Rite Aid releases new policy to limit toxic pesticides to protect pollinatorsCompany also expanding pollinator and people-friendly organic offerings
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rite Aid (NYSE: RAD) has released a pollinator health policy aimed at encouraging its suppliers to phase out the use of pollinator-toxic pesticides: glyphosate, neonicotinoids and organophosphates, including chlorpyrifos. The new policy encourages the company’s suppliers to shift to less toxic approaches, including integrated pest management. Rite Aid is also committed to expanding its organic offerings, which in turn supports pollinator health.
“We applaud Rite Aid for developing the most comprehensive retailer pollinator policy to date. This is an important step in the right direction to protect bees, butterflies and people from toxic pesticides,” said Kendra Klein, senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth. “We urge top food retailers to take the next step by making time-bound commitments to phase out pollinator-toxic pesticides.
This announcement follows a multi-year campaign led by Friends of the Earth and allies urging Rite Aid and other leading retailers to phase out toxic pesticides and increase organic offerings, with a focus on domestic producers.
The campaign aims to address devastating losses in pollinator populations linked to agricultural pesticide use. The first meta-analysis of global insect declines found that 40% of insect species could face extinction in coming decades, leading the authors to warn of “catastrophic ecosystem collapse” if we don’t change the way we farm. And a recent global scientific assessment warns that the ecological crisis of biodiversity loss is on par with the climate crisis.
Despite this, pesticide reduction lags far behind other sustainability and social responsibility efforts in the food retail sector. While over two thirds of the top 25 U.S. food retailers have sustainability policies related to energy and climate, Rite Aid is now just the fourth to have a pesticide-related policy, following Costco (NASDAQ: COST), Kroger (NYSE: KR) and ALDI U.S.
Food retailers face both reputational and supply chain risks for failing to address the overuse of agricultural pesticides in their supply chains. Bees and other pollinators are essential to the production of one-out-of-three bites of food we eat. Without pollinators, grocery stores would run short of some of our most important and nutritious foods, including nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and dairy, juices and more.
The Rite Aid policy specifically calls out neonicotinoids. A recent peer-reviewed study co-authored by Friends of the Earth shows 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 top four neonicotinoids based on science showing harm to bees, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has failed to act.
Chlorpyrifos, also addressed in Rite Aid’s policy, is an organophosphate pesticide that is highly toxic to bees and could jeopardize the existence of over 1,200 endangered species. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was set to ban all uses of chlorpyrifos based on the science associating exposure with autism spectrum disorder, reduced IQ, Parkinson’s and other neurological problems, but the Trump Administration reversed that decision against the findings of the agency’s scientists. In the absence of federal action, California and Hawaii have banned chlorpyrifos.
Finally, the Rite Aid policy targets glyphosate, which is the world’s most widely-used weed killer. Glyphosate is a leading driver of monarch butterfly declines and is associated with toxicity to honey bees. It is also identified as a probable carcinogen.