Bentonville, AR — Walmart (NYSE: WMT) announced a landmark pollinator health policy today, the most far reaching to date of any U.S. food retailer. The new policy seeks to help protect bees and other pollinators that are essential to one in three bites of food production. As the largest U.S. food retailer, Walmart’s commitment will help transform growing practices on thousands of farms globally that supply fresh fruits and vegetables to the retail giant’s U.S. consumers.
The company jumped from an “F” to first place on Friends of the Earth’s Bee-Friendly Retailer Scorecard which ranks top U.S. grocery retailers on protecting pollinators from toxic pesticides. Walmart’s commitment follows a multi-year effort urging U.S. food retailers to take action to protect pollinators led by Friends of the Earth, along with over 100 environmental, consumer, farmer, and farmworker organizations.
“Scientists across the world are sounding the alarm that we are in the midst of an ‘insect apocalypse,’ driven in large part by toxic pesticides,” said Kendra Klein, PhD, senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth. “Walmart’s policy is a major step in the right direction, but with 40% of insect pollinators facing extinction, all retailers must accelerate a race to the top before pollinators lose their race against time.”
The new policy requires all global fresh produce and floral suppliers to Walmart U.S. to adopt Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices, as verified by a third-party certifier, by 2025. Suppliers may work with any of a list of third-party certifications that were benchmarked as having meaningful IPM criteria by the IPM Institute of North America. This is the first U.S. food retailer to adopt a timebound commitment to expand ecological farming methods in its supply chain.
In an industry vulnerable to climate change and biodiversity loss, IPM guides farmers to use ecological methods that support the overall sustainability of their land. IPM can reduce use of pesticides by requiring farmers to use non-chemical approaches to manage pests first, such as rotating crops, planting resistant varieties and fostering beneficial insects.
Walmart’s policy recognizes that organic agriculture is protective of pollinator health. Organic agriculture is based on robust IPM practices, and the organic certification prohibits the use of over 900 pesticides, including those of highest concern for the health of pollinators and people, such as chlorpyrifos and neonicotinoids. Research shows that organic farming can help reverse pollinator declines.
Walmart’s policy encourages non-organic produce suppliers to phase out the use of chlorpyrifos and neonicotinoids and to avoid replacing them with other products with a level I bee precaution rating. While other major U.S. food retailers have established pollinator health policies encouraging reduction of these pesticides, only Walmart has committed to track their use in its supply chain with the goal of increasing transparency and assessing annual progress.
Along with pesticides, Walmart’s policy aims to address another driver of pollinator decline — habitat loss. It includes goals to protect, restore, and establish pollinator habitat in pollinator migration corridors and on farms in its produce supply chain.
Pollinators are essential for a sustainable food supply. Without pollinators, grocery stores would run short of a wide assortment of fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, and even chocolate and coffee. And because bees pollinate alfalfa and other crops eaten by cows, even the dairy and meat shelves could look bare without them.
Friends of the Earth fights to create a more healthy and just world. Our current campaigns focus on promoting clean energy and solutions to climate change, ensuring the food we eat and products we use are safe and sustainable, and protecting marine ecosystems and the people who live and work near them.