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Lowe's Takes Stand Against Bee-Killing Pesticides

Apr 12, 2015 06:06 PM EDT
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Have any of Blade Runner's predictions come true?

The next time you visit the lawn and garden center at a Lowe's Home Improvement store, you can shop assured that whatever you chose to buy, you won't be dooming backyard bees in the process. Lowe's has joined a growing list of garden retailers who are taking any products that use neonicotinoid pesticides off their shelves, reflecting a growing concern for the world's pollinators.

Lowe's officially declared they would no longer carry products treated with neonicotinoids, also known as neonics, just last Thursday (April 9).

"Following studies that say many factors, including neonicotinoid pesticides, could potentially damage the health of pollinators, Lowe's has committed to take several steps to support pollinator health," the company stated in a recent announcement. "Lowe's will phase out the sale of products that contain neonic pesticides within 48 months as suitable alternatives become commercially available. Lowe's will include greater organic and non-neonic product selections, work with growers to eliminate the use of neonic pesticides on bee-attractive plants it sells and educate customers and employees through in-store and online resources."

This adds the garden retailer to a growing list of companies and agencies swearing off neonic use after investigations of pollinator decline hinted that the pesticide could be contributing to colony collapse disorder (CCD) - a disease that causes wintering bees to wake and suddenly abandon their hives in what looks like mass suicides.

BJ's Wholesale Club, for instance, swore off any plants that had been treated with neonics prior to winding up on their shelves. Similarly, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced back in July that it would be "phasing out" neonics - both immediately ceasing any neonic related work in their wildlife refuges, and removing any plants that were likely to have been pre-treated with the pesticide. This work is expected to be complete by 2016.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has even expressed its opinion, in a recent report, that the risks of neonic use heavily outweigh any benefits.

"In our analysis of the economic benefits of this use we concluded that, on a national scale... farmers see little or no benefit from neonicotinoid seed treatments," Jim Jones, assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, recently announced.

This was closely followed by a recent a moratorium on new or expanded uses of neonics while their adverse effects are investigated by the agency. (Scroll to read on...)

(Photo : pixabay)

This large-scale condemnation of the pesticide is at least two years in the making, after environmental group Friends of the Earth (FoE) started actively contacting retailers and government parties about the dangers neonics pose to bees.

FoE's Bee Action Campaign, which launched in 2013, involved the hasty release of two reports detailing multiple investigations and independent studies on the impacts of neonics, including a "Gardeners Beware" report which detailed how nearly half the plants carried by big name retailers likely were pre-treated with the harmful pesticides.

The report followed closely on the heels of the of the most comprehensive independent neonic studies yet, published in the Bulletin of Insectology, which named two common neonics in particular as notably harmful to honeybees.

With Lowe's finally taking a stand against the pesticides more than half-a-year after that information's publication, it's safe to say the company is fairly late to this party. However, that doesn't mean FoE isn't thrilled to have them on board.

"We are pleased Lowe's is listening to consumer concerns and to the growing body of science telling us we need to move away from bee-toxic pesticides by taking steps to be part of the solution to the bee crisis," Lisa Archer, Food & Technology Program Director at FoE, added in a statement. "Bees are canaries in the coalmine for our food system and everyone, including the business community, must act fast to protect them."

However, not everyone is as certain Archer about the threat neonics pose. One expert recently called out the UK's Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), claiming that the agency inadequately interpreted damning evidence about the pesticides' risks - a blunder that has led to the nation taking a staunch stance against neonic restriction. You can read more about that here.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

- follow Brian on Twitter @BS_ButNoBS

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