How Garden Centers Are Getting Toxic, Bee-Killing Pesticides Out of Their Plants and Off of Their Shelves
Over the last decade, we've heard the term "colony collapse disorder" a lot, describing the die-off of honeybees, pollinators essential to maintaining our food crops. Scientists have been looking for the cause and have identified one likely source as the neonicotinoids used in pesticides.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Fortunately, there has been a lot of pushback on their use. While the Obama administration released its National Pollinator Health Strategy in May, focusing on planting millions of acres of federal land with pollinator-friendly plants and conducting more research but not limiting use of neonicotinoids, millions of people signed petitions calling for stronger rules.
But some businesses aren't sitting around waiting for the federal government to act and are listening to public concerns. Friends of the Earth (FOE) and Pesticide Research Institute are applying some positive reinforcement and giving kudos to those who are addressing the problem in a new report, Growing Bee Friendly: Profiles in Innovation. It spotlights how some businesses are developing strategies and resources to protect bees in response to public demand.
"A growing number number of wholesale nurseries, retailers and institutions have successfully made the shift away from bee-harming pesticides," said Lisa Archer, FOE food and technology director. "We hope this report will be a resource for other responsible businesses as they get toxic, bee-harming pesticides out of their plants, off their shelves and out of the environment as soon as possible."
The report focuses on businesses that have taken steps to remove neonicotinoids, including the world's two largest home improvement retailers, Lowe's and Home Depot, which responded to an intense public pressure campaign after a report called Gardeners Beware 2014 was released last year by FOE and the Pesticide Research Institute, showing that 51 percent of the plant samples purchased at major gardening retailers in 18 U.S. and Canadian cities contained the harmful pesticides. Whole Foods and BJ's Wholesale Club have also begun to remove products containing the pesticide from their outlets.
Just this past week, the Ace Hardware chain announced that it is willing to look into removing products containing neonicotinoids from its stores.
“Ace Hardware will be diligent in working with our vendors to take appropriate action to protect pollinators,” said the company's vice president of merchandising Frank Carroll.
"Along with our allies, we will continue to work with Ace and other retailers to move neonicotinoid pesticides off their shelves and out of garden plants as soon as possible to ensure bees can find save havens in our backyards and communities," said Archer. "Bees are the canary in the coal mine for our food system and everyone, including the business community, must act fast to protect them.”
While national chains get a lot of attention, Growing Bee Friendly also takes a closer look at what some local garden centers are doing.
Among the businesses it cites is Maryland's Behnke Nurseries, which it says was one of the country's first garden centers to establish a policy of reducing the number of neonicotinoid-treated plants it sells. Behnke plant purchaser Larry Hurley said that they have identified growers who can provide the plants they want and that other suppliers tell him they are working on it. The nursery plans to promote pollinator-friendly plants on their display tables to make consumers more aware and make it easier for them to commit to purchasing bee-friendly plants.
"The report profiles some of the first garden centers, nurseries and greenhouse growers who have successfully removed neonicotinoids from their plants," said the Pesticide Research Institute's Rose Radford, one of Growing Bee Friendly's co-authors. "Their stories provide valuable insights and strategies to growers who are planning for neonicotinoid-free plant production, and can help provide guidance for retailers who are working on developing store policies on neonicotinoid-treated plants."
The report also singles out the city of Boulder, which is developing a process for sourcing and purchasing neonicotinoid-free plants for use on city properties. And in May, the city adopted a resolution to ban neonicotinoid application on city properties. It's one of many cities to do so. The governments of Minnesota, Oregon and Ontario have also taken steps to reduce neonicotinoid use.
Growing Bee Friendly suggests that retailers develop a three-pronged policy:
- purchase only neonicotinoid-free plants
- separate plants that are neonicotinoid-free from those that aren't
- label the neonicotinoid-free plants
In addition, it urges them to push growers for verification and testing; to publicize their policies; to train staff to answer consumer questions; and to offer safe pesticide options.
“With a new spring planting season upon us, it’s important for gardeners to be aware that many plants in stores today still contain neonicotinoids," said Archer. "We look forward to the day when we can all buy home garden plants without worrying about harming pollinators. In the meantime, gardeners should choose organic and neonic-free starts, seeds and soil."
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By Tara Lohan
Atlantic salmon have a challenging life history — and those that hail from U.S. waters have seen things get increasingly difficult in the past 300 years.
Veazie dam on the Penobscot River is breached in 2013 as part of a river restoration project. Meagan Racey / USFWS<p>While there's still more work to be done on the Penobscot, says Burrows, attention has shifted to the Kennebec. The river has what's regarded as the largest and best salmon habitat in the state, especially in its tributary, the Sandy River, where hatchery eggs are being planted to help boost salmon numbers.</p><p>"That's helped us go from zero salmon in the upper tributaries of Kennebec to getting 50 or 60 adults back, which is still an abysmally small number compared to historical counts," says Burrows. "But these are the last of the wildest fish that we have."</p>
Atlantic salmon parr emerging from a stream bed in Maine. E. Peter Steenstra / USFWS
Alewives returned by the millions after the Edwards and Ft. Halifax dams were removed. John Burrows / ASF
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Wildfires burned across the Midwest and Great Plains over the weekend as dry, windy conditions induced 'Red Flag' warnings across the Central Continental U.S.
In his latest documentary, 27-year-old British filmmaker Ali Tabrizi calls out the commercial fishing industry for harming the oceans in the pursuit of fish. Since its release, the polarizing film has gone viral and climbed to Netflix's top ten across the globe. The exposé has sparked countless questions about and investigation into the seafood industry's claims and practices.
Seaspiracy alleges that overfishing for tuna helps keep demand and prices high. Netflix<p>In the film, Sylvia Earle, famed marine biologist and ocean explorer, warns that since humans excel at extracting enormous amounts of marine life from the sea, commercial fishing itself will go extinct because eventually there will be no fish left.<br></p><p>A <a href="https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/seaspiracy-netflix-documentary-review" target="_blank">Thrillist</a> review said <em>Seaspiracy</em> connects all of the dots between commercial fishing, ocean destruction and slavery with a "wobbly line" and the "indictment of the myth of sustainability."</p><p>With each new scene, Tabrizi reveals the fraud, corruption and greed currently destroying the oceans. Through figures and expert cameos, he claims:</p><ul><li>Discarded plastic fishing gear accounts for most ocean debris and is killing whales and other animals;</li><li>The oceans will be emptied of fish in 27 years;</li><li>Safe seafood labels are compromised by "pay-to-play" profit structures and lack enforcement;</li><li>Overfishing is more damaging to the environment than deforestation;</li><li>Farmed fish are disease-ridden, pollution-creating and resource-intensive;</li><li>Thai fishing fleets use slave labor to remain profitable;</li><li>"Sustainable seafood" is a myth; and</li><li>The only solution is to stop eating fish.</li></ul>
Shark bycatch is seen being dumped overboard in West Africa. Sea Shepherd
The Sea Shepherd fleet of ships patrols the world's waters. Thomas Le / Sea Shepherd
Sea Shepherd Founder Paul Watson considers commercial fishing the biggest threat to the future of the oceans. Sea Shepherd<p>Mark J. Palmer, who is connected to the Earth Island Institute, the firm that manages the "dolphin-safe" label for tuna, is featured in a pivotal scene in the film. On camera, Tabrizi asks Palmer whether he can guarantee that all tuna cans labeled dolphin-safe caused no harm to dolphins. The latter responds, "Nope. Nobody can," and justifies his answer by saying, "Once you're out there in the ocean, how do you know what [fishermen are] doing? We have observers onboard — observers can be bribed and are not out on a regular basis."</p><p>Palmer has since tried to dampen his statement and suggests that <em>Seaspiracy</em> took his remarks out of context, <a href="https://www.intrafish.com/tuna/dolphin-safe-group-alleges-seaspiracy-left-out-critical-details-from-executives-interview/2-1-989370" target="_blank">IntraFish</a>, a seafood news site, reported. <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/fact-check-seaspiricy-dolphin-safe-labels-guaranteed-1579804" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Newsweek</a> fact-checked the film's claims and Palmer's defenses and concluded that "[b]ased on comments made by the Earth Island Institute and other experts, it is not possible to say whether all canned tuna that is labeled 'dolphin-friendly' is guaranteed to have not harmed dolphins in the fishing process."</p><p>Regardless of whether or not they are fans of the film, most conservationists and scientists agree that the oceans matter in the fight against the climate crisis, both for providing food security for millions worldwide along with protecting cultural ways of life.</p><p>According to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/31/seaspiracy-netflix-documentary-accused-of-misrepresentation-by-participants" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">The Guardian</a>, Callum Roberts, a marine conservationist featured in <em>Seaspiracy</em>, offered this conclusion for the film's critics: "My colleagues may rue the statistics, but the basic thrust of it is we are doing a huge amount of damage to the ocean and that's true. At some point, you run out. Whether it's 2048 or 2079, the question is: 'Is the trajectory in the wrong direction or the right direction?'"</p>
By Natalie Marchant
- Wood accounts for 10% of yearly waste material in the US.
- The Baltimore Wood Project salvages wood from buildings to repurpose and resell locally to create a circular economy.
- The initiative also has social benefits, by creating job opportunities in a post-industrial city that has an 8.5% unemployment rate.
An initiative in the US city of Baltimore wants to salvage and reuse as much wood as possible, while also creating jobs.
Reducing the City’s Waste<p><span>Wood accounts for more than </span><a href="https://www.fs.usda.gov/features/how-baltimore-urban-wood-project-reclaiming-wood-lives-and-communities" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10% of the annual waste material</a><span> in the US and, in some years, more tree and woody residue has been generated from urban areas than was harvested from national forests, according to the US Forest Service. This waste is costly for businesses that have to pay for its collection and disposal.</span></p><p>Post-industrial Baltimore is a particularly relevant base for the scheme, as it is estimated that there are <a href="http://baltimorewoodproject.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">16,000 empty properties, with some 4,000 of them marked for demolition</a>. Some estimates even put the number of <a href="https://www.fs.usda.gov/features/how-baltimore-urban-wood-project-reclaiming-wood-lives-and-communities" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">vacant lots in the city at well over 40,000</a>.</p><p>By reclaiming both freshly-cut wood and that from abandoned properties, the Baltimore Wood Project can reduce waste; provide green materials for construction, furniture making and other sectors; and help restore and reclaim neighborhoods.</p>
Deconstruction Instead of Demolition<p>In addition to its obvious environmental benefits, the project also has valuable economic and social advantages. With a population of nearly 600,000, Baltimore has an <a href="https://www.dllr.state.md.us/lmi/laus/" target="_blank">unemployment rate of 8.5%</a>, compared to a <a href="https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf" target="_blank">nationwide rate of 6.2%</a>.</p><p>The Baltimore Wood Project helps tackle the city's joblessness problem by focusing on deconstruction rather than demolition, arguing that the former <a href="http://baltimorewoodproject.org/" target="_blank">creates six to eight more jobs than the latter</a>.</p><p>This enables those with barriers to employment to gain a valuable skill set and eventually a career, and also helps revitalize the neighborhoods in which they live.</p>
The Benefits of a Circular Economy<p>Wood reclaimed and recycled by the project can be used for sustainable building, furniture and energy, among other uses.</p><p>Indeed, the project is intended to help the city achieve its aim of a sustainable future and serve as a model for creating a circular, self-reinforcing economy in urban areas.</p><p>Globally, it is estimated that transitioning to a circular economy – which promotes the elimination of waste and continual safe use of natural resources – could<a href="https://www.weforum.org/projects/circular-economy" target="_blank"> generate $4.5 trillion in economic benefits by 2030</a>.</p><p>The World Economic Forum is supporting moves towards creating a worldwide circular economy through collaboration on<a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOnfaAAC/the-circulars" target="_blank"> The Circulars Accelerator 2021 program</a>.</p><p>The accelerator is a collaboration with <a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">UpLink</a>, the World Economic Forum's innovation crowdsourcing platform, and is led by professional services company <a href="https://www.accenture.com/gb-en" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Accenture</a> in partnership with <a href="https://www.angloamerican.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Anglo American</a>,<a href="https://en-uk.ecolab.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> Ecolab</a>, and <a href="https://www.se.com/uk/en/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Schneider Electric</a>.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from the </em><em><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/04/baltimore-us-wood-recycling-project/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></p>
By Brett Wilkins
A pair of Indigenous land defenders locked themselves to equipment at a fossil fuel pumping station in British Columbia on Saturday, vowing to continue resisting a government-owned oil pipeline that is harming the climate, the environment, and First Nations peoples whose unceded lands it traverses.