CVS Announces New Policy to Reduce Pesticides in Food Supply Chain

Top U.S. grocery retailer joins industry efforts to safeguard biodiversity and human health as environmental threats loom

WASHINGTON, D.C.  –  CVS, one of the ten largest U.S. grocery retailers, has released a new pollinator health policy. The new policy encourages all suppliers of store brand food and beverages to reduce the use of pollinator-toxic pesticides. In an important first move for food industry retailers, the policy also recognizes that chemicals that threaten pollinators are linked to significant health hazards for farmworkers and rural communities surrounding agricultural lands. The policy identifies organic agriculture as a solution for pollinator health and urges non-organic suppliers to adopt less-toxic approaches to pest management.  

Pollinator loss threatens food security in an already fragile supply chain, as one in three bites of food Americans eat depends on pollination. U.S. beekeepers reported the second highest annual losses ever recorded last year, and research shows that 40% of insect pollinators face extinction. Research indicates that pollinator loss has already resulted in decreased production of key crops like apples, cherries and tomatoes in the United States.The annual economic value of insect pollinators in the U.S. is estimated to be $34 billion.  

CVS’s policy signals important progress as the company becomes the eleventh major grocery retailer to establish a pollinator policy addressing pesticides. This follows industry-leading policies announced by Walmart and Giant Eagle in 2021.  

CVS’s policy calls out three problematic types of pesticides — neonicotinoids, organophosphates and glyphosate. A peer-reviewed study by Friends of the Earth found that U.S. agriculture has become 48 times more toxic to bees and other insects since the introduction of neonicotinoid insecticides 25 years ago. The European Union has banned all outdoor uses of the most concerning neonicotinoids, while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has failed to act.  

“This new commitment from CVS is an important step in the right direction in a moment when 40% of insect pollinators face extinction,” said Kendra Klein, PhD, senior scientist at Friends of the Earth. “However, grocery retailers have far to go to protect pollinators, people and the planet from toxic pesticides.After another year of devastating losses to bees, all grocery retailers must accelerate their commitment to protect pollinators by setting measurable goals to eliminate bee-toxic pesticides in their food supply chains. And as CVS’ policy calls out, reducing use of toxic pesticides to protect pollinators can also benefit human health, including protecting vulnerable workers on the frontlines of exposure, farmworkers and their communities.”  

CVS’s announcement follows a multi-year campaign and Bee-Friendly Retailer Scorecard led by Friends of the Earth that urges retailers address the threats pesticides pose to biodiversity, including devastating losses in pollinator populations linked to agricultural pesticide use.  

In the absence of federal action on pesticides of critical concern for pollinators and human health, grocery retailers can play a major role in creating a safer and more sustainable food supply. According to recent polling, 83% of Americans believe it is important to eliminate pesticides that are harmful to pollinators and human health from agriculture, and 74% believe grocery stores should support efforts to protect pollinators, such as bees and butterflies. 

Communications contact:Haven Bourque, (415) 505-3473, [email protected]

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