New Scorecard Reveals U.S. Food Retailers Fail to Protect Bees and BiodiversityBee-Friendly Retailer Scorecard reports progress on toxic pesticides is too slow to help save bees
WASHINGTON DC – Friends of the Earth today released its 2023 Bee-Friendly Retailer Scorecard — the only report tracking what the largest U.S. grocery retailers are doing to address toxic pesticides used in their supply chains that impact bees and other biodiversity. To date, twelve companies have created pesticide policies addressing pollinator health. But despite this important momentum, concrete action across the trillion-dollar grocery sector falls far short of protecting bees and other biodiversity from toxic pesticides.
The same pesticides that threaten biodiversity are also linked to climate change. They are petrochemicals that are energy-intensive to produce, and they threaten the soil organisms that are central to building healthy soils that can sequester carbon and enhance farmers’ resilience to climate change. They also harm human health, including farmworkers and rural communities on the frontlines of exposure.
While Giant Eagle improved its score from a B to B+ this year, four companies lost points for not reporting meaningful progress toward meeting the goals stated in their pollinator health policies: Albertsons (NYSE: ACI), Costco (NASDAQ: COST), Rite Aid (NYSE: RAD), and Target (NYSE: TGT).
Giant Eagle is the only major U.S. food retailer to make a timebound commitment to eliminate key pesticides of concern in part of its supply chain. According to the company’s policy, it will eliminate the use of nitroguanidine neonicotinoids — banned in the EU since 2018 but still allowed in the U.S. — from its produce supply chain by 2025. Research shows that U.S. agriculture has become 48 times more toxic to bees and other beneficial insects since neonicotinoids were introduced in the 1990s.
“Amid rising concern about an insect apocalypse decimating the small but mighty pollinators responsible for one in three bites of food we eat, grocery retailers are beginning to step up to address the pervasive use of toxic pesticides in their supply chains,” said Kendra Klein, deputy director of science at Friends of the Earth. “But bees are dying at astonishing rates. Retailers must take immediate, measurable action to address their role in the biodiversity crisis.”
Food retailers have significant economic power to change the food system. Together, the 25 evaluated companies control over $1.78 trillion in food and beverage sales annually. The four largest — Walmart (NYSE: WMT), Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Costco and Kroger (NYSE: KR) — controlled $1.02 trillion in 2022.
The Scorecard also evaluates companies on organic offerings. Organic regulations prohibit the use of over 900 synthetic pesticides, including highly hazardous chemicals like neonicotinoids, organophosphates and glyphosate. Only two of the companies — Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s — have organic offerings that exceed 15% of overall sales, a goal Friends of the Earth is asking all major retailers to meet by 2025.
Pollinators are a cornerstone to a dependable food supply, contributing approximately $34 billion to the U.S. economy and up to $577 billion to the global economy annually. Research indicates that pollinator loss has already resulted in decreased production of crops like apples and cherries.
The Bee-Friendly Retailer campaign is supported by over 100 beekeeping, farming, farmworker, consumer and environmental organizations, including Campaign for Healthier Solutions, which works with the dollar stores on phasing out harmful chemicals.