Kroger Joins Trend of Grocers Competing to Protect Bees

Kroger Joins Trend of Grocers Competing to Protect Bees and Biodiversity from Toxic Pesticides

Industry reaches tipping point with more than half of the largest U.S. food retailers with policies to reduce pesticides

Washington, D.C. — In a win for biodiversity, the climate, and our health, The Kroger Company (NYSE: KR) is the latest major U.S. grocer to announce commitments aimed at reducing the use of toxic pesticides in its fresh fruit and vegetable supply chain. As one of the nation’s four largest food retailers, with more than 2,700 stores, Kroger’s commitment is expected to positively impact pollinators, soil health, and people in communities across the country.

Since 2018, thirteen major U.S. food retailers representing over $1.4 billion in annual food and beverage sales have established policies aimed at reducing toxic pesticides in their supply chains, signaling a significant shift taking place across the food retail sector. Kroger’s commitment follows in the footsteps of Whole Foods (NASDAQ: AMZN), which announced a pesticide policy in December, 2023, as well as Walmart (NYSE: WMT) and Giant Eagle

These industry efforts follow a multi-year campaign led by Friends of the Earth and supported by over 100 environmental, public health, farmer, and farmworker organizations across the country. Friends of the Earth’s Bee-Friendly Retailer Scorecard tracks company progress.

“We now understand that biodiversity collapse is as pressing a threat to planetary health and our food supply as climate change. And the over 1 billion pounds of pesticides used annually in U.S. agriculture are drivers of both,” said Kendra Klein, PhD, deputy director of science at Friends of the Earth. “It’s past time for U.S. food retailers to take swift action to eliminate the use of toxic pesticides in their supply chains and speed the transition to organic and other ecologically regenerative approaches to agriculture. Despite this promising industry trend, efforts fall far short of what is needed to protect pollinators, people, and the planet from toxic pesticides.”

Currently, Giant Eagle leads the pack. Its policy will eliminate the worst neonicotinoid pesticides in the company’s fresh produce supply by 2025. Research shows that U.S. agriculture has become 48 times more toxic to bees and other insects since the advent of neonicotinoid use three decades ago. The European Union has banned the worst neonicotinoids while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lags behind the science.

Neonicotinoids and all other major classes of pesticides also decimate soil life, according to a recent meta-review co-authored by Friends of the Earth, making the base of our food chain more brittle, and impeding the soil’s ability to sequester carbon – a critical climate change mitigation strategy. And the same pesticides that threaten biodiversity also harm human health, including the farmworkers and rural communities on the frontlines of exposure. 

Another key approach leading companies are taking to pesticide reduction is requiring Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices in their supply chains. Four companies – Giant Eagle, Kroger, Walmart, and Whole Foods – are requiring all fresh produce suppliers to adopt IPM and to verify their compliance using a list of third-party certifications vetted by the IPM Institute of North America.

IPM can reduce use of pesticides by guiding farmers to use non-chemical approaches to manage pests first, such as rotating crops, planting resistant varieties and fostering beneficial insects. 

Nine other companies — Albertsons (NYSE: ASI), Aldi, Costco (NASDAQ: COST), CVS (NYSE: CVS), Dollar Tree (NASDAQ: DLTR), Meijer, Rite Aid (OTCMKTS: RADCQ), Southeastern Grocers, and Target (NYSE: TGT) — have created policies that encourage food and beverage suppliers to reduce use of pesticides of concern — including neonicotinoids, organophosphates and glyphosate — and to shift to least-toxic approaches like IPM, but the policies do not include metrics or targets for implementation.

Leading companies are also committed to growing their organic offerings. Organic is the gold standard for pesticide reduction. The certification prohibits over 900 synthetic pesticides otherwise allowed in agriculture. A growing body of science also highlights organic farming’s ability to regenerate soil, conserve water, enhance farmers’ resilience to droughts and floods, protect biodiversity, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, making it a critical approach to addressing climate change.

Communications contact: Haven Bourque, 415-505-3473, [email protected]

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