German supermarket chain Aldi Süd has become the first major retailer in Europe to ban pesticides toxic to bees.
The ban will include neonicotinoids imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam, from all produce sold in their stores with the retailer expecting fruit and vegetable suppliers to comply with their new policy as soon as possible
Beyond pesticides report:
Aldi has requested suppliers comply at the earliest possible time. In light of the growing pollinator crisis and due to public pressure, retailers in Europe and the U.S. are slowly beginning to make the switch away from bee-toxic pesticides.
Beginning January 1, suppliers of fruits and vegetables to Aldi suppliers will have to ensure that their cultivation practices do not include the following eight pesticides identified as toxic to bees (thiamethoxam, chlorpyrifos, clothianidin, cypermethrin, deltamethrin, fipronil, imidacloprid and sulfoxaflor) to meet the new requirement. According to a press release from Greenpeace, the chemicals are used on various commodities in Europe —thiamethoxam (used in lettuce and endive), chlorpyrifos,clothianidin (used in kohlrabi, herbs, Brussels sprouts, head cabbage, cauliflower and kale), cypermethrin (leek, head cabbage and leguminous vegetables), deltamethrin (cauliflower, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, pea, head cabbage, tomato and lettuce), imidacloprid (applied to apples, peaches, apricots and lettuce). Sulfoxaflor was recently granted regulatory approval in Europe, despite calls and legal action to prohibit its registration. Aldi joins other European retailers to take a stand against bee-toxic pesticides. The UK’s largest garden retailers, including Homebase, B&Q and Wickes, have already voluntarily stopped selling neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides highly toxic to bees.
The science has become increasingly clear that pesticides, either working individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of honey bees and other pollinators. Bees in the U.S. and Europe have seen unprecedented losses over the last decade. Bee-toxic pesticides like neonicotinoids have consistently been implicated as a major contributing factor in pollinator declines. They can cause changes in bee reproduction, navigation, and foraging, and even the suppression of bee immune systems. Just this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its preliminary pollinator assessment for the neonic imidacloprid which finds various residues of the chemical in crops where the pollinators forage, and confirms bees’ widespread and sustained exposure to the highly toxic and persistent chemical through poisoned pollen and nectar. However, calls to suspend the use of these pesticides have been ignored.
Retailers Making the Shift
In light of regulatory shortcomings in the U.S., efforts are underway to shift the market away from bee-toxic pesticides like neonicotinoids. Late last year, hardware giant Home Depot announced that it will no longer use neonics in 80 percent of its flowering plants, and that it will complete its phase-out in plants by 2018. Similarly, Lowe’s announced a phase out the sale of products containing neonicotinoid pesticides within 48 months. Home Depot previously decided to start requiring all nursery plants that have been treated with neonicotinoids to carry a label to inform customers, following a report written last year. The report, Gardeners Beware 2014, shows that 36 out of 71 (51 percent) of garden plant samples purchased at top garden retailers in 18 cities in the United States and Canada contain neonicotinoid pesticides. Some of the flowers contained neonic levels high enough to kill bees outright and concentrations in the flowers’ pollen and nectar were assumed to be comparable. Further, 40% of the positive samples contained two or more neonics.
Smaller retailers have also taken notice and are working on removing neonics and other toxic pesticides from their shelves. Eldredge Lumber and Hardware in York, Maine has transitioned its shelves from harmful synthetic pesticides and fertilizers in favor of organic materials. Eldredge is encouraging consumers to employ alternatives by consciously stocking their shelves with organic compatible products. Efforts by local businesses to stock alternatives and educate consumers on their use is a wonderful example of creating change through grassroots efforts and a bottom-up approach.