Will Jerry’s Stop Selling Neonics? With your Help!
Our group has bee attempting to get retailers in our community to stop selling the worst neonicotinoid insecticides. Probably the largest retailer of these products in Lane county is Jerry’s Home Improvement Centers, with two large and popular stores in Eugene and Springfield. Our estimates, from observed store traffic, number of retailers in the county, and shelf-space devoted to the chemicals is that Jerry’s is responsible for at least a third of these chemicals sold in the Eugene-Springfield area.
Jerry’s is a local, employee-owned company, so we felt that they could be approached and would be responsive to an issue which effects their customers, employees, friends and neighbors. Philip, in our group, established a convivial relationship with the Jerry’s garden center manger, Jeffery Choat, and we were eventually given VP of operations Scott Lindstrom as our point contact at Jerry’s for this issue.
Below you can see the e-mail dialog that we had with Jerry’s about this issue. Unfortunately, The Jerry’s management decided not to take any constructive action, despite our efforts to find common ground. It has been several months now, with no movement from Jerry’s. However the world has become even more aware of the problem and people everywhere are voicing their concern. In May the European Union instituted a ban on products we would like to see Jerry’s stop selling for all of Europe. Locally, the word is getting out that these chemicals are a problem. Last week’s march against Monsanto had a large contingent of beekeepers and concerned citizens demonstrating against the use of neonicotinoid insecticides.
Our online petition is close to the 500 signature mark, and we have gathered hundreds more signatures the old fashioned way. With such strong community support we expect that local companies will soon not be able to ignore their customers and will have to listen to us. Thanks to all that have signed our petition, and stay tuned for the fun to come. We need everyone to help stop the tide of chemicals flowing into the community from local retailers, poisoning all manner of beneficial insects and bees.
What follows is the e-mail dialog with links to the materials we presented to Jerry’s.
Dear Mr. Rondeau,
I am writing in response to your concerns related to neonicotinoid. I am your contact and will look into this matter. Please forward me any credible information from reliable sources including EPA, university or independent studies confirming your concerns. Our company has made no decision with respect to these chemicals at this time, but look forward to receiving valid scientific data on the issue.
I have gone to your web site and noticed you have taken a photo of our store. I am asking you respectfully to remove our name (as shown on the pricing labels) down from your web site. With three major retailers in our area selling these exact chemicals (Home Depot, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart), and two large regional chains(Bi Mart and Fred Meyer) selling these exact chemicals in our geographic area, I feel you are unjustly targeting us.
Jerry’s Home Improvement
Sorry you don’t appreciate my photo :) I was careful NOT to single out Jerry’s when I identified it as a “local garden center” because it is not just you, as you point out. If I go though the trouble of blocking out your name on all of the price labels, it will probably just draw attention to where the picture was taken by those curious to know. But if you wish, I will do so.
In the mean time let me start to send you a rather large compendium of scientific and policy papers on this issue. The scientific papers are from various journels published over the last decade or so. The policy statements are mostly involving the European process now taking place. The EPA is behind in this. I am also in touch with Oregon Dept. Agriculture people on this issue, and may have info from them as well. The issue beekeepers are facing is that the EPA has been slow to react and the devastation to honey bee colonies and native pollinator continues. Hence, our emphasis is now to look to where the policy debate HAS been moving forward, Europe, and to try to use that example to influence both private companies, such as Jerry’s and our state officials.
A good place to start is: December 2012, the European Parliament issued a report, Existing Scientific Evidence of the Effects of Neonicotinoid Pesticides on Bees also attached as a PDF. This is a shorter summary of the much larger EFSA report. It references many scientific papers. I am still going over all of this material my self, but I can point to a couple of things that I find worthy of consideration. Please look over section 6 of the above report. The issue of how we even think about low doses of extremely toxic chemicals is addressed, especially regards scientific articles by Tennekes, et.al. Attached is the one article I’ve had time to get to, but I found its implications profoundly troubling.
I also attached a paper that makes the connection between low levels of neonics and disease susceptibility. This is just one example of many, but lets start here. I can send you much more, but I would rather tailor the paper toward punch and not bulk. I can’t read it all in one sitting either!
I look forward to your comments.
I’d actually like to “make the case” in a more formal written form. This will take me longer than I have right now, but I will be sending you a little more stuff in the near future. We really appreciate your thoughtful consideration of this matter.Thanks,
I’ve run across a few materials that provide a more succinct view of pertainant information aimed for a non-expert audience. The first item is a power point presentation by a graduate student in Dr. Vera Krischik’s lab at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Krichik made headlines last year when she reported that residential application of insecticides frequently resulted that much higher levels of residual chemical in pollen and nectar than is acceptable, or occurs in agricultural crops where applicators are more knowledgeable and the chemical levels needed for specific crops are better codified. Unfortunately, Dr. Krischik’s work has not yet been published in journals. The power point by one of her grad students, however, is good in that it includes a nice tabulation of levels of exposure that are problematic and some of the levels seen in pollen and nectar of treated plants. It follows with the interesting experimental results with bumblebees. This is a large file that failed to mail… please find it here:
I also attach another article by Tennekes. This is a review article that looks beyond just honeybees at the larger implications of these toxic chemicals. He forcefully makes the case that the toxic effects of these chemicals extend beyond insects.
One problem I have had in attempting to better understand this issue is lack of good data on the amount of these chemicals actually being used, especially in homes, gardens and other suburban and urban applications (golf courses, parks, etc.) The chemical manufacturer (Bayer most often in this case) has trade marked or named consumer products that they supply for a particular use. For example, “Bayer Rose and Flower Care,” contains imidicloprid now, but has in always? Was there a Bayer Rose care product before imidocloprid was introduce (1996)? What is the sales pattern for these chemicals for residential uses over the years?
I’m wondering if you have sales information on these products you would be willing to share? Obviously Jerry’s is just one outlet, but any information is better than none, when it comes to what is happening locally.
My own observation is that the problems with crashing bee colonies in the suburban/urban areas around here have gotten significantly worse in the last couple of years. CCD hit the news in ~2006 for beekeepers with colonies placed on agricultural crops. The last couple of years we have had more problems locally. So one question I have is, when did this stuff really hit the market here? Any answer – since you folks sell it?
Dear Mr. Rondeau,
Attached you will find our summary. There is no clear cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Most of the research points to needing more research.
We believe we have a very pro environmental president with President Obama. We feel if CCD is in fact linked to neonicotinoids, banning them would have the best chance under this administration. Banning them would even the playing field for all retailers selling this product. We feel at this time we will continue selling this product until such time the EPA bans these chemicals.
Jerry’s Home Improvement
Needless to say, I’m disappointed by your decision. The reason why our group approached Jerry’s with our request is that your company is locally owned and operated. Your owners, employees and their friends and neighbors live with the chemicals you sell, so you have reason not to foul your own nest. In this country we rely on the EPA to protect us from harmful chemicals and pesticides. To a large extent they do a good job, but they are not infallible and are subject to pressure from a spectrum of special interests. As your decision illustrates, it is much easier to do nothing than to rock the boat. Human nature is to defend a bad decision to the end rather than change one’s mind. The EPA and its leadership are in this position, making a rational assessment of the risks less likely. With these insecticides already on the market, adding restrictions at this time is a much harder decision than was the permitting process in the first place.
The EU process illustrates what is required: first, a careful look at the scientific evidence, and then the application of the precautionary principle. As you point out in your survey of the current state of our knowledge, the issue of blame for the neonics is far from clear, and there is an almost universal call for more research to get to the bottom of the issue. I think we agree on the facts. The real question is whether to apply the precautionary principle or not. This is where we have to look to our community values. The EU tends to be more concerned about environmental effects than we do in the US. For example GMO’s are much more severely restricted in the EU. Our community is a little northwest of normal compared to the rest of the US. We seem to enjoy “process” here, be it over highway projects or backyard chickens and bees. We value our natural spaces, our forest lands, our gardens. We are not wont to inadvertently destroy them with toxic chemicals and we are generally willing to apply the precautionary principle. This really is the heart of our request, and is in keeping with our local community values.
I would like to stress that there is a spectrum of actions that Jerry’s could take short of removing all neonicotinoid insecticides from the shelves that would be helpful. For example, just removing products containing imidacloprid would significantly reduce the worst toxic substance the bees are exposed to in our community. Recognizing the difference in toxicity between imidacloprid and acetamiprid is reasonable, and would allow keeping quite a number of Ortho products on the shelf and provide customers who feel they need chemicals with an effective insecticide while reducing the use of the more long-lived and more toxic imidacloprid.
Other actions Jerry’s could take that fall short of voluntarily removing the problematic chemicals would be just to not actively promote them. Reduce shelf space devoted to the imidicloprid products. Instruct staff about the alternatives and promote safer products. Remove impulse-buy displays located in high-traffic store locations. Compared to other big-box stores in the area Jerry’s devotes more display space to these chemicals than any other retailer.
Finally, help us to understand the problem better. Jerry’s is one of the bigger retailers of these products in the area. Sales history of products containing imidacloprid could help us understand how much recent bee colony losses in the urban community are related to insecticide use or NOT.
We are not asking Jerry’s to be the most environmentally friendly store in our community, but we certainly hope you won’t be among the worst. Jerry’s business relies on good community relationships. Many of us choose to shop at Jerry’s because we value our local employee-owned company over national big box chains. The flip-side, however, is that Jerry’s needs to be attuned to our community values or there is little reason for our loyalty.
I certainly hope that there is still progress to be made on this issue, and would welcome a meeting in person if that would be helpful.