(Beyond Pesticides, June 17, 2014) Given that plant starts in many garden centers across the country are grown from seeds coated with bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides, or drenched with them, Beyond Pesticides has launched the Pollinator-Friendly Seed Directory, a comprehensive list of companies that sell organic seeds to the general public. Included in this directory are seeds for vegetables, flowers, and herbs. As bees suffer serious declines in their populations, we urge people and communities to plant habitat that supports pollinator populations, and have provided information to facilitate this in our BEE Protective Habitat Guide, as well as our how-to guide on managing landscapes with pollinators in mind.
Unfortunately, plants are too often grown with hazardous pesticides that either harm pollinators in their cultivation or threaten bees as they pollinate or forage on treated plants. Last summer, a groundbreaking report revealed that many bee-friendly garden plants sold at Home Depot and Lowe’s contain neonicotinoid pesticides with no warning to consumers. Neonicotinoid residues were detected in seven out of thirteen samples (54 percent) of commercial nursery plants. In response to this report, Beyond Pesticides, along with Friends of the Earth and other allies, launched a campaign to tell major retailers to stop selling poisoned plants. Taking this a step further, Beyond Pesticides is urging you to support organic growers by purchasing seeds and plants that are organic.
Certified organic seeds and products are really the only way to ensure that the seed production practices are protective of bees, and that residual chemicals do not contaminate the plant. Although many seed companies indicate that they sell untreated seeds, Beyond Pesticides encourages supporters to avoid purchasing these products. While untreated seeds are a step in the right direction, they do not ensure that the seed production practices are protective of bees or that residual chemicals do not contaminate the plant. Seeds and plants that are certified organic, on the other hand, do not permit the use of toxic synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics, sewage sludge, or irradiation.
Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. These systemic pesticides, which move through the plant’s vascular system and express themselves through pollen and nectar, include imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. A growing body of science has implicated neonicotinoids, which are applied to or incorporated into seeds for agricultural, ornamental and garden plants, as a key factor in recent global bee die-offs. Beekeepers across the country reported losses of 40-90 percent of their bees last winter.
With one in three bites of food reliant on bees and other insects for pollination, the decline of honey bees and other pollinators due to pesticides, and other man-made causes demands immediate action. For more information on how to truly bee protective, join our campaign to protect honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides and contaminated landscapes by taking action on our BEE Protective webpage, and catch the buzz on Pollinator Week festivities, held all week long by Beyond Pesticides and allies June 16-22, 2014.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.