarts in the DFL like Jean Wagenius. The Senate companion is offered by Kari Dziedzic and Scott Dibble.

This is common sense legislation that should protect pollinators, the beekeeping industry and citizens who want to do well by our pollinators.

Restitution and bees: a bill based on an ancient concept

According to the Jerusalem Post article, Biblical buzz:

. .. during biblical times the Israelites imported bees from Turkey for the industrial production of honey in the Beit She’an Valley, according to a new archeological discovery by researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The team, headed by HU archeology Prof. Amihai Mazar, found a total of 30 intact hives in the ruins of the city of Tel Rehov, dating back to 900 BCE, as well as evidence that there had been 100-200 hives made of straw and unbaked clay.

The hives, lined up in an orderly way, may be the earliest complete beehives ever discovered and offer a glimpse of ancient beekeeping during biblical times. . . .

The Bible is sweet with honey references, as well as laws for restitution for harming a neighbor’s livestock, vineyard, grain or whatever. Restitution is an old concept, and another Hansen bill, HF2908, hopes to provide for compensation when bee death caused by pesticide poisoning, establish a pollinator emergency response team, and provide a civil liability for bee deaths. The final item is restitution..

The money for compensation when “the loss of the bees was likely caused by an acute pesticide poisoning and the source and applicator of the pesticide cannot be determined” will come from the pesticide regulatory account.

When an investigation determines that bee deaths came from a particular applicator, the bill provides that the applicator pay the beekeeper for the bee deaths:

A pesticide applicator that has knowingly violated the law resulting in the death of bees kept for commercial purposes is liable for any actual damages resulting from the violation, including any economic damages associated with loss or damage to bees kept. In awarding damages under this section, there is a rebuttable presumption that the economic value of a damaged or destroyed bee population is consistent with the value assigned to bees by the commissioner of agriculture . . .

It’s not rocket science, but an old concept, and should help Minnesota’s struggling beekeepers. This proposal shouldn’t be considered controversial and deserves passage.

KSTP reports that Beekeepers Ask Dept. of Agriculture to Ban Bee-Harming Pesticide, so leaders in the honey industry are seeking more drastic action. We’ll be looking in to who’s lobbying for the “ag chemical” industry in future posts.