Proposal would limit home use of some pesticides

PORTLAND, Ore.— An Oregon lawmaker wants to restrict home gardeners’ use of some pesticides suspected of killing bees in Portland, Wilsonville and other cities last summer.

Rep. Jeff Reardon of Portland said he plans to introduce legislation next month to add four pesticides to a restricted use list and effectively force backyard gardeners to hire professional pesticide applicators or use alternatives, The Oregonian reported (http://is.gd/6oo5UK ) Wednesday.

Reardon, a Democrat, said the proposal would protect bees that provide pollination for flowers and crops. Bee populations have declined in recent years from colony collapse disorder, which some scientists say is linked to pesticide use, the newspaper reported.

The four pesticides are dinotefuran, imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. They belong to a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids and are found in some garden products.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture said a pesticide that contains dinotefuran, was used in a Wilsonville incident that killed thousands of bumblebees in June, and it penalized the pesticide applicators for failing to follow label instructions. A private group, the Xerces Society, estimated the death toll at 50,000 bees.

A representative of an advocacy group for farmers and loggers said there’s no evidence that home gardeners’ use of neonicotinoid pesticides caused mass bee deaths.

“Pesticide regulation should be based on science,” said Scott Dahlman, executive director of Oregonians for Food &Shelter.

The pesticides are also much safer for applicators and more effective against pests than alternative treatments, he added.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture in November announced additional education and testing requirements for licensed pesticide applicators, but Reardon wants home gardeners to meet similar requirements before they can use the pesticides.

Reardon also wants the state to develop an online course that home gardeners would need to take before passing a test to obtain a pesticide license — requirements that most hobby gardeners would likely resist.

Oregon pesticide licenses are designed for commercial and agricultural uses. The state currently doesn’t require licenses for private backyard uses of neonicotinoids, said Dale Mitchell, manager of the pesticides program at the state Department of Agriculture.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture last year declined a request to restrict neonicotinoids and said there is no evidence that use of the pesticides is a significant contributor to the decline of bee colonies.

Gardeners like the pesticides because they’re absorbed through the roots and can last for a year or more, said Jimmy Mack, a manager at Portland Nursery.

“The onus becomes: How do you educate people on what to do next? It’d be tough, but I think we’d adjust,” he added.

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