Pesticide ban supporters accused of caring more about buzz than science
Democrats in Springfield care more about getting undeserved praise than checking their facts when it comes to modern pesticides, opponents of a bill waiting for Senate consideration argue.
“They want Illinois to be for neonics what Vermont was for GMOs: a PR stunt,” Hank Campbell, president of the American Council on Science and Health, told the Chicago City Wire.
Senate Bill 673, introduced by Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) earlier this year, would restrict the use of neonicotinoids (aka neonics), a class of insecticides, on publicly owned lands, which some believe causes a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder (CCD). CCD occurs when a hive's worker bees disappear, leaving behind the nurse bees, immature bees and queen. Without worker bees to collect food, the hive collapses.
CCD has been linked to certain pesticides, like neonics, which must be labeled.
Critics argue that the bill is backed by environmental special interest groups and isn't based on science. If passed, it would also prohibit the use of neonics by landscaping companies and nurseries and for outdoor residential use.
“If you dunk anything in a bucket of goop, of course it will have an effect, but neonics replaced broad-spectrum pesticides," Campbell said. "They are on seeds and can't possibly harm bees. It's shocking that anyone who understands science or claims to care about the environment would want to go back to mass spraying in the areas this bill covers. But that is what would happen.”
Broad-spectrum pesticides kill a wide range of organisms rather than a select few. They are also used when many species are threatening a plant or crop.
Joe Khayyat, executive director of the Illinois Green Industry Association, said the legislation threatens the industry.
“If legislation like this — with strategies based on emotional reactions rather than in sound science — is allowed to pass, it would have an adverse or even devastating impact on small businesses in the nursery and landscape industry across the state," he said. “It would place Illinois businesses at a distinct competitive disadvantage by making them compete with big-box stores that can and already do import their flowers and trees from other states that have fewer or even no restrictions.”
SB673 replaced Rep. Will Guzzardi's (D-Logan Square) House Bill 5900 from 2016.
The bill also seeks to grant the Illinois Department of Agriculture the authority to set rules to enforce the act. The department would be mandated to conduct a study researching the effect insecticides have on pollinators, such as honeybees, as well as on other insects, the environment and public health.
SB673 remains in the Senate Assignments Committee. No action has been taken on it since March.
Khayyat said he does not expect the bill to go anywhere this session.