Lowe’s, Home Depot and other retailers could be contributing to the death of bees by selling plants laced with pesticides to the public. That’s the charge being made by the Friends of the Earth, a major environmental group, and the movement against the two companies is gaining steam.
Over half the garden plants sold at the two chains tested positive for pesticides called neonicotinoids or neonics, The Friends say. Many scientists blame neonicotinoids for the massive bee die offs that have been reported all over the world. As Off The Grid News reported, scientists at the University of London released a report this year blaming neonicotinoids for the decline of the bee population.
Neonic pesticides are a neurotoxin similar to nerve gas that can harm the nervous systems of bees and other pollinating insects.
“Our investigation is the first to show that so-called ‘bee-friendly’ plants contain pesticides that can poison bees, with no warning to gardeners,” Lisa Archer, the director of the Friends’ Food and Technology Program, said. “Bees are essential to our food system and they are dying at alarming rates. Neonic pesticides are a key part of the problem we can start to fix right now in our backyards.”
The Friends of the Earth and other groups have organized a campaign called Bee Action to pressure the federal government to take action. They have collected 175,000 signatures on petitions to national retailers.
Delana Jones, campaign manager for the Washington GMO labeling initiative that was defeated this year, sent out a November email to supporters urging people to speak up.
“We must act now to stop this global disaster or risk losing the more than 2/3 of our food crops that are pollinated by bees, from apples to almonds to watermelons,” she wrote.
Neonics and colony collapse disorder
There is a growing body of evidence that indicates neonicotinoids are responsible for colony collapse disorder. Colony collapse disorder refers to the rapid death of millions of bees at a time, leading to the complete collapse of bee colonies.
Some studies indicate that 30 percent or more of the bees in the United States have disappeared because of the disorder. The situation is even worse in some countries such as Spain, where 80 percent of the bees have died.
Experts say they don’t know exactly know what is causing the disorder but the most popular theory is that neonicotinoids are responsible. The European Union has suspended the use of neonic pesticides in an attempt to protect bees. One type of neonic, dinotefuran, has been banned in the state of Oregon after one spraying killed 50,000 bumble bees.
The bee-killing poison that could be in your garden
The Friends’ action was prompted by an examination of plants sold at a retailers in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Minneapolis. Here is what they found:
- Many live garden plants sold at the retailers were pretreated with neonic pesticides.
- Seven out of 13 garden plants purchased tested positive for neonicotinoid pesticides.
- 54% of the common garden plants purchased at some retailers were contaminated with the pesticides.
- Some of the plants are marketed as “bee-friendly.”
- The plants are treated with pesticides in an attempt to make them look healthier and more attractive.
- The plants were for sale at major retailers including Home Depot and Lowe’s, the nation’s two largest home improvement store chains.
- Some reports indicate plants treated with neonics were for sale at Target. Other reports indicate that Target didn’t sell the plants.
- Retailers in the United Kingdom have stopped selling plants treated with the pesticides.
- Plants treated with the pesticides included tomatoes and other food plants.
“The weight of accumulated evidence from scientists across Europe and North America shows that neonicotinoids harm honey bees, bumble bees and other important pollinators,” Scott Hoffman the executive director of the Xerces Society said. The Xerces Society is a group that works to protect endangered insects.