The Home Depot Is Phasing Out Bee-Killing Insecticides…Slowly
Bees play a super important role in nature. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that of the 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of food worldwide, 71 are pollinated by bees.
But bees are disappearing at alarming rates, and there are many likely reasons why that’s happening.
Among the culprits are certain pesticides. Care2’s Diane M. explains:
“Pesticides intended to kill other insects could also be killing bees. One type of pesticide, a neonicotonoid, is a systemic pesticide. It’s not sprayed on plants. Instead, seeds are treated with the chemical. As the plant grows, the pesticide infuses its plant tissue. If a bee nibbles on a plant grown from neonic-treated seed, it could be lethal.”
Fortunately, The Home Depot announced recently that it will stop pretreating plants with neonicotinoids (or “neonics” for short) by 2018.
TakePart explains why conservationists have targeted neonics as a bee-killing culprit:
“Neonics are a systemic class of insecticide, meaning that the chemical is found in all parts of the plant—from leaves to stems to flowers to pollen. So when a bee comes to visit the flowers on such a plant, the dose of pesticide it is exposed to can, if high enough, kill it immediately or cause nonlethal problems that can be devastating to the hive as a whole. As a result, many conservationists have targeted neonics as a primary cause of the massive bee die-offs observed in recent years.”
About The Home Depot’s move away from neonics, TakePart’s Food editor Willy Blackmore points out, “While the change will make some yards a safer place for bees and the like, the chain will still stock insecticide sprays and other consumer products that contain neonics, and Friends of the Earth and other environmental groups see those products as their next target.”
Lisa Archer, Food and Technology program director at Friends of the Earth U.S. said, “Home Depot’s progress in removing neonics shows it is listening to consumer concerns and to the growing body of science telling us we need to move away from bee-toxic pesticides.”
“However” (yes, there’s a however), she added:
“We know that Home Depot and other retailers can do even more to address the bee crisis. Along with allies, we will continue to challenge retailers to engage in a race to the top to move bee-toxic pesticides off their shelves and out of garden plants as soon as possible. Bees are the canary in the coal mine for our food system and everyone, including the business community, must act quickly to protect them.”
The Home Depot’s announcement follows an ongoing campaign and letter by Friends of the Earth and allies urging Home Depot to stop selling plants treated with neonicotinoids and remove neonic pesticides from store shelves.
Blackmore adds this sad-but-true reality check: “The Home Depot moving away from neonics won’t make a dent in the widespread use of the insecticides in commercial farming: In 2010, some 5 million pounds of the insecticides were used in the U.S. agriculture sector, up sharply from 2005, when around 2 million pounds were applied to crops.”
If you’re wondering what would happen if honey bees disappeared, check this out…
- Sign this Care2 petition to tell The Home Depot to stop pretreating plants now: While it’s good news that The Home Depot is planning to stop pretreating plants with neonicotinoids, 2018 is a long way off.
- Sign this Care2 petition urging the EPA to ban the production and use of neonicotinoid pesticides before the United States bee population vanishes for good. According to the petition, in 2011, the EPA found that the use of neonicotinoid pesticides is both widespread and catastrophic, but the EPA has not halted the manufacture or use of neonicotinoids, choosing instead to put the products “under review” for the next five years.