Moving U.S. retailers to protect pollinators and people from toxic pesticides

Shifting the Market

Scientists across the world are warning that we are in the midst of an “insect apocalypse,” due in large part to the overuse of toxic pesticides. The same pesticides that threaten pollinators harm human health.

Bees and other pollinators — responsible for one in three bites of food we eat — are among the insects in great peril. That’s why our Bee-Friendly Retailer Campaign is calling on grocery stores to commit to end the routine and unnecessary use of pollinator-toxic pesticides in their supply chains and to offer more bee-friendly organic food. 

To spur a race to the top, Friends of the Earth’s retailer scorecard benchmarks 25 of the largest U.S. grocery stores on pesticides and pollinator health.

Together, the top 25 U.S. grocery stores control over $910 billion in food and beverage sales every year. 

The choices these powerful companies make could determine whether bees, as well as fireflies, dragonflies, Monarch butterflies and so many other essential insects, will exist in the future. Forty percent of insects face extinction in coming decades, which could lead to “catastrophic ecosystem collapse” if we don’t save these small but important creatures by changing the way we farm. From birds to fish to people, insects are the basis of the food webs that feed us. They are essential to maintaining a livable planet.

We are calling on retailers to use their enormous market power to reduce use of pesticides that are toxic to pollinators and people  on farms in the U.S. and around the world and to grow the organic sector. Organic farms have been shown to help reverse pollinator declines and support 50% more pollinator species than pesticide-intensive industrial agriculture. And organic farming also protects workers and eaters from toxic pesticides.

friends of the earth is asking grocery stores to:

Growing retailer momentum to back the bees

When Friends of the Earth and allies launched a campaign to get pollinator-toxic pesticides out of plants labeled as “bee-friendly” at home and garden stores, more than 140 companies responded by eliminating neonicotinoid pesticides in their supply chains. That includes the two largest garden stores in the world, Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Now, we need grocery stores to take action. Thanks to the efforts of thousands of Friends of the Earth members, we’re already seeing stores take steps to back the bees. Since we started this effort in 2017, some of the largest grocery stores in the U.S. have created pollinator health policies.


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These stores’ policies encourage food and beverage suppliers to reduce use of toxic pesticides that harm bees, butterflies, people and the planet. This is a significant first step. But given the scale of the extinction crisis that threatens pollinators and other essential organisms, companies must make time bound, measurable commitments to phase out pollinator-toxic pesticides and support the shift to ecological farming approaches in their food supply chains immediately.

Scientists warn that the ecological crisis of biodiversity loss is on par with the climate crisis. But this issue lags far behind other sustainability efforts in the grocery sector. While 23 of the top 25 U.S. grocery stores have policies related to energy and climate, just a handful have taken steps in the right direction on pesticides.

Friends of the Earth, along with our 2 million members and over 100 ally organizations representing beekeepers, farmers, farmworkers and environmentalists, will continue to push grocery stores to change their practices and hold those that fail to do so accountable. 

With your help, we can protect bees and butterflies from toxic pesticides and ourselves along with them. Join us!

Independent grocery stores lead on bee-friendly organic

Friends of the Earth surveyed independent grocery stores across the country to see how they measure up on bee-friendly organic food. Ninety four percent of these retailers (34 of 36) reported exceeding the benchmark that Friends of the Earth has challenged the largest U.S. grocery stores to meet: increasing certified organic offerings to 15% of total sales or products. Sixty-four percent (23 of 26) report that over 50% of their total sales are organic. These stores are leading the way on offering consumers bee-friendly food and are helping to reduce the use of toxic pesticides on farms in the U.S. and beyond.

Industry leaders show the way

Companies all along the supply chain from farm to table are demonstrating leadership on pollinator health by phasing out pollinator-toxic pesticides in their supply chains and supporting farmers to adopt the ecological farming methods that underpin integrated pest management and regenerative agriculture. Leading companies are also helping to build the organic value chain. They are supporting farmers during the three-year transition from conventional to organic farming, establishing more secure contracts between buyers and sellers, helping purchase and secure access to land and building needed supply chain infrastructure. Read more.

Grocery stores will feel the sting of pollinator loss

Bees and other pollinators are a cornerstone to a dependable food supply. They contribute approximately $29 billion to the U.S. economy and up to $577 billion to the global economy annually. Honeybees alone contribute an estimated $20 billion to the U.S. economy, and $217 billion to the global economy. 

Without pollinators, grocery stores would run short of a wide assortment of fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans and delicious favorites like chocolate and coffee. And because bees pollinate alfalfa and other crops eaten by cows, even the dairy and meat shelves would look bare.

Resources See All
  • Toxic Acres
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  • Organic for All: Results of the Organic Diet Biomonitoring Study
    Download
  • Toxic Secret: Pesticides uncovered in store brand cereal, applesauce, beans and produce
    Download