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Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan’s Bill Limiting Pesticides that Harm Pollinators Passes the Legislature

AB 2146 bans the use of harmful neonicotinoid pesticides for most non-agricultural uses

For immediate release:

Sacramento, CA – Today Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer Kahan (D-Orinda)’s bill AB 2146, passed the California legislature. AB 2146 limits the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in non-agricultural settings. It will now head to the Governor’s desk.

California beekeepers lost 41.9% of their colonies last year, the second worst year on record. These pollinators are critical to many of California’s leading crops, worth upwards of $11 billion annually. A huge body of research links adverse health impacts and the decline in pollinator populations to the use of pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids.

“Our pollinators are dying. We know the cause, and it’s time to take action,” said Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan. “The European Union has already banned many of these pesticides altogether, we need to catch up to the rest of the world in protecting bee and human health. AB 2146 will curb harmful neonic contamination without limiting farmers.”

Specifically, AB 2146 prohibits the use of imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, dinotefuran and acetamiprid on non-agricultural lawns, gardens, and other ornamental plants.

Neonicotinoids are the world’s most widely used insecticides and are incredibly toxic to pollinators—just one square foot of grass treated with a typical neonic lawn product can contain enough neonics to kill one million bees. Worse yet, most of the chemicals stay in the soil, where they remain for years and are easily carried by rain or lawn watering.

Bees are essential to California agriculture. Key crops like almonds and strawberries depend on pollinators like bees, monarchs, and other birds and insects. However, our pollinators are put at dire risk by the use of neurotoxic neonicotinoid pesticides, which cause harm even at miniscule levels. With effective and less harmful alternatives already on the markets, it’s easy to transition away from these devastating chemicals.

“The damage inflicted by neonics is far greater than the fleeting value they purport to offer,” said Laura Deehan, Environment California state director. “A perfectly manicured lawn or rose garden isn’t worth the destruction of our bee populations, which are vital to our environment and our food systems. Passing this bill is so meaningful because it ups the odds that California’s meadows and gardens continue to buzz with the sound of bees.” 

European honeybees aren’t the only bees harmed by neonics. California is home to more native bee species than any state in the U.S.—roughly 1,600 of them.  “Each one of us depends on the vital relationship between our plants and pollinators, and AB 2146 is a much-needed step toward protecting the integrity of that interplay,” said Andrea Williams, director of Biodiversity Initiatives for the California Native Plant Society. “We're grateful to Asm. Bauer-Kahan for her leadership on this important legislation and thrilled to see it moving forward." Most uses of neonics in non-agricultural settings are unnecessary, yet they are incredibly widespread. Monitoring by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) detected imidacloprid—the most common neonic in non-agricultural settings—in 93% of water samples taken in Southern California’s urban areas and 67% of Northern California’s urban samples. Studies show ubiquitous neonic exposure in pregnant women in California, and link neonic exposure to malformations of the developing heart and brain, reduced testosterone, and a variety of other reproductive and neurological effects. We can avoid these impacts by simply eliminating neonic use. Nevertheless, the private sector has taken little action without legal restrictions.

“Neonics threaten the future of California’s pollinator-dependent agriculture and decimate the state’s unmatched biodiversity,” said Lucas Rhoads, a staff attorney at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan’s leadership has put California on a path to smart, targeted restrictions on neonic use. Now that the Assembly and Senate have voted to protect pollinators and people from these chemicals, it’s up to Governor Newsom to sign this urgently-needed bill into law.” 

AB 2146 is co-authored by Assemblymembers Steve Bennet (D-Santa Barbara), Stone (D-Santa Cruz), Robert Rivas (D-Salinas), and Ting, (D-San Francisco) Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) and Senator Stern (D-Calabasas)