It’s time for Kroger to step up to help save the bees

It’s time for Kroger to step up to help save the bees

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by Paolo Mutia, food and agriculture campaigner

Imagine walking into your favorite grocery store and seeing a nearly empty produce section. This could be a reality if we don’t end the use of toxic pesticides in our food system soon. Scientists warn that many pollinators and other insects could go extinct within a century and that this “insect apocalypse” threatens a major collapse of nature’s ecosystems. 

Friends of the Earth and our allies are leading a campaign to push the largest U.S. grocery retailers to save the bees and other beneficial insects that help farmers grow food. This campaign calls for the end of the use of pollinator-toxic pesticides in U.S grocery retailers’ supply chains and increasing bee-friendly organic offerings. Not only is this necessary for our future food security, it’s critical to grocery retailers’ bottom line. 

Why are bees important? Without pollinators, grocery stores would run short of a wide assortment of fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, and delicious favorites like chocolate and coffee. And because bees pollinate alfalfa and other crops eaten by cows, even the dairy and meat cases would look bare. In fact, 71 of the 100 crops that provide 90% of the world’s food are pollinated by bees.

We’ve asked Kroger, the largest traditional grocery chain in the U.S., to stop selling food that’s grown with bee-killing pesticides. And the good news is, Kroger took an important first step and established a pollinator health policy. However, the policy fails to set any measurable targets to reduce pesticides or expand organic and other ecological farming methods in Kroger’s supply chain, and the company hasn’t taken further action since. As a result, Kroger dropped from 7th to 12th place on this year’s Bee-Friendly Retailer Scorecard, where we grade 25 of the largest U.S. food retailers on protecting pollinators from pesticides. Kroger now falls behind competitors like Costco, Albertsons, and even Dollar Tree. 

Kroger could follow the lead of companies like Giant Eagle and Walmart,which this year made timebound commitments to protect pollinators. Giant Eagle will eliminate the most concerning bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides — imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam and dinotefuran — from its produce supply by 2025. These chemicals have been banned in the European Union but are still allowed in the U.S. And both Giant Eagle and Walmart will require produce growers to start using ecological farming methods, known as integrated pest management (IPM), by 2025 and to provide proof with third party certification. 

Kroger has the power to dramatically reduce the use of toxic pesticides in its supply chain and to help save pollinators. As a company that controlled $1.32 billion in food and beverage sales in 2020, it can decide any day to start taking meaningful action to protect pollinators, protect our planet, and protect the health of our children and families. Instead, Kroger is dragging its feet while time runs out for pollinators and the planet. 

What’s more, many of the same pesticides in Kroger’s supply chain that harm bees also threaten human health.  Independent testing found that Kroger store-brand foods are contaminated with pesticide, including glyphosate, organophosphates, and neonicotinoids. The tested foods include those that kids and families typically eat, like cereal, apples, applesauce, spinach, and pinto beans. 

There is hope. Science shows that eating organic food dramatically reduces exposure to the pesticides in food, and it also helps bees and other beneficial insects flourish. That’s because organic farmers are prohibited from using over 900 pesticides otherwise allowed in agriculture. Instead, they work with nature to keep crops healthy and manage pests.

Each day, we are seeing more and more people like you urging stores like Kroger to step up and help save the bees. And you are not alone: according to recent polling, 74% of Americans believe that grocery stores should support efforts to protect pollinators. And 83% believe it is important to eliminate pesticides that are harmful to pollinators from agriculture.

Kroger needs to hear from people across the country that we want change. Together, we can create a healthier food system for pollinators, for our environment, and for our families. 

We can’t let another year pass where Kroger fails to protect the pollinators that our food supply depends on! Let’s ramp up the pressure!

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