Congressman Don Young's Response on Pesticide Use on Highways - P.O.W. Report

Monday, October 14, 2019

Congressman Don Young's Response on Pesticide Use on Highways

Earlier in the year, Craig resident Jan Trojan, sent a letter to Congressman Don Young regarding concern over pesticides used to control weeds along the Prince of Wales highway (and road-systems across the state) and her support for HR 2854 which would prohibit Neonicotinoids:

Neonicotinoids are a new class of insecticides chemically related to nicotine. The name literally means “new nicotine-like insecticides”. Like nicotine, the neonicotinoids act on certain kinds of receptors in the nerve synapse. They are much more toxic to invertebrates, like insects, than they are to mammals, birds and other higher organisms.

One thing that has made neonicotinoid insecticides popular in pest control is their water solubility, which allows them to be applied to soil and be taken up by plants. Soil insecticide applications reduce the risks for insecticide drift from the target site, and for at least some beneficial insects on plants. [...]

Initially neonicotinoids were praised for their low-toxicity to many beneficial insects, including bees; however recently this claim has come into question. New research points to potential toxicity to bees and other beneficial insects through low level contamination of nectar and pollen with neonicotinoid insecticides used in agriculture. Although these low level exposures do not normally kill bees directly, they may impact some bees’ ability to foraging for nectar, learn and remember where flowers are located, and possibly impair their ability to find their way home to the nest or hive. Despite the controlled studies completed to date, the actual impact of neonicotinoid insecticides on honey bees in the field are difficult to measure. It is still not known whether these effects explain bee colony collapse disorder, or have had any effect in agriculture or, especially, in urban areas.

Here is the Congressman's Reply:

July 30, 2019 
Dear Mrs. Trojan,

Thank you for contacting me regarding H.R. 2854, the Protect Our Refuges Act of 2019. I appreciate having the benefit of your thoughts.

On May 20, 2019, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) introduced H.R. 2854.  The bill bans the use of neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics) within the National Wildlife Refuge System. These pesticides have been implicated as a cause of bee decline within the U.S. Our nation's agricultural systems depend greatly on bees as they serve as pollinators for many our food-producing plant species. 

I understand the importance of protecting our nation's pollinator populations. We must have viable bee colonies to sustain our most essential domestic farming efforts. The need to protect beneficial insect species should not be underestimated. Congress must adopt policies that recognize this fact. If sound science shows that certain pesticides are contributing to colony collapse disorder, it may be that the harm of the pesticides significantly outweighs their benefit.

That said, the EPA and other federal agencies have a history of unnecessarily and unfairly burdening businesses. It is critical that we ensure that federal regulations do not place unreasonable requirements on responsible agriculture which uses safe practices for growing and producing food.

H.R. 2854 has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources, where it awaits action. As a member of the subcommittee to which it was referred, rest assured I will keep your thoughts in mind should this bill move through the legislative process.

Once again, thank you for expressing your views on this issue. If you haven't already, I would encourage you to sign up for my e-newsletter at and visit my Facebook page at Doing so will allow me to provide you with updates on this and other important issues. If I can be of any assistance in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Congressman for All Alaska

Ms. Trojan believes Young's response isn't adequate:

"If sound science shows that certain pesticides are contributing to colony collapse disorder, it may be that the harm of the pesticides significantly outweighs their benefit." ---Don Young.

Journals Plos:

In all, 50 different pesticide residues and their metabolites were found in the 70 wax samples tested, 20 were found in the 18 pollen (beebread) samples tested, 5 in the 24 brood sampled tested, and 28 in the 16 adult bees tested.

Congressional Research Service:

"Based on the available research over the past few years on the numerous possible causes of CCD, USDA concluded in its 2007-2008 progress report (released in June 2009) that “it now seems clear that no single factor alone is responsible for the malady.”

This has led researchers to further examine the hypothesis that CCD may be “a syndrome caused by many different factors, working in combination or synergistically.” Currently, USDA states, researchers are focusing on three major possibilities:

• pesticides that may be having unexpected negative effects on honey bees;

• a new parasite or pathogen that may be attacking honey bees, such as the parasite Nosema ceranae or viruses; and

• a combination of existing stresses that may compromise the immune system of bees and disrupt their social system, making colonies more susceptible to disease and collapse. Stresses could include high levels of infection by the Varroa mite; poor nutrition due to apiary overcrowding, pollination of crops with low nutritional value, or pollen or nectar scarcity; exposure to limited or contaminated water supplies; and migratory stress. "

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