Take Action to Protect Portland’s Pollinators

SUCCESS! City of Portland passes an ordinance banning neonicotinoid pesticides on city property…

We are proud to announce that the Portland City Commission has voted unanimously to ban the use of
neonicotinoid pesticides on all city-owned property. It was passed with an emergency clause for immediate implementation.

Read the April 1 Press Release (PDF)

Current full text of proposed Portland ordinance:
“Prohibit the use and purchase of neonicotinoid pesticides by the City of Portland; amend Integrated Pest Management strategies; and urge retailers operating within the City of Portland to label plants, seeds, and products containing neonicotinoid pesticides.”

Please send messages of thanks to Portland’s leaders (below) in appreciation for the Portland Ordinance to ban neonicotinoids on Portland City property!

Charlie Hales, Mayor
1221 SW 4th Avenue, Room 340
Portland, OR 97204
(503) 823-4120
Dan Saltzman, City Commissioner
1221 SW 4th Ave., Room 230
Portland, OR 97204
(503) 823-4151
Nick Fish, City Commissioner
1221 S.W. 4th Ave., Room 240
Portland, OR 97204
(503) 823-3589
Amanda Fritz, City Commissioner
1221 SW 4th Avenue, Room 220
Portland, OR 97204
(503) 823-3008
Steve Novick, City Commissioner
1221 SW 4th Ave., Suite 210
Portland, OR 97204
(503) 823-4682

Facts about the Importance of a Neonicotinoids Ban


Bee Kills Demonstrate the Need to Take Action
In Oregon, seven neonicotinoid insecticide applications in the summers of 2013 and 2014 caused the death of nearly a 100,000 bumble bees representing hundreds of colonies. Poisoning incidents occurred in Beaverton, Eugene, Portland, Wilsonville and other cities. High-profile investigations by the Oregon Department of Agriculture implicated dinotefuran in two of the kills and a closely related pesticide, imidacloprid, in the others. These insecticides, along with clothianidin and thiamethoxam, are neonicotinoids, the most widely used group of insecticides in the world. They are highly toxic to honey bees, as well as many native pollinators, including bumble bees.

Scientific Community Confirmation of Neonicotinoid Toxicity
Neonicotinoids were recently evaluated by a large panel of experts chartered under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), known as the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides. This panel assessed effects of systemic insecticides on an ecosystem level, reviewing approximately 800 peer-reviewed articles on neonicotinoids, and another systemic insecticide fipronil.

Their report, entitled the “Worldwide Integrated Assessment on Systemic Pesticides,” is being published serially in Environmental Science and Pollution Research. Key findings include:[1]

Neonicotinoids are present in the environment “at levels that are known to cause lethal and sublethal effects on a wide range of terrestrial (including soil) and aquatic microorganisms, invertebrates and vertebrates.”

The active ingredients persist, particularly in soils, with half-lives of months and, in some cases, years.

The metabolites of neonicotinoids can be as toxic or more toxic than the active ingredients.

Standard methods used to assess the toxicity of a pesticide (e.g. short-term lab toxicity results) fail to identify the subtle, yet severe impacts of neonicotinoids.

The most affected group of species include insect pollinators. Furthermore, harm to pollinators has been demonstrated at field relevant levels.

Concerns for aquatic insects
All neonicotinoids exhibit high water solubility (e.g. Gervais et al. 2010), and accordingly, have the potential to move into surface water or leach into ground water.

Extremely low concentrations, regularly found in surface water are linked with harmful effects to a wide range of insects. The effects of neonicotinoids also appear to be near irreversible. That means that their effects are cumulative over time.

Mayflies and stoneflies, important food source for trout species, are especially sensitive to neonictinoids. Some studies have found that neonicotinoids are highly persistent in water, sometimes lasting more than five years.  The result is cascading ecosystem impacts that can significantly reduce this important food source for fish and birds.

Researchers concluded that:
“Existing information presented here suggests that stricter regulations and use of neonicotinoid insecticides are warranted to protect aquatic ecosystems and the broader biodiversity they support. (Morrissey, C. et al. 2014)

A prohibition on neonicotinoids fits well within an Integrated Pest Management program
The Portland Parks department practices Integrated Pest Management. The increasingly widespread preemptive application of neonicotinoids represents a fundamental shift away from IPM. A key component of IPM is monitoring for pests and responding accordingly. Yet, neonicotinoids are often used prophylactically — prior to pest damage and in the absence of pest abundance data to demonstrate a need for control.

Furthermore, IPM uses a variety of methods to address pest problems. In many IPM programs pesticide use is only when other methods are ineffective or not feasible. And then the most narrowly focused, least toxic products are selected and used in the most targeted manner possible. When neonics came on the market many were considered reduced risk. Unfortunately, due to their persistence in plants, soil and water, their high toxicity to beneficial insects it is becoming increasingly apparent that their use is harmful.

For Portland to remove highly toxic, long-lived, broad spectrum insecticides is compatible with IPM and shows how the city is able to adapt as new science comes available.

The new rules by the Oregon Department of Agriculture do not address many of the risks associated with neonicotinoids.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture banned the application of neonicotinoids on one species of tree in 2015. ODA’s new rules are specifically designed to stop incidents of bumblebee mortality from acute exposure. The rule only applies to one species of pollinator attractive tree. Independent, peer-reviewed, published research has documented numerous hazards to native and managed bees from low level, field realistic chronic exposures to neonicotinoids. For example, bumble bees can suffer reduced reproductive success after low-dose field realistic neonicotinoid exposure. Researchers have also measured a reduction in both honey bee and bumble bee’s foraging ability after very low, field realistic exposures. These subtle effects can severely compromise population fitness and growth.

More broadly, a recent analysis was conducted by a task force of 29 independent scientists from around the world. The task force evaluated more than 800 peer-reviewed studies on neonicotinoids and another systemic insecticide fipronil. Their findings, also peer-reviewed and published, conclude that present day legal use of these compounds is likely to cause a wide variety of negative impacts on pollinators, other beneficial invertebrates and the broader environment.

Human Health Concerns
A major increase has occurred over the last two decades in human consumption of neonicotinoids via their incorporation in fresh and processed foods and beverages, as well as human consumption of meat and poultry from animals fed with neonicotinoid-treated feed. Many uncertainties exist as to whether consuming neonicotinoids in food or beverages, including water, may adversely affect human health, with recent concerns focused on harm to the developing brain via in utero exposure.

Several analyses have focused on neonicotinoid residues in tea, with one study in particular focusing on potential neurotoxic symptoms that may have resulted from consuming high amounts of contaminated tea.

According to the 2012 USDA Pesticide Data Program, imidacloprid was the most commonly detected neonicotinoid found on foods sampled, with 13 of the 20 varieties of fruit and vegetable tested containing imidacloprid residues. The highest levels were found in cauliflower (30.1%), sweet bell peppers (26.3%), summer squash (22.6%), cherry tomatoes (22%) and winter squash (17.4%).

The second most commonly detected neonicotinoid was acetamiprid, prevalent in baby foods and apple juice, in addition to sweet bell peppers.

Research exists to suggest that the “allowed tolerance” levels of pesticide residues is flawed in general, and specifically flawed when applied to infants and children, whose immune systems are not fully developed, However, in most cases, the neonic residues reported by the USDA do not exceed the FDA’s tolerance levels.

Currently, there is inadequate data and numerous uncertainties regarding risks to humans from eating and drinking higher levels of neonicotinoids. Until further research is conducted, EPA’s current assessments cannot reasonably determine whether tolerances for neonicotinoids will or will not have unreasonable adverse effects on human health. When in doubt about acute and chronic effects of pesticides on human health, we must err on the side of caution and do what is necessary to eliminate the presence of systemic pesticides in our food, water and soils.

[1] Van der Sluijs J.P., et al. 2014. Conclusions of the Worldwide Integrated Assessment on the risks of neonicotinoids and fipronil to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Environ Sci Pollut Res, doi:10.1007/s11356-014-3229-5.

Read more about our Save Oregon’s Bees project

Won’t you join us in imagining, and working for, a world beyond toxics?

Donate Now!

Beyond Toxics is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and all contributions are fully tax-deductible. Please consider giving a gift of a Beyond Toxics membership to a friend or family member!