Walmart and True Value have announced that beginning on Wednesday they will be phasing out neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides from all retail supply chains. These announcements follow numerous scientific studies that have consistently implicated neonics in the decline of honey bees and other wild pollinators. The decision stems from an ongoing consumer and environmental campaigns urging retailers to stop selling plants treated with neonics and to remove products containing them from store shelves.
Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides, or whole plant poisons, taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed in the pollen, nectar, and dew drops. They are also highly persistent, with research showing the potential for certain chemicals in the class, such as clothianidin, to have a half-life of up to 15 years. Studies show significant cause for concern when it comes to pollinators and exposure to these pesticides. Although little substantive action on these chemicals has been taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency agreed that the pesticides do harm bees, though only in the limited situations and constrained scenarios that were actually investigated by EPA.
The European Commission (EC) has proposed a complete ban of agricultural uses of the widely used bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides across Europe under draft regulations. The EC cites neonicotinoids’ “high acute risks to bees.” In 2013, three neonicotinoids were temporarily banned because of concerns about their high toxicity to bees. A vote by member states can happen as early as May 2017. The Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency, in 2016, announced its proposal to phase out imidacloprid because, “Based on currently available information, the continued high volume use of imidacloprid in agricultural areas is not sustainable.” Uses proposed for phase out: trees (except when applied as a tree trunk injection), greenhouse uses, outdoor agricultural uses (including ornamentals), commercial seed treatment uses, and turf (such as lawns, golf courses, and sod farms).