DEP Needs Stronger Pesticide Rule to Protect Bees

DEP Needs Stronger Pesticide Rule to Protect Bees

The New Jersey Sierra Club today sent comments to DEP recommending amendments to the Pesticide Control Code to better protect bees and other pollinators. The DEP has proposed changes to the rule but they are not strong enough. The bee population in New Jersey and across the country is collapsing, threatened primarily by pesticides. The loss of bees can have a devastating effect on ecosystems and crops.

“Bees are dying off in record numbers and hives are collapsing. That will have serious consequences on farming and our environment. Pesticides are the main factor, and DEP isn’t going far enough on pesticide control to protect bees, or human health. There are changes we’d like to see to the proposed rule that will give bees a better chance to survive. If New Jersey really wants to help save wildlife and bees, we need to avoid using pesticides that are harmful to them,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “With this proposed rule, DEP is siding with the agricultural industry over protecting our ecosystem and bees.”

DEP also proposes to amend regulations for a Pesticide Grace Period to establish a penalty matrix and include a process for enforcement of the rules. That process would occur through an administrative process and provide for criminal prosecution of violations in accordance with the Environmental Enforcement Enhancement Act.

“There are several changes we would like to see to strengthen the pesticide rule. There should be a minimum 48-hour notice for any spraying. DEP’s 24-hour spraying notice is not enough time for beekeepers to protect their hives. There should also be warning signs and postings in the community well in advance of any spraying. Spraying should only be done at night, and not when it’s windy or rainy. We also need 500-foot buffer zones between colonies and any organic farms or streams. There should also be buffers where there are farms in urban areas to protect children playing at nearby playgrounds  or near residential housing. We also need to incorporate an integrated pest management system for agriculture as we start to ban certain pesticides,” said Tittel.

The Trump administration recently lifted a ban on sulfoxaflor, a pesticide that the EPA acknowledges is toxic to honeybees. The change means the chemical can be used on some crops for the first time, while restoring use on other crops. The EPA also said this week that it will not ban chlorpyrifos, another dangerous pesticide for humans and bees.

“DEP should be moving immediately to prohibit use of insecticides called neonicotinoids, especially imidacloprid and chlorpyrifos. These insecticides are destroying our bee population and are also harmful to human health. Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxin that especially threatens the health of children and pregnant women. Farmworkers exposed to chlorpyrifos have been sickened by it. The EPA said this week it would not ban chlorpyrifos, and they recently lifted a ban on sulfoxaflor, a pesticide toxic to honeybees,” said Tittel. “The rule follows federal regulations, which isn’t good enough when the Trump Administration has made it so clear that they don’t value environmental or wildlife protections, or the agencies that regulate them.”

While New Jersey still uses neonicotinoids, there has been legislation introduced, A4562 (Calabrese) that directs DEP to classify neonicotinoid pesticides as restricted use pesticides. Other bills like S1810 (Turner) and S2288 (Smith) have also been introduced to prohibit use of harmful pesticides.

“Bees are an important part of our ecosystem and play a crucial role in the pollination of our crops. Bees have been dying in record numbers and we’re concerned we could see bees go extinct. DEP must go much farther in its pesticide rule to prevent that environmental disaster. They should be banning pesticides and toughening rules to make spraying methods safer for bees and humans,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The loss of our bees would have devastating effects on our ecosystem and our food supply. The Murphy administration and the legislature need to work together to ban pesticides and protect our bees.”

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