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What Kroger Can Do To Protect People, Pollinators and the Planet

Posted Jul. 19, 2017 / Posted by: Jason Davidson

Beekeepers, farmworkers, and concerned Cincinnati residents gathered outside of Kroger’s annual shareholder meeting on Thursday, June 22, to urge Kroger to stop selling food grown with bee-killing pesticides and offer more bee and people friendly organic food. Kroger is the largest traditional supermarket company in the U.S. However, it stocks its shelves with food grown with pesticides that are harming pollinators, people and our environment.

At the meeting, Friends of the Earth and SumOfUs delivered 417,000 petition signatures directly to Kroger’s CEO, Rodney McMullen and 36 percent of shareholders voted in favor of SumOfUs’ shareholder resolution to separate the CEO and Board Chair position to increase oversight.

Bees are responsible for one in every three bites of food we eat. Kroger’s store shelves would look drastically different if we lose these critical pollinators. Unfortunately, bees are dying at alarming rates. Toxic pesticides, especially neonicotinoids, are one of the leading drivers of both native and managed bee declines.  

Clear solutions can help address the crisis bees face, while improving our environment and protecting our health. Studies show that organic agriculture supports up to 50 percent more pollinator species than conventional, chemical-intensive industrial agriculture. Organic agriculture also maintains healthy soil and clean water and is better for our health. Consumer demand for organic food in the U.S. has risen so rapidly that domestic production can’t keep up.  

So why did we rally outside the Kroger shareholder meeting? Because, as the largest traditional supermarket chain in the U.S., Kroger has tremendous power to help protect pollinators and support a sustainable food system.  Here are three things Kroger can do to protect pollinators, people and the planet:

1) Establish a pollinator protection policy that includes the phase out of neonicotinoids, glyphosate, chlorpyrifos and other pollinator toxic pesticides as well as implementation of alternative, least-toxic pest management strategies in the company’s supply.

We continue to urge Kroger to establish a pollinator protection policy that phases out neonicotinoids, glyphosate, chlorpyrifos and other pollinator toxic pesticides as well as implementation of alternative, least-toxic pest management strategies in the company’s supply chain.

UNDERSTANDING THE ISSUE

A growing body of scientific evidence shows many of the pesticides we routinely use to grow the food we eat are of concern for pollinators. In particular, neonicotinoids (neonics) are a leading factor in pollinator declines, and glyphosate is a key culprit in monarch declines. These two chemicals are the world’s most widely used insecticides and herbicide. Neonics are used on more than 140 crops, and their use has risen dramatically as a result of soy, wheat and canola seed coatings. Recent analyses conclude that coated seeds offer little to no economic benefit to farmers, and that associated economic and environmental losses outweigh potential gains. The good news is that leading farmers are successfully farming without pollinator-toxic pesticide practices.

Protecting pollinators is in Kroger’s best interest. Here is the display we put together outside Kroger’s shareholder meeting to drive home the point that its produce section would be pretty empty if it doesn’t take steps to save the bees and our food system.

Retailers from around the country have made commitments to phase out neonicotinoids, and it’s making a big difference. The world’s largest garden retailers, including Home Depot, Lowe’s, True Value and Walmart, have all committed to eliminate neonics in garden plants and off-the-shelf products (though neither Costco nor Walmart are addressing neonics yet in food production). Costco is taking steps to push their supply chain in that same direction. On the food retailer front, Whole Foods and Aldi have taken steps to reduce food grown with neonics and other pollinator-toxic pesticides in their supply chains.

Considering the size of Kroger’s supply chain and the range of suppliers that work with the supermarket, Kroger could make a huge contribution to improving pollinator health and building a more sustainable food system by working to phase out pollinator-toxic pesticides. A commitment of this magnitude and importance would not only be a boon for the people and the pollinators who bring food to our tables, but it would help protect Kroger’s supply of a range of important foods! 

2) Increase USDA certified organic food and beverages to 15 percent of overall offerings by 2025, prioritizing domestic, regional and local producers.

Organic farming is healthier for bees, butterflies, people and the planet. Organic farms support up to 50 percent more pollinators than conventional farms, helping other beneficial insects flourish and foster biodiversity. Organic farming systems improve soil health, leading to greater water conservation and protecting and regenerating the resources we need to produce healthy food for generations to come.

Organic farming also protects the health of consumers, farmers, farmworkers and rural communities by eliminating the use of highly toxic pesticides. Along with organic production, research shows that pollinators also thrive on rangelands, making certified grass-fed and pasture-raised animal products another key part of the pollinator solution.

Consumer demand for organic products is growing by double digits each year.  Yet, U.S. production of organic crops is not keeping pace — and that’s bad news for our bees, our farmers, farmworkers and all of us. Less than one percent of total U.S. cropland is certified organic. The result is that tens of millions of dollars worth of organic food is imported from countries including Turkey, Romania, China and India to meet U.S. demand. Kroger can be a leader in supporting the expansion of domestic organic farming to support American farmers and boost rural economies while protecting our critical wild and domestic bees — and ultimately the future of our food system.

3) Publicly disclose company policies and progress related to these actions.

Take Action:

We showed up to Kroger’s annual meeting to remind shareholders of the power they have to protect pollinators and our food system. Take action by calling Kroger today and tell them to stop selling food grown with bee-killing pesticides, increase domestic organic offerings, and share their progress in meeting these goals!

Kroger number: 1-800-576-4377

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