Homebase urged to act after most top garden retailers say no to bee-harming neonicotinoids
Nine of the top 10 leading garden retailers and garden centres don’t want the flowering plants they sell to be grown with bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides and have told suppliers not to use them, a Friends of the Earth survey  reveals today.
However, one of the biggest garden retailers - Homebase - has yet to commit to working with suppliers to end the use of restricted neonicotinoids, despite being contacted by thousands of people via a Friends of the Earth online action .
The survey follows research by leading bee scientist Professor Dave Goulson, published earlier this summer [3,4], which revealed that 70% of the plants tested from a number of stores contained neonicotinoid pesticides – including three pesticides restricted across Europe that have been found to pose a ‘high acute risk’ to honeybees .
One of the retailers saying no to neonicotinoids is the UK’s biggest garden centre, Wyevale. It was urged to act on the chemicals earlier this year by over 18,000 Friends of the Earth supporters via an online action  after tests revealed that they were selling plants containing neonicotinoids.
Wyevale has now confirmed with Friends of the Earth that it does not want the three restricted neonicotinoids in its garden plants, saying “we will be working harder to seek the… removal of the three European banned neonics from the complete supply chain during 2018.”
Earlier this year leading garden store B&Q became the first retailer to announce that it was banning suppliers from using all neonicotinoid pesticides in its flowering plant range from early next year .
A Friends of the Earth YouGov poll  published in May 2017 found that over three quarters of the British public (78%) agree that garden centres and retailers should not sell plants grown with pesticides that are harmful to bees.
Later today Friends of the Earth is handing in a petition from over 33,000 people, urging the government to support a permanent, comprehensive ban on all bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides .
Friends of the Earth survey
Friends of the Earth surveyed the 10 leading garden retailers and garden centres and discovered that:
- Nine don’t want the plants they sell to be grown with any of the three neonicotinoid pesticides currently restricted by the EU, and have told suppliers not to use them.
- Homebase replied – but has not committed to working with their suppliers to end the use of restricted neonicotinoids.
Friends of the Earth bee campaigner Nick Rau said:
“We’re delighted that leading garden retailers are responding to public concern and mounting scientific evidence by saying ‘no’ to plants grown with bee-harming chemicals.
“We’re particularly pleased the UK’s biggest garden centre Wyevale has listened to the thousands of people who contacted them and has pledged to work harder to ensure the removal of restricted neonicotinoids from its supply chain.
“We now urge Homebase to follow suit and reject these chemicals too.
“People up and down the country have been creating pollinator-friendly gardens – they need to be confident that the plants they buy are not going to harm Britain’s bees.
“The UK government must also act on neonicotinoids by backing a full and permanent EU ban on these chemicals across Europe – and pledging to keep any restrictions post-Brexit.”
Leading bee expert Professor Dave Goulson – who carried out research published earlier this year into pesticides in garden plants – said:
"There is currently lots of interest in making our gardens into havens for bees and other wildlife, which is fantastic. Hence we were very sad to discover that most of the pretty flowers marketed as 'bee-friendly' by garden centres, and bought by well-meaning people with their hard-earned cash, actually contain significant concentrations of highly potent insecticides.
”It is great to see many garden centres responding positively to our research by moving to ban neonicotinoids. Hopefully we can soon reach a point where 'bee-friendly' plants are completely free of insecticides."
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Notes to editors:
1. Friends of the Earth contacted the biggest retailers of garden plants after B&Q announced earlier this year that it was going to ban neonicotinoid pesticides from its flowering plant range to protect bees. A table of responses is below.
2. Over 18,000 people have taken part in a Friends of the Earth online action to ask Homebase and Wyevale to act on neonicotinoid pesticides.
3. Retailers urged to act after pesticides linked to bee decline discovered in “pollinator friendly” garden plants.
4. The report on pesticides in garden plants concluded: “All of the retailers we tested were selling plants containing highly variable combinations of potentially harmful chemicals, so that any purchaser is playing ‘Russian roulette’ with their garden pollinators”. Retailers tested included Homebase and Wyevale.
5. An EU-wide moratorium, which came into force in December 2013, restricts the use of three neonicotinoids - imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam - on crops attractive to bees. It was introduced after a report by scientists at the European Food Safety Authority concluded that they posed a "high acute risk" to honey bees. The ban does not cover all neonicotinoid pesticides or all crops, such as wheat. The EU is expected to vote in the next few months on whether to extend the restrictions to all crops – and whether to make the ban permanent.
6. B&Q to ban neonicotinoid pesticides from flowering plant range to protect bees I Friends of the Earth press release.
7. Over three quarters of British public agree garden centres should not sell garden plants grown with pesticides that are harmful to bees | Friends of the Earth press release.
8. A petition from over 33,000 people, urging the government to support a permanent, comprehensive ban on all bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides, will be handed in to DEFRA later today.
Garden Centres Statements on Neonics Policy
Company: B&Q | Number of Stores: 320 | Removing neonics from flowering plants? Yes | Statement: We are now able to confirm that, to further support pollinators, we are encouraging everyone to do more for wildlife and to that end we will ensure that none of the flowering plants we sell will be grown using any pesticide containing any of the nine neonicotinoids.
Company: Homebase | Number of Stores: 265 | Removing neonics from flowering plants? No response |Statement: We continue to be guided by DEFRA and comply with EU legislation regarding the use and sale of pesticides. As the science surrounding bee populations matures, we will continue to be vigilant and remain committed to taking responsible action with regards to ranges, working closely with our suppliers and partners
Company: Wyevale Number of Stores: 151 | Removing neonics from flowering plants? Yes | Statement: Wyevale confirmed its policy is to instruct its suppliers not to use the three banned neonics: “We will be working harder to seek the clarification and removal of the three European banned neonics from the complete supply chain during 2018.”
Company: Dobbies | Number of Stores: 34 | Removing neonics from flowering plants? Yes | Statement: Dobbies does not want any of the garden plants it sells to be grown with any use of the three neonicotinoid pesticides clothianidin, imidacloprid, or thiamethoxam. We are working with our supply chain to ensure we offer products that are free of these neonicotinoids in the future.
Company: Klondyke | Number of Stores: 22 | Removing neonics from flowering plants? Yes | Statement: The Klondyke Group are working with suppliers to manage the issue with Neonicotinoid Pesticides. All of our current supply base for flowering plants do not use any of the three currently banned Neonicotinoid pesticides. Any new suppliers will be checked for the use of Neonicotinoid pesticides before they are taken on as a supplier.
Company: Blue Diamond | Number of Stores: 19 | Removing neonics from flowering plants? Yes | Statement: We do not use any of the banned (suspended / restricted) neonicotinoids. We will continue to monitor our suppliers and supply chain and endeavour to ensure our plants are not grown using harmful neonicotinoids.
Company: Notcutts| Number of Stores: 18 | Removing neonics from flowering plants? Yes| Statement: Notcutts Garden Centres does not want any of the garden plants it sells to be grown with any use of the three neonicotinoid pesticides clothianidin, imidacloprid, or thiamethoxam and will require all of our suppliers not to use these chemicals on the products they supply to us.
Company: Squire's | Number of Stores: 15 | Removing neonics from flowering plants? Yes | Statement: Three neonicotinoid pesticides - clothiandin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam - have been restricted in use by the European Union. These active ingredients may be harmful to bee populations. It is Squire’s aim not to sell plants that have been treated with these ingredients. We are in regular contact with our suppliers to ensure this is upheld.
Company: Hiller| Number of Stores: 14 | Removing neonics from flowering plants? Yes| Statement: The three EU restricted Neonicotinoids are not used by Hillier, or by any of our supply chain. Hillier Nurseries have further ceased to use any chemicals containing any Neonicotinoids in the production of wholesale ornamental crops. We have identified the companies in our supply chain who continue to use Neonicotinoids currently and we are working with them to only offer Neonicotinoid free products in the future.
Company: Hillview | Number of Stores: 11 | Removing neonics from flowering plants? No response | Statement: No response
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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust