APOPKA, FL – A report released today showed a significant decrease in the number of “bee-friendly” home garden plants sold at major retailers that have been pre-treated with pesticides shown to harm and kill bees. The study of plants purchased at Home Depot (NYSE: HD), Lowe’s (NYSE: LOW), Ace Hardware, True Value and Walmart (NYSE: WMT) was conducted by Friends of the Earth, Pesticide Research Institute and allies, including the Farmworker Association of Florida.
The report, Gardeners Beware 2016
, is a follow-up to testing conducted in 2013
that demonstrated the presence of bee-toxic neonicotinoid insecticides (neonics) in more than half of bee-attractive flowers tested. The 2016 analysis found that 23 percent of flowers and trees tested contain neonicotinoid insecticides at levels that can harm or kill bees, indicating that stores are selling far fewer plants treated with bee-killing neonics than in 2014. This reduction is likely due to change in store policies that commit retailers to eliminate or phase-out neonicotinoid use on garden plants. Retailer commitments are having a ripple effect in production methods by suppliers and have resulted in reduced use of neonicotinoids in common garden plants overall.
Larger retailers Home Depot and Lowe’s, have both made commitments to phase out use of these pesticides. The new data demonstrates that these two companies are making significant progress toward that goal. Ace Hardware, True Value and Walmart have not yet made similar commitments to eliminate neonics in their stores.
“The market is shifting away from selling bee-killing pesticides, and retailers including Ace Hardware and True Value are lagging behind their competitors,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “We are calling on all retailers to do their part to save bees and adopt formal policies to eliminate neonicotinoid pesticides.”
A YouGov Poll
commissioned by Friends of the Earth and Sum of Us conducted in 2016 and released today found that 67% of Americans feel more positively about Home Depot and 66% feel more positively about Lowe’s because of their formal commitments to eliminate neonics. Following this survey, half of respondents said they are more likely to shop at Home Depot (50%) and Lowe’s (51%) because of the store’s commitment. Further, more than a third (39%) said they’d feel more negatively about a retailer that had not formally committed to eliminating systemic neonicotinoid insecticides.
“Not just pollinators are affected by neonicotinoid pesticides. The men and women farmworkers who work in the nurseries and on the farms that grow the plants that bees and insects pollinate are also exposed to and at high risk from these pesticides, that have been shown to have environmental and human health effects,” said Jeannie Economos, Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Project Coordinator, Farmworker Association of Florida. “Even their children living in these agricultural areas are threatened by toxic exposures. We need urgent action. When we protect pollinators, we also protect farmworkers, children, and, ultimately, ourselves.”
More than 100 businesses, cities, universities, states and countries around the world have restricted use of these insecticides. Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State Of The Industry Survey
found 74 percent of growers who supply mass merchants and home improvement chains said they will not use neonicotinoid insecticides in 2016.
“Our data indicates that compared to two years ago, fewer nurseries and garden stores are selling plants pre-treated with systemic neonicotinoid insecticides,” said Susan Kegley, Ph.D., author of the report from the Pesticide Research Institute. “Yet it’s still not possible for a gardener to be sure that the plants they select at the store will be safe for bees and other pollinators. Retailers should work with their suppliers to speed up their phase out of bee-harming pesticides.”