Image via Creative Commons.

Amidst “insect apocalypse” Ace Hardware steps up and takes action on bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides

by Tiffany Finck-Haynes, pesticides & pollinators program manager

The 2019 gardening season will be a win for the bees. Ace Hardware has confirmed it is eliminating bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides from the products that it sells. For the first year, all major garden retailers are on record committing to eliminate the use of neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides on the products and garden plants that they sell.

Bees are essential to our food system and are responsible for pollinating many of the delicious and nutritious food on our plates — from apples to avocados to almonds. But they’re dying at alarming rates. Forty percent of invertebrate pollinator species are on the brink of extinction. Last week, a comprehensive global meta-analysis of insect decline concluded the world’s insect species could go extinct within a century, largely due to widespread use of neonicotinoids and other toxic insecticides used in industrial agriculture, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems.”

Given this dire situation, Ace Hardware’s commitment comes at just the right time. Ace Hardware is the country’s largest retail cooperative with over 5,000 stores around the world. It joins over 140 garden retailers including Home Depot, Lowes, True Value, Walmart, Costco, Kroger and Whole Foods in taking steps to protect bees and other pollinators by making commitments to eliminate neonicotinoids on plants and/or products.

The company disclosed that it has nearly eliminated neonicotinoids in its supply chain. Ace Hardware customers can shop with peace of mind knowing that 95 percent of the insecticide product offerings distributed by Ace are neonic-free and all of its private label lawn and garden products are neonic-free. The company also stated that in 2017, over 97 percent of its distribution center insecticide sales were neonic-free products and since 2016, the company has added over 90 new products that are natural and organic.

Forty percent of invertebrate pollinator species are on the brink of extinction.

Ace Hardware’s commitment signals that the garden industry has largely rejected bee-killing pesticides. Even before the commitments from Ace Hardware, True Value or Walmart, 74 percent of growers who supply large garden retailers with their plants said that they would not use neonics in 2016. This means that nearly three quarters of the garden industry has been transformed — and Ace Hardware, Walmart and True Value’s commitments move the industry closer to 100%.

In addition to the garden retail industry food retailers and local, state and federal governments have started to take steps to address this issue. Costco announced that it is taking steps to phase out the use of neonicotinoids and the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos in the fruits and vegetables that it sells. And Representative Blumenauer just announced he’ll be reintroducing the Saving America’s Pollinators Act, which would suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

These are important steps to help protect bees and other pollinators, but we’ll need significant action by supermarkets and our governments to significantly eliminate the use of pesticides toxic to people and pollinators and increase domestic organic food production if we’re going to protect our food system and the web of life that supports it. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations just published report and warned that the state of the world’s biodiversity threatens our food security, nutrition, health, livelihood and environment. It’s critical that we transform our food system to one that is truly healthy, ecologically regenerative and organic that works for people, pollinators and the planet to turn this critical situation around.