Scott Vetoes Bill That Would Have Banned a Bee-Killing Pesticide | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice


Scott Vetoes Bill That Would Have Banned a Bee-Killing Pesticide


Published May 20, 2024 at 10:32 p.m.

Pesticide-treated corn seed - CALEB KENNA ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Caleb Kenna ©️ Seven Days
  • Pesticide-treated corn seed
Gov. Phil Scott on Monday vetoed a bill that would ban the use of chemicals toxic to bees, arguing that the science on the issue is inconclusive.

The bill, H.706, would have prohibited the use of neonicotinoid pesticides beginning in 2025 for ornamental plants and in 2029 for agricultural seeds.

Most of the pesticide used in Vermont is on seeds that have been pretreated. Lawmakers found that at least 1,200 tons of seeds sold in the state in 2022 had been treated with a neonicotinoid product.

The bill was written to align with similar restrictions recently passed in New York State to ensure a sufficient supply of seeds was on the market by the time the ban went to effect. If the New York law was not in effect by 2029, then Vermont’s law would be repealed.

Farmers would still have been allowed to use the seeds if they could demonstrate that they had an "agricultural emergency" that required the use to protect crops. Scott argued that the bill would put Vermont’s dairy farmers at a disadvantage because most of the corn grown in the nation is from treated seeds.

“This bill unfairly targets dairy farmers reliant on corn crops and will harm farmers without achieving its goals for pollinators. For these reasons I cannot sign it into law,” he wrote.

Brooke Decker inspecting a beehive - KEVIN MCCALLUM ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Kevin Mccallum ©️ Seven Days
  • Brooke Decker inspecting a beehive
Supporters of the ban blasted the veto as uninformed.

“It’s hard to believe that the governor chose World Bee Day to veto this sensible legislation to protect bees and other pollinators from toxic pesticides while supporting farmers through a just transition to safer alternatives,” said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.

Burns noted that neonicotinoid pesticides have been associated with “alarming losses of managed and wild bee populations” but provide little benefit to farmers. A 2020 study from Cornell University found that treated seeds cost more but provide no substantial benefit in corn and soybean crop yields.

The chemicals have been banned from Québec crops since 2019. Burns urged lawmakers to override the veto next month.

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