Consumers and grassroot consumer groups have been growing increasingly vocal as to the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on plants and pollinators. Neonicotinoid insecticides, such as clothianidin and imidacloprid, are used to teat trees, shrubs and plants and prevent the invasion of species like the Japanese beetle, hemlock woolly adelgid, emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle.
These same pesticides have been increasingly associated with the devastation of pollinators, such as bees, and the corresponding environmental impact.
In response to consumer demand and a petition demanding labeling, Home Depot, is requiring plant growers to label plants treated with neonicotinoid pesticides.
“We’ve been in communication with the Environmental Protection Agency, insecticide industry and our suppliers for many months to understand the science and monitor the research,” said Stephen Holmes, Home Depot, director corporate communications. “We’re requiring all of our live goods suppliers to label plants that they have treated with Neonicotinoids by fourth quarter 2014.”
One nursery has already changed its pesticide practices as a result. Jim Berry, the president of J. Berry Nurseries, said that since the issue had become publicly recognized as a practice that potentially impacted bees and other pollinators, they started looking at alternative 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,” Berry says. “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.”
As expected the decision has not been met with a positive response from biotech companies. Bayer CropScience North America said in a statement on the Home Depot decision that plant protection products, including neonicotinoids, are extensively reviewed by the EPA to make sure they are safe for humans and the environment before they reach the market.
The issue is currently under investigation by a U.S. presidential task force appointed to examine the impact of neonicotinoids and the declining bee population.