Interesting controversy that’s developing around neonic pesticides and bees and colony collapse disorder.
I get the Grower Talks newsletter and here is editor Chris Beytes’ take on the latest news:
Depot, BJ’s Wholesale to require neonic labeling
I haven’t been able to get official word from Home Depot or any of its suppliers about this, but Reuters apparently has more clout: The wire service is reporting that Home Depot has decided to require livegoods vendors to label any plants treated with neonicotinoid (“neonic”) pesticides.
According to the Reuters report as published online in Scientific American (and since then picked up by numerous outlets), Ron Jarvis, vice president of merchandising/sustainability, says the label requirement will start by the fourth quarter of this year. At the same time, BJ’s Wholesale Club, which has more than 200 locations along the East Coast, said they will be asking vendors to label neonics-treated plants by the end of 2014.
The move comes after much negative publicity from a press release by an activist group that tested a handful of plants purchased at big box stores and found traces of neonics in them. They dubbed the plants “bee killers” and began targeting these retailers, calling for a ban of the sale of any plants treated with the pesticides. At first, Home Depot chose to side with the EPA, which has not called for a ban on the chemicals. But apparently there’s been enough negative publicity that Depot (and BJ’s) has chosen this next step.
I’ve been told Lowe’s is evaluating their next move as well. I suspect they will do the same, unless they don’t want to appear to be copying the competition.
I’m not surprised. Science doesn’t stand a chance against the emotional appeals of vocal activists. Bees are cute, chemicals are bad. Growers will have to switch away from their neonics pesticides, meaning one less tool in the rotation—and maybe moving backwards to older chemistries. Or consumers will just have to accept some aphids and leafminers.
Of course, even Reuters, which I consider to be a fairly even-handed news source, shows its bias in the following two sentences:
Scientists, consumer groups, beekeepers and others say bee deaths are linked to the neonic pesticides. But Monsanto, Bayer and other agrichemical companies say a mix of factors such as mites are killing the bees.
In other words, progressive thinkers know the bee deaths are caused by neonics. It’s only the evil chemical companies that are defending them. And yet any thoughtful, objective study of what’s available online will tell you that the Monsanto and Bayer stance is exactly correct—it’s a mix of factors, with neonics being just one of them.
Read the full item HERE.
So what will growers do? I don’t know yet, but I’ll be asking. I doubt any will opt to stick a “treated with neonics” label on their plants—you might as well say they may cause leprosy.
At the same time, the real cause of bee decline continues, as does the use of neonics on millions of acres of agricultural crops around the world. If neonics do play a role in bee decline, eliminating them from garden plants will have as much impact on the situation as trying to cool Hell with an ice cube.
By the way, if you think this doesn’t affect you because you don’t sell to the chains, think again: How can independent garden centers sell bee-killing plants when the chains don’t?