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Pesticides

California cracks down on neonicotinoid pesticides

Proposed regulations aim to protect pollinator health

by Britt E. Erickson
March 3, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 9

California plans to restrict certain agricultural uses of neonicotinoid pesticides to protect bees and other pollinators, the state’s Department of Pesticide Regulations (DPR) announced Feb. 25. The proposed regulations come more than a decade after the department started reevaluating the risks of imidacloprid and other neonicotinoids.

Chemical structure of imidacloprid.

The restrictions would include prohibiting the use of the chemicals on certain flowering crops that attract bees when they are in bloom. They would also limit the use of multiple neonicotinoids and regulate how growers can apply the chemicals in the state.

The DPR estimates that use of neonicotinoid pesticides in California will drop by about 45% once it implements the regulations. The department began developing the control measures in July 2018, when its reassessment of neonicotinoids turned up risks to pollinator health.

“Our neonicotinoid reevaluation led to the significant advance in pollinator protection reflected in our proposed regulation,” DPR director Julie Henderson says in a statement. The department is accepting comments on the proposal until April 26.

California’s restrictions on neonicotinoids would go beyond those implemented by the US Environmental Protection Agency in a proposed interim decision released in January 2020. The EPA expects later this year to finalize its decision to allow neonicotinoids to remain in the US marketplace.

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