Nursery Stops Use of Neonic after Home Depot Adopts Labeling Requirement

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–December 8, 2014.  In response to Home Depot’s decision to start requiring all nursery plants that have been treated with neonicotinoids to carry a label to inform customers, at least one nursery supplier has decided to change its management practices. J.Berry Nurseries, a company based out of Grand Saline, Texas, which supplies plants to over 1,000 Home Depot stores throughout Texas, surrounding states and the Midwest, says that since the issue has become publicly recognized for its impacts on bees and other pollinators, it will stop using neonics and start to look at alternative practices. This news provides testament to the power of consumer demand, and along with Beyond Pesticides’ Pollinator-Friendly Seeds and Nursery Directory, should encourage other growers to ditch the neonics in favor of better management practices.

“We view it as the labeling of a plant with that tag is potentially creating customers’ perception that that plant should not be purchased,” Jim Berry, the president of J. Berry Nurseries, told Nursery Management Magazine. “Whether it’s a valid assumption or not, perception is reality. So you have to go with that. We certainly want consumers to be attracted to our plants instead of repelled by them.”

The news comes after a groundbreaking report published last June which revealed that many bee-friendly garden plants sold at Home Depot and Lowe’s contain neonicotinoid pesticides with no warning to consumers. Neonicotinoid residues were detected in seven out of thirteen samples (54 percent) of commercial nursery plants. In response to this report, Friends of the Earth, along with Beyond Pesticides and other allies, launched a campaign to tell major retailers to stop selling poisoned plants. Backing the cause are more than half a million Americans who signed petitions demanding that the companies stop selling neonics. In the face of mounting evidence and growing consumer demand, nearly a dozen nurseries, landscaping companies and retailers, are taking steps to eliminate bee-harming pesticides from their garden plants and their stores.

Growers that sell to the Home Depot need to provide a secondary tag for all plant material of all sizes. The tag is a 1” by 4.5” tag, and some growers are concerned about the stigma attached to it. “It’s the cost of the tag and it’s the impact on consumers, maybe causing them to avoid purchasing plants with that tag,” Mr. Berry says. “It’s a double risk.”

Advocates, including Beyond Pesticides, have long called on consumers to choose not only “bee-friendly” plants, meaning those plants and flowers shown to attract and sustain pollinators, but also make sure that those plants are sourced from growers and suppliers that do not apply neonics in the growing of the seed, as a seed coating, or to the plant.

Neonicotinoid insecticides have been responsible for several high profile bee kills from high doses of the pesticides, but a strong and growing body of science shows that neonics contribute to impairment in reproduction, learning and memory, hive communications, and immune response at doses far below those that cause bee kills. In this study, all of the nursery plant samples where neonics ae detected have the potential to harm or even kill bees. An extensive overview of major studies showing the effects of neonics on pollinator health can be found on Beyond Pesticides’ What the Science Shows webpage.

The easiest way to ensure that seeds are not treated with neonics is to buy seeds that are certified organic or plants grown with organic practices. While untreated seeds are a step in the right direction, they do not ensure that the seed production practices are protective of bees or that residual chemicals do not contaminate the plant. Seeds and plants that are certified organic, on the other hand, do not permit the use of toxic synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics, sewage sludge, or irradiation. To assist consumers in making the best choice for pollinator protections, Beyond Pesticides launched its Pollinator-Friendly Seed Directory, a comprehensive list of companies that sell organic seeds to the general public. Toxic pesticides harmful to bees, including neonics, are not permitted in seeds certified organic, which display the USDA Organic label on their packaging. Included in this directory are seeds for vegetables, flowers, and herbs.

Beyond Pesticides urges you and other pollinator supporters to continue to pressure retailers, legislators, and other government officials to take meaningful action to protect pollinators. Visit www.BEE Protective.org to learn about more about pollinator protection and see what you can do to help.

Sources: Nursery Management Magazine, http://www.beyondpesticides.org

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.