Environmental Groups Call on Major Retailers to Ban Bee Killing Pesticides

This week is Pollinator Week, an "international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles." We celebrated with action - calling on major retailers such as Ace Hardware and True Value to phase out the use of the class of bee killing pesticides knows as neonicotinoids (neonics). 

This week is Pollinator Week, an “international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.” We celebrated with action – calling on major retailers such as Ace Hardware and True Value to phase out the use of the class of bee killing pesticides knows as neonicotinoids (neonics). See the letter – led by Friends of the Earth, and signed by Environment Texas and 57 other environmental groups across the nation – below.


June 17, 2015

John Venhuizen, CEO
Ace Hardware
2200 Kensington Ct
Oak Brook, IL 60523

Dear Mr. Venhuizen,

On behalf of the millions of members and supporters of our growing coalition of environmental, consumer and worker groups across the U.S. and Canada, we are writing to follow up on Ace’s recent public statement that it is willing to move away from products containing neonicotinoids. We are pleased that Ace is listening to customer concerns and we urge Ace to commit to not sell products containing pesticides harmful to bees, butterflies, birds and other wildlife. This includes pesticide products containing systemic neonicotinoid pesticides, as well as garden plants treated with these chemicals.

In the past several months, thousands of your customers have signed petitions and made calls to Ace stores requesting your company take important steps to protect pollinators and the planet, but thus far Ace has only conveyed its willingness to move away from using these products and has not made any public commitments with a timeline or benchmarks to phase-out products and plants that contain these chemicals. As a top company dedicated to meeting growing consumer demand for environmentally friendly garden products, removing bee and bird-harming pesticides from your shelves would demonstrate Ace’s sustainability leadership and ensure that home gardeners across the country can trust your store as a provider of truly “bee-friendly” plants and products. In the meantime, our growing coalition is educating and activating the public to take action on this issue because we are all extremely concerned about Ace’s failure to address our concerns.

As shared with you previously, Friends of the Earth’s study, Gardeners Beware 2014: Bee-Toxic Pesticides Found in “Bee-Friendly” Plants Sold at Garden Centers across the U.S. and Canada (which can be found at www.foe.org/beeaction) shows that 51 percent of “bee-friendly” garden plants purchased at Lowe’s, Home Depot and Walmart in 18 cities across the United States and Canada contain neonicotinoid pesticides at levels that have the potential to harm or even kill bees.

The Pesticide Research Institute and Friends of the Earth recently released a new report, Growing Bee Friendly Garden Plants: Profiles In Innovation (which can also be found at www.foe.org/beeaction), which provides examples of wholesale nurseries, retailers and institutions that are responding to consumer emand and successfully phasing out use of pollinator-toxic pesticides from their operations, implementing innovative new pest management approaches to avoid regrettable substitutions, and moving toward practices that are healthy for bees and the environment. The report shares strategies and resources for other businesses to follow the lead of these industry leaders.

This report reinforces a recent finding by Green House Grower magazine, which found 31% of the 100 largest greenhouse growers in the industry have completely stopped using neonicotinoids and another 38% of these growers have stopped using neonicotinoids on some of their plants. These changes are taking place due in part to the growing number of retailers shifting their purchasing policies and in part to the more than 90 percent of households that want to manage their lawns and gardens in an environmentally friendly way, by choosing eco-friendly products over those with toxic chemicals, such as all-natural repellents and organic soils. There is clearly a growing demand for safe, environmentally friendly alternatives and for organic growing methods that are benign to human health and theenvironment and as recent studies demonstrate, wholesale nurseries and garden retailers are finding it is possible to offer products to meet this change in demand.

Ace’s failure thus far to publicly commit to a timeline to phase-out pollinator-toxic pesticides is in stark contrast to the actions of many of its competitors. In the past year, in the face of mounting evidence and growing consumer demand, more than twenty wholesale nurseries, landscaping companies and retailers have taken steps to eliminate bee-harming pesticides from their stores, including the two largest home improvement retailers in the world, Home Depot and Lowe’s, along with Whole Foods and BJ’s Wholesale Club. 

Retailers and other businesses are not the only actors recognizing that it is imperative to act quickly to protect pollinators. In June 2014, President Obama established a Pollinator Health Task Force to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy, calling on EPA to assess the effect of pesticides, including neonicotinoids, on bees and other pollinators. In May 2015, the Task Force released its report, which aims at taking a number of steps to reverse pollinator declines. In April, the EPA announced that it would be unlikely to approve new or expanded uses of neonicotinoids while it evaluates the risks posed to pollinators.

In addition to retailers, more than twenty states, cities, counties, universities and federal agencies have passed measures that minimize or eliminate the use of neonicotinoids including Seattle, Wash.; Portland, Ore.; Boulder, Colo.; Warren County, N.C.; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Council on Environmental Quality issued guidance for federal facilities and federal lands which included acquiring seeds and plants from nurseries that do not treat these items with systemic insecticides.

State and city governments and federal agencies are taking these steps because pollinators are dying at alarming rates. This past year beekeepers lost 42 percent of their colonies, which is the second highest annual loss recorded to date. The science is clear: neonicotinoid insecticides are a leading driver of bee declines and are harming many other important and beneficial organisms essential for natural pest control and sustainable food production, including birds, bats, butterflies, dragonflies, lacewings, ladybugs, earthworms, small mammals, amphibians, aquatic insects and soil microbes — putting food production and the environment in jeopardy. A global body of twenty-nine independent scientists (the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides) reviewed more than 1,121 peer-reviewed studies and called for immediate regulatory action to restrict neonicotinoids. A Newcastle University study recently found that bees might actually be addicted to these pesticides and concluded that reducing pesticide use “may be the only certain way” to halt bee and pollinator decline.

On behalf of our millions of members and supporters across the U.S. and Canada, we urge Ace to listen to
a growing body of science and join these industry and government leaders in signaling its dedication to
sustainability and pollinator health by making this same commitment.

Our coalition urges Ace to take action to help protect bees and other pollinators by committing to
the following:
● Do not sell off-the-shelf neonicotinoid insecticides for home garden use.
● Demand neonicotinoid-free vegetable and bedding plants from nursery suppliers and do not sell plants pre-treated with these pesticides.
● Offer third-party certified organic starts and plants.
● Educate your customers on why your company has made the decision to protect bees, birds and other pollinators.

We believe this action would demonstrate Ace Hardware’s commitment to sustainability and to protecting declining bee, bird and pollinator populations upon which our food supply and ecosystems depend. Wealso believe your customers would react positively, given the public concern for the plight of bees and the growing demand for sustainable and organic gardening products.
Many of our organizations will promote all companies that make this commitment and make public their policy to protect bee health by not purchasing or selling neonicotinoid plant treatments or neonic-treated plants. These companies will be highlighted on our website, in social media, and in the press so consumers can see for themselves where companies stand on protecting bees before they go shopping for their gardening supplies. You can view a current list of retailers that have committed to not use or sell neonicotinoids at www.foe.org/retailers

Please contact Tiffany Finck-Haynes, Food and Technology Program at Friends of the Earth ([email protected] or 202-222-0715) by June 30th so that we may discuss your company’s current policies and how your company can show its leadership in corporate sustainability by committing to not sell products associated with pollinator declines.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We hope to begin work with you immediately to protect the small but important creatures upon which so much of our food and ecosystems depend and we hope to be able to highlight your company as an industry leader.



Lisa Archer
Director, Food and Technology Program
Friends of the Earth
Lori Ann Burd
Environmental Health Director
Center for Biological Diversity

Wenonah Hauter
Executive Director
Food & Water Watch

Ruth Berlin, LCSW-C
Executive Director
Maryland Pesticide Network

Laurie Schneider and Marcie Forsberg
Pollinator Friendly Alliance, Stillwater,

Preston Peck
Policy Advocate
Toxic Free North Carolina

Laurie Pyne
Olympia Beekeepers Association

Beth Conrey
Colorado State Beekeeping Association

Laurel Hopwood,
Coordinator, Pollinator Protection Program
Sierra Club

Luke Metzger
Environment Texas

David Wheeler
Bee Safe Boulder

Richard Andrews,
President, Boulder Innovative Technologies, Inc.
Managing General Partner, J.M. Andrews
Family Farm LLLP
CEO, ZeoponiX, Inc.
Coordinator, Colorado Pesticide Reform

Jay Feldman
Beyond Pesticides
Executive Director

Ronnie Cummins
Executive Director
Organic Consumers Association.

Rebecca Meuninck
Environmental Health Campaign Director
Ecology Center

Juliette Majot
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Heather Leibowitz, Esq.
Environment New York

Cynthia Palmer
Director, Pesticides Science and Regulation
American Bird Conservancy

Jamie Harvie
Executive Director
Institute for a Sustainable Future

Tirso Moreno
General Coordinator
Farmworker Association of Florida

Robert Gronski
Policy Coordinator
Catholic Rural Life

Kurt Schwarz
Conservation Chair
Maryland Ornithological Society

Jason Rylander
Senior Staff Attorney
Defenders of Wildlife

Caroline Cox
Research Director
Center for Environmental Health

Gary C. Mitchell
Executive Director
Planet Rehab

Sylvia Broude
Executive Director
Toxics Action Center

Lynn Carroll, Ph.D.
Senior Scientist
TEDX, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Andrew Behar
As You Sow

Nikki Belmonte
Executive Director
Atlanta Audubon Society

Heather Spalding
Deputy Director
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners
Association (MOFGA)

Tom Goldtooth
Executive Director
Indigenous Environmental Network

Mark Emrich
Washington State Beekeepers Association

Dr. Mercola

Beatrice Olivastri
Friends of the Earth Canada

Judy Hatcher
Executive Director
Pesticide Action Network

Rosa Kouri
Campaigns Director
Sum of Us

Roger Williams
Central Maryland Beekeepers Association

Dave Murphy
Executive Director
Food Democracy Now!

Alisa Gravitz
President and CEO
Green America

Nicole McCann
Director, Food Campaigns
GMO Inside

Margie Alt
Executive Director
Environment America

Dan Jacobson
Executive Director
Environment California

Kim Stevens
Campaign Director
Environment Colorado

Dave Rogers
Executive Director
Environment North Carolina

Ben Hellerstein
Campaign Director
Environment Massachusetts

Doug O’Malley
Executive Director
Environment New Jersery

David Masur
Exectuvive Director

Taryn Hallweaver
Environment Maine

Rikki Seguin
Environment Oregon

Jennette Gayer
Environment Georgia

Chris Phelps
Environment Connecticut

Sanders Moore
Environment New Mexico

Larissa Walker
Pollinator Campaign Director
Center for Food Safety

Judy Byron, OP
Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment

Melissa Waage
Director, Strategic Planning
Natural Resources Defense Council

Sister Ruth Rosenbaum, PhD
Executive Director
Center for Reflection, Eucation and Action

Donald Saxton
Director of Investments
Sister of charity Health System


Luke Metzger

Executive Director, Environment Texas

As the executive director of Environment Texas, Luke is a leading voice in the state for clean air, clean water, clean energy and open space. Luke has led successful campaigns to win permanent protection for the Christmas Mountains of Big Bend; to compel Exxon, Shell and Chevron Phillips to cut air pollution at three Texas refineries and chemical plants; and to boost funding for water conservation, renewable energy and state parks. The San Antonio Current has called Luke "long one of the most energetic and dedicated defenders of environmental issues in the state." He has been named one of the "Top Lobbyists for Causes" by Capitol Inside, received the President's Award from the Texas Recreation and Parks Society for his work to protect Texas parks, and was chosen for the inaugural class of "Next Generation Fellows" by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at UT Austin. Luke, his wife, son and daughters are working to visit every state park in Texas.