Pollinator News

May, 2021

Walmart Announces Commitment to Pollinators

Walmart US, the biggest of the big-box retailers, has announced several pollinator-friendly initiatives. Aside from habitat protection and limiting the sales of invasive plant species, the retail giant is restricting the sale of foods grown with neonicotinoid pesticides.

The PSC has been calling for a ban of all outdoor use of neonicotinoids and Walmart’s move sends a powerful message to the ag industry! 

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Court Orders EPA to Ban Pesticide Toxic to Kids

The Environmental Protection Agency must ban the use of chlorpyrifos—a pesticide linked to worker poisonings and learning disabilities in children—on produce sold in the U.S. within 60 days unless it can identify a safe level of use, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in late April. The judges found the agency broke the law by continuing to allow the toxic chemical to be used to grow fruits and vegetables despite solid evidence that it harms the developing brain.

The ruling comes after a lawsuit by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and a coalition of labor and health organizations, represented by Earthjustice. The decision can be found here.

From Jennifer Sass, senior scientist at NRDC: “The court ruled in favor of science, which has clearly shown that chlorpyrifos is too dangerous to be used to grow our food. The Trump EPA had allowed the continued use of this toxic pesticide, even though they knew it is damaging to human health – especially the developing brains of children. This will ensure that kids can eat fruits and vegetables free of this neurotoxin.”

NRDC has been fighting for over a decade to get chlorpyrifos off our fields and out of our food supply, petitioning EPA to ban it in 2007 alongside the Pesticide Action Network. EPA was finally on track to ban it at the end of 2016 until the Trump administration quickly reversed course and allowed farmers to spray chlorpyrifos on all sorts of crops, including children’s favorites like apples, oranges, and berries.  Farmworkers and their families, who are predominantly Hispanic, are most exposed, and consumers across the country are at risk, too.

Significant science—including a study by EPA itself—shows that exposure to even low levels of the pesticide in early life can lead to increased risk of learning disabilities, including reduced IQ, developmental delay, and ADHD. Chlorpyrifos is also a bee toxicant.

In the absence of EPA action, states had begun to get the pesticide out of the fields. As a result of a landmark settlement, California ended sales of chlorpyrifos in February of 2020 and completely banned its use in January of 2021.  Hawaii’s ban goes into effect in 2022, New York has initiated a regulatory process, and Maryland has committed to a phase-out.  Legislation is also pending in Congress to ban chlorpyrifos and similar pesticides nationwide.  

Following action at the state level, Corteva Inc (formally part of Dow Chemical, which was the largest US producer of chlorpyrifos) announced it will cease production of the chemical by the end of 2020.  Dow Chemical had close ties to President Trump. Among other things, the company reportedly donated $1 million for Trump’s inauguration and its CEO previously played a chief advisory role to the president, heading up his now-defunct American Manufacturing Council.


The Cornhusker State’s Toxic Disaster

The Nebraska state insect is the honey bee, but University of Nebraska entomology professor Judy Wu-Smart struggled for years with chronic bee deaths in her research colonies before discovering that an ethanol plant had been responsible for creating the toxic environment responsible for killing the State’s honored insects. 

In a story reported earlier this year in the Guardian, AltEn, an ethanol plant in Mead, Nebraska was found to be the source of horrific community illness, as well as livestock and honey bee kills. For three years the plant burned seeds coated with neonicotinoid pesticides, 98% of the unplanted treated seed in the US, generating piles of waste that seeped into the environment miles away from the plant itself. 

Earlier this year, the plant was shut down but the cleanup has yet to happen. Nebraska’s legislature, spurred by the disastrous press, has passed a bill banning neonicotinoid seed burning. On April 29, 2021 the bill was given to the Governor for signature.  Similar legislation in Illinois didn’t pass through committee; Minnesota’s legislation on the same issue is still live. As of this writing, there is no national legislation to keep other ethanol plants from taking on these toxic seeds, and with little industry opposition to the bill in Nebraska or Minnesota, it seems likely that we could soon see a disaster like AltEn happen in another state. 

The AltEn catastrophe has the country considering both the dangers of unused seed disposal and the need for regulation of treated seed- a regulatory loophole the  PSC has long advocated for closing. How many communities have to suffer before EPA steps up to prevent the pesticide industry’s irresponsible behavior?

PSC Outreach

The PSC has presented to several beekeeping organizations via Zoom in the last year. Our first in-person event will be at EAS August 11-13 in Kentucky. 
Click here to request a speaker for your group!

How to Help:

• Champion our work fighting the pesticide industry on behalf of managed and native pollinators with your donation!

• You support the ag industry with every food purchase you make–what are you choosing to support? Organic or conventionally grown produce? Farmers engaged in progressive regenerative agriculture or large corporate suppliers? Where you spend your dollars makes a difference–choose to support those that support you!


The Pollinator Stewardship Council is dedicated to defending pollinators across the United States from the adverse impact of pesticides. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and all donations are tax-deductible.

Copyright © 2021 Pollinator Stewardship Council, All rights reserved.

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