General assembly passes bill to fix pollinator protection act

Technical fix protects bees, pollinators, and Maryland’s food supply

Today (April 12, 2021), the Maryland General Assembly gave final passage to legislation (HB208 / SB375) that will provide a critical technical fix to the bipartisan 2016 Pollinator Protection Act to end all consumer use of outdoor, home, lawn, and garden products that contain neonicotinoid (or neonic) pesticide, as the bill was originally intended. Neonics harm and kill bees, birds, and other pollinators — posing a serious threat to our food supply, human health, aquatic life, and wildlife.

Unfortunately, at least 100 retail stores in Maryland have been using unclear language in the original law as a loophole to allow them to continue to sell these bee-killing products to unsuspecting consumers, even though it is illegal for consumers to use them.

“Despite concerns shared with the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) about retailers who sell restricted-use pesticides taking advantage of the loophole, the agency chose to continue to allow retailers to do so,” said Ruth Berlin, Executive Director of the Maryland Pesticide Education Network. “It is disappointing that MDA chose not to ensure adherence to the intent of the law, which went into effect in 2018. We are particularly surprised because the law only affects consumers, not the farmers who are under their purview.”

This technical fix (HB208 / SB375) makes clear that retailers who sell restricted-use pesticides may only sell neonic pesticides to a certified applicator or farmer and must discontinue all sales of neonic-containing products to consumers and keep such products out of reach of customers.

“We are thrilled the Maryland General Assembly passed this legislation to protect pollinators, especially at a time when U.S. beekeepers have lost over 40% of their colonies — the second highest loss in history,” said Bonnie Raindrop, legislative chair for the Central Maryland Beekeepers Association and outreach coordinator for the Smart on Pesticides Coalition. “Clarifying the bill language through this legislation simply does what the General Assembly originally intended: to keep these harmful pesticides out of the hands of consumers.”

With this amendment, Maryland will continue to demonstrate its leadership and dedication to reducing the widespread use of bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides.“Beekeepers have witnessed devastating declines in bee populations over the last year, which have been exacerbated by the continued consumer use of neonic products,” said Steve McDaniel, Maryland Master Beekeeper. “Even when using these products as directed, home gardeners have been applying them at the rate of 100 times the amount of neonic pesticides farmers apply to their crops. Eliminating consumer use as the law intended can make a significant impact on our annual losses. Our bees, birds, and other pollinators needed this bill.”

The Smart on Pesticides Maryland coalition, spearheaded by the Maryland Pesticide Education Network, works to protect Marylanders and the natural systems we depend upon from the toxic impacts of pesticides. The coalition includes 108 organizations, and institutions representing communities, businesses, health care providers, farmers, environmentalists, waterkeepers, interfaith congregants as well as environmental justice, public health, and wildlife advocates.

For further information, contact Bonnie Raindrop,, 410-404-3808.