Waitrose bans use of three neonicotinoids
WAITROSE is banning its suppliers from using systemic neonicotinoids on produce destined for the supermarket.
Under a Seven Point Plan for Pollinators which begins immediately, the retailer is asking growers of fruit, vegetables and flowers to stop using the pesticides by the end of 2014, due to their alleged ill-effects.
Waitrose said the restriction on use is 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’.
But the supermarket has come under fire from the NFU which said there was ‘still no evidence showing that neonicotinoids are the cause of widespread declines in pollinator populations’.
A spokeswoman said: “Without good evidence, we risk making changes based on popular opinion that do nothing to measurably improve pollinator health, but do have costs for the supply chain and unintended consequences for the environment.”
The new approach will also be rolled out progressively to commodity crops such as oil seed rape on the Waitrose Farm at Leckford in Hampshire and ‘as soon as practicable’ to other areas of the arable sector which supply Waitrose.
In addition, the supermarket chain has announced it will fund a ‘significant’ 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 programme will be used to develop alternative methods of pest control.
Waitrose director of quality and technical, David Croft, said: “We have been looking at pollinator health for some time in close collaboration with our fresh produce suppliers. Given the concern about these pesticides and the need to support pollinators we believe this is a responsible precautionary step as part of a wider, holistic approach under our seven point plan.
“The role of pollinating insects such as bees as crucial in sustaining agriculture in the long term, as part of a thriving ecosystem that will support food security, healthy diets and the wider agricultural economy.”
Mr Croft said the debate around the decline of pollinators such as bees and butterflies ‘has raised attention’ about the potential adverse impact of neonicotinoid pesticides.
The three formulations - imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam - will no longer be used on crops attractive to these species.
The UK Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) last week urged Defra to issue a ban on their use from the start of next year.
Welcoming the move, the Soil Association’s chief executive Helen Browning called it a ‘bold move’.
Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton added: “There is mounting concern about the damaging impact these chemicals have on bees and other pollinators - we urge other stores to follow suit.”
But agro-chemical firm Syngenta criticised the claims.
Syngenta’s head of corporate affairs in north Europe, Luke Gibbs, said: “We find it odd that a respected retailer has ignored hard evidence from the field, most recently from the UK Government and others, that these pesticides pose a very low risk to bees.
“Strangely, the Waitrose plan proposes nothing to address the real causes of the decline in bee health which are disease, viruses and loss of nutrition. Our product has been used safely on millions of hectares of crops for over a decade without damaging bee health – and this has been validated by regulatory authorities around the world.”