Kroger lags behind competitors in protecting bees from toxic pesticides amid “insect apocalypse” that threatens food supply

Cincinnati, OH – On the day of Kroger’s (NYSE: KR) annual shareholder meeting, a coalition of consumer and environmental groups have renewed pressure for the company to eliminate toxic pesticides linked to rapid declines in pollinator populations. Friends of the Earth and allies launched a week of action during National Pollinator week and installed a giant video billboard outside Kroger’s headquarters, urging it to shift away from toxic pesticides in its supply chain and expand organic offerings. 

The actions are part of a wider campaign pushing the nation’s largest supermarket corporation to help save pollinators essential to food production and ecosystems. Scientists warn we are facing an ‘insect apocalypse’ largely driven by toxic pesticides as 40% of invertebrate pollinators face extinction, posing serious material risks for the grocery industry. Declines in pollinator populations have already resulted in decreased production of key crops like apples, cherries and tomatoes while food costs are predicted to rise. Studies show that organic farming can help reverse pollinator declines while making the food system more resilient. 

Friends of the Earth’s 2021 Bee-Friendly Retailer Scorecard gave Kroger a dismal D- rating. The report, which analyzes 25 of the largest U.S. grocery stores, noted that Kroger failed to take any meaningful action since it created an initial pollinator health policy in 2019. Unlike competitors such as Walmart (NYSE: WMT) and Giant Eagle, Kroger’s policy doesn’t include any measurable targets to reduce pesticides or to expand ecological farming methods in its supply chain to protect pollinators. 

In 2019, Friends of the Earth independently tested Kroger store-brand foods and found that items like apples and cereal, commonly consumed by families and children, contained residues of hazardous glyphosate and neonicotinoid pesticides. Since then Friends of the Earth and over 100 environmental, consumer, food safety, farmer and farmworker organizations have driven hundreds of thousands of emails and calls to Kroger and organized protests at Kroger’s shareholder meetings and grocery stores, urging the grocery giant to help save bees. Individual shareholders have also submitted questions to company leaders.  

The coalition includes Friends of the Earth, SumOfUs, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Green America, Herbicide Free Campus, Toxic Free NC, and Kids Right to Know., Beyond Pesticides, Green America, Herbicide Free Campus, Toxic Free NC, and Kids Right to Know. 

“Bees are running out of time,” said Paolo Mutia, Food and Agriculture Campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “Saving pollinators is not only essential for food security — it’s also critical to grocery retailers’ bottom lines. As a grocery giant reaching consumers from coast to coast, Kroger must step up before it’s too late.”

“The decline in pollinators is a grave warning that the shift to organic alternatives, led by responsible corporations selling environmentally responsible products, is critical and urgently necessary to the survival of the planet,” said Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides. 

“I don’t want to live in a world without apples, cherries, and tomatoes,” said Lacey Kohlmoos, US Campaign Manager at SumOfUs. “But that is what our future holds if mega corporations like Kroger don’t do their part to protect pollinators. Kroger executives have all of the research, they’ve talked to the experts, and they know what they need to do. I hope that they will listen to their shareholders and finally get toxic pesticides out of Kroger’s supply chains before it is too late.” 

“With one out of every three bites of food we eat coming from a crop pollinated by bees, it’s critical that food producers and retailers take concrete steps to stop the use of pesticides that are killing bees and other pollinators at alarming rates,” said Rebecca Spector, West Coast Director at Center for Food Safety.  

“In the face of a code-red biodiversity and climate crisis, it is imperative that Kroger eliminates synthetic pesticides from supply chains. Viable alternatives exist, and eliminating toxic pesticides from supply chains is critical to protecting pollinators and our planet,” said Sheina Crystal, Director of Communications and Campaigns at Herbicide-Free Campus. “How many more pollinators must die and how many more people must get cancer from these chemicals before Kroger takes action to protect wildlife and customers?” 

“Consumers expect the products they eat to be healthy for their family, while also protecting farmworkers, pollinators, and the environment,” said Emma Kriss, Food Campaigns Manager at Green America “As a major food retailer, Kroger has an obligation to protect pollinators and the planet by ridding their supply chain of pesticides and other chemicals that are harmful to our health.” 

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