Minnesota Takes Lead in Protecting Pollinators

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Minnesota has taken the lead in protecting pollinating insects from harmful pesticides, which environmentalists say will benefit the country's agriculture system.

Minnesota is being called a leader when it comes to restricting the use of pesticides that environmentalists say hurt bees. Governor Mark Dayton has ordered the broadest restrictions in the country on the use chemicals known as neonicotinoids.

Studies show the chemicals are harmful to honeybees. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the death rate among bees is reaching unsustainable levels. Lex Horan, an organizer with the Minnesota branch of the Pesticide Action Network, said the state is now taking the lead on protecting these vital insects.

“Pollinators, like honeybees, are critical to our food system. Many fruits and vegetables, coffee, chocolate relies on insects to pollinate those crops,” Horan said. “And so the decline of these pollinating insects really is something that we should be concerned about if we want a healthy, thriving agricultural system.”

Under the governor’s order, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture will require food growers to provide a “verification of need” if they want to use neonicotinoids going forward.

In the absence of federal action on the issue, Horan said that Minnesota is now the leader in pollinator protection.

“When you look at Minnesota’s plan, it’s incredibly thorough and really grounded in a great deal of sound science,” she said. “And so, I would really like to see other states begin to replicate this comprehensive approach and creating a plan to transition away from the pesticides that are harming our pollinators.”

But the Pesticide Action Network said the state could do more by locally closing a federal loophole which allows for seed coatings to be exempt from classification as a pesticide application.

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