Science Trust: Veto bill to ban neonicotinoid pesticide use

Imagine if Congress—rather than the Centers for Disease Control—had been able to set public health policy during the pandemic. What a scary scenario.

Beginning January 1, 2024, Assembly Bill 2146 by Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) would prohibit a person from selling, possessing or using a neonicotinoid pesticide.

It would be equally irresponsible and dangerous for the California legislature to create laws without any basis in sound science. But it is trying to do so.

Fortunately, Governor Gavin Newsom has demonstrated a consistent and highly commendable commitment to letting science guide his major policy decisions. From climate change policy to public health restrictions during the COVID pandemic, science has decided, rightly so.

The Legislature claims to value science, yet has sent the Governor a bill that conveniently ignores the scientific process and findings of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), hundreds of health studies and decades of revisions.

Assembly Bill 2146 seeks to enact restrictions on a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, which are used to combat a variety of pests, including mosquitoes, bedbugs, fleas, cockroaches and a variety of invasive species. Neonicotinoids are also vital for protecting home garden and citrus trees that help provide important food for families around the state.

AB 2146 is clearly wrong and unnecessary. There is no scientific justification for it:

• Pesticide regulations should be set by scientific bodies such as the DPR and not by the legislature. This is why the DPR has an entire army of scientists and why it was created in the first place.

• If concerned about chemicals, the legislature should direct the DPR to either undertake additional assessments or provide more supporting information for its regulations.

• California’s regulatory framework is science-based and more restrictive than any other state.

• Neonicotinoids were developed in large part because they are both effective and a safer alternative to previously used insecticides.

• DPR is currently preparing new neonicotinoid regulations that will be the most restrictive in the country.

• As part of this process, DPR has already reviewed the current regulatory requirements for neonicotinoids in urban or domestic environments and has found that additional action is not necessary. This echoes the findings of the EPA and its scientific advisory panels.

• Both EPA and DPR have aggressive regulations and commitment to pollinator protection as appropriate. More anti-science mandates are unnecessary.

As if all these scientific reasons were not enough for the Governor to veto AB 2146, what about the unintended consequences of the bill if it were to become law?

An obvious concern is that dead plants and trees fuel wildfires. AB 2146 creates more polish for our dry condition.

Perhaps the biggest threat would be to California’s $2 billion citrus industry. AB 2146 ignores the fact that neonicotinoids prevent the spread of Asian citrus psyllids (ACP) from residential trees to agriculture.

About 8 out of 10 citrus trees grow in urban areas. If homeowners and renters lose the ability to use neonicotinoids because they don’t have the resources to hire professional private applicators, there would be a high potential for a domino effect that would destroy an entire industry and urban gardens. If you don’t believe it, just look at what happened to Florida, Texas and northern Mexico because they couldn’t control ACP.

Is it worth risking all of this for an overblown and sensitive bill that lacks any scientific merit? Of course not.

We believe that Governor Newsom, with a simple veto, will keep neonicotinoid regulations where they belong – in the hands of regulatory experts and scientists.

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