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Protesters launch countdown to extinction at Kroger annual meeting

Demand retailer eliminate toxic pesticides to stop “bee apocalypse”

CINCINNATI – Today farmworkers, students, beekeeping, environmental and consumer groups protested at Kroger’s (NYSE: KR) annual shareholder meeting. The protesters called on the company to stop contributing to the “bee apocalypse” by eliminating toxic pesticides from its supply chain and sign on to the Fair Food Program. Groups held a bee die-in and launched a “countdown to extinction” outside the meeting to highlight the severity of the problem.

“Kroger’s business, and our food system, is dependent on healthy pollinators and ecosystems,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, pesticides and pollinators program manager at Friends of the Earth. “As the largest conventional grocer, Kroger has a financial and moral responsibility to address the pollinator extinction crisis by eliminating toxic pesticides from its food supply chain.”

Pollinators and other insects could go extinct within a century, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems,” according to the first comprehensive global meta-analysis of insect decline. The widespread use of neonicotinoids and other toxic insecticides in industrial agriculture is a key driver of this decline. Bees and other pollinators are essential for 1 in 3 bites of food.

“Beekeepers provide pollination services for our food supply. Their livestock, honey bees, need protection from bee toxic pesticides. When bees transfer the pollen from plant to plant that is what creates the fruits, nuts, vegetables, and seeds for our delicious, nutritious diet. Keeping bees healthy, keeping soil healthy is integral to a sustainable food supply,” said Michele Colopy, program director for the Pollinator Stewardship Council. 

“Kroger can thank bees for its success as America’s largest supermarket chain. Bees are responsible for one out of three bites of food but pesticides found in Kroger products are contributing to mass bee deaths. The future of our food supply is at stake and Kroger can play a vital role in protecting it. Independent board oversight of management, instead of a CEO who is his own boss, might help the company correct its course,” said Katie Reilly, campaign manager at SumOfUs.

Recent independent lab testing found that Kroger’s store-brand foods contain pollinator-toxic pesticides including glyphosate, organophosphates and neonicotinoids. Kroger lags behind its competitors on pesticide reduction. Costco updated its pesticide policy to encourage suppliers of fruits, vegetables and garden plants to phase out the use of chlorpyrifos and neonicotinoids, which will reduce farmworker and pollinator exposure. Yet a 2018 scorecard from Friends of the Earth found that Kroger is failing to protect bees and people from toxic pesticides.

Expert contact: Tiffany Finck-Haynes, (202) 222-0715, tfinckhaynes@foe.org
Communications contact: Kevynn Gomez, (559) 448-7542, kgomez@foe.org
Jamila Brown, (347) 694-8546, jamila@sumofus.org

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