By the end of next year, farmers supplying Waitrose fruit, vegetables and flowers must phase out three neonicotinoid-based pesticides: imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam.
Imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin are among the three neonicotinoid chemicals identified by the European Food Safety Authority and scientists from EU member states as posing a risk to honeybees.
The supermarket chain says the chemical restrictions are a precautionary measure and will remain in place until scientists can demonstrate conclusively whether or not the formulations are adversely affecting populations of pollinator insects.
Waitrose says the pesticide ban will apply to other commodity crops, such as oil seed rape on the Waitrose Farm at Leckford in Hampshire, “as soon as practical.”
The company also announced today that it will fund a research project with the University of Exeter into the effects on pollinators of multiple pesticide use. The work will look at the impact of combinations of neonicotinoids and other pesticides on pollinators. The results of the three-year program will be used to develop alternative methods of pest control, Waitrose says.
The grocer’s neonicotinoid ban follows similar actions by other UK retailers including B&Q and Wickes, which, in January, said they will no longer sell products containing pesticides linked to bee decline.
European officials from all 27 EU member states were slated to vote in March on a on a proposal to sharply restrict the use of neonicotinoid-based pesticides. But representatives from Britain and Germany abstained from voting, leaving the committee without the needed majority, The New York Times reports. Almost three-quarters of the UK public supports the ban on the three pesticides.
The substances remain legal in the US.
Four professional beekeepers and five non-profits sued the EPA last month, claiming the agency should place an immediate ban on clothianidin and thiamethoxam. The plaintiffs, which include the Sierra Club and the Center for Environmental Health, say the EPA has failed to protect the bees and their role in pollinating vital food crops.
EPA has been reviewing imidacloprid and its effects on bees since 2008.