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Spokane Council Votes to Quit Using Neonicotinoids on City Property

The city council of Spokane, WA, voted Monday to discontinue government use of neonicotinoids, a controversial class of insecticides that have taken the brunt of the blame for colony collapse disorder, the phenomenon causing significant declines in honeybee populations.

The vote comes on the heels of last week’s Presidential Memorandum establishing a federal task force to address the crisis of diminishing pollinator populations, as well as a new scientific review finding “conclusive” evidence that neonicotinoids are a large part of the problem.

Spokane now follows Eugene, OR, to become the second city in the U.S. to ban the insecticides from city property. Seattle has also had an initiative in place since 2001 to reduce pesticide use in particular parks throughout the city.

“This ordinance simply says Spokane prioritizes the protection of our food supply over the ornamental use of pesticides,” said Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart during testimony on the ordinance.

Pesticide manufacturers have repeatedly said that neonicotinoids are not causing bee deaths, which could be blamed on viruses and parasites such as the varroa mite. Many bee experts believe colony collapse disorder is caused by a combination of neonicotinoids and those other stressors.

A four-year scientific review conducted by 29 scientists and set to be published next month concludes that neonicotinoids and another chemical called fipronil are damaging far more than just honeybees. These chemicals contaminate soil and water, threatening fish, worms, and birds, among other species, according to the report.

In December 2013, the Oregon Department of Agriculture issued almost $3,000 in fines to several companies responsible for the negligent spray-killing of 50,000 bees in Wilsonville, just south of Portland, in June 2013. That incident also prompted the state’s agriculture department to place statewide restrictions on the use of a number of pesticides.

Also in December 2013, the European Union initiated a two-year ban on three neonicotinoids. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said it will be carefully watching the results of that trial.

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