The UK supermarket Co-op has prohibited suppliers of its own-brand fresh produce from using eight pesticides that have been connected to honey bee colony collapse disorder and are already restricted in some parts of Europe.
With a third of hives wiped out last year in the UK, Co-op launched the ten-point Plan Bee last week, which includes £150,000 for research into the impact of pesticides on the decline of honeybees in England. It also includes the distribution of bee-friendly wildflower seeds to Co-op members and customers.
‘We believe that the recent losses in bee populations need definitive action, and as a result are temporarily prohibiting the eight neonicotinoid pesticides until we have evidence that refutes their involvement in the decline,’ said Simon Press, senior technical manager at Co-op.
Laboratory tests suggest that one of the banned chemicals, imidacloprid, can obstruct bees’ sophisticated communication and navigation systems. The European Parliament voted earlier this month for tougher controls on bee-toxic chemicals, while Italy, Slovenia and Germany banned neonicotinoids last year after the loss of millions of honeybees.
Elliott Carnell, coordinator of Pesticide Action Network (Pan) Europe, said he hoped the Co-op’s stance would persuade the UK government to back the proposed European legislation: ‘The government has fought against any attempts to protect bees, which pollinate a third of the average diet. It argues that banning pesticides jeopardizes crop yields, but if that was the case why would a leading food retailer be introducing this measure?’