Costco Pushes Suppliers Away from Pesticides Harmful to Bees

istock/patrick latter
A bee landing on a flower

Costco, the popular wholesale membership market with nearly 500 U.S. locations and more than 700 stores worldwide, has announced that it is enforcing a bee-friendly policy requiring suppliers to stop using pesticides linked to bee deaths on plants sold in Costco stores.

The announcement is a partnership with Friends of the Earth, an environmentally focused nonprofit organization, and mirrors similar programs already underway at The Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Costco’s new bee policy is aimed at reducing the use of “non-essential” chemicals, particularly neonicotinoids, the class of insecticides linked with declining bee populations worldwide. The chain will also be putting more emphasis on organic products as part of the Costco Sustainability Commitment.

“Costco Wholesale understands that the honey bee population is declining and these bees are necessary for the life cycles of people, plants and the food we consume,” the retailer said in a statement on its website. “We have invested in a multi-year research project to improve honey bee health and sustainability and are committed to following the continuing research, developments surrounding bee colony collapse and other areas of environmental concern. We are also committed to business practices that support the growth and sustainability of bees and other pollinators.”

Under its commitment, Costco will encourage suppliers to limit the use of non-essential chemicals while relying more heavily on environmentally friendly methods of pest control. It will also require pesticide use to be in accordance with local and federal laws, calling on suppliers to “remain informed” on all regulations and laws. And, specifically, neonicotinoid use on plants geared toward promoting bee pollination will be strongly discouraged, “unless mandated otherwise by law.”

The decision comes after Costco was targeted in a Friends of the Earth campaign over neonicotinoid risks for pollinators.

“Costco’s decision to limit these bee-killing pesticides on garden plants and increase its selection of organic products demonstrates it is listening to its customers and taking into account the most up-to-date sound science,” Tiffany Finck-Haynes, a spokesperson for Friends of the Earth, said in a statement.

The news also comes after U.S. bumblebees were just added to the Endangered Species List by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Bee populations around the world have been declining in recent years as a result of a mysterious affliction known as colony collapse disorder. While numerous factors are likely at play, many experts suggest neonic pesticides may be most damaging to bee health.

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