Pesticide Progress for Pollinators?
A new study by the Pesticide Research Institute indicates that the presence of neonicotinoids has fallen by half in ornamental plants sold by major retailers. Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticide that is widely considered to be a major threat to the future of bees and other pollinators.
The study tested plants purchased from Lowe’s, Walmart, Home Depot, True Value, and Ace Hardware. The presence of neonicotinoids was detected in 23% of the plants in 2016, as opposed to 50% of the plants purchased in 2014.
Lowe’s and Home Depot have pledged to phase out plants treated with neonicotinoids, the other retailers have not.
It’s gratifying to see that a combination of education, publicity, and consumer organizing can have an impact on corporate behavior, an impact that should lead to a healthier environment for pollinators in urban and suburban areas.
On the other hand, consumer power alone can only go so far. According to the US EPA, 70% of US pesticide use is related to agriculture, as opposed to 15% in homes and gardens. (That 15% matters a good deal, especially as it is often applied in concentrations greater than those used in agriculture.) Neonicotinoids are commonly used on corn, cotton, sorghum, and most fruits and vegetables.
I suspect that government regulation will be needed to curtail the use of neonicotinoids in agriculture. Most likely that is not something that will happen in the USA until after a long slog. In the meantime, we can savor this bit of good news for gardeners and pollinators.