Last month, it was reported that “roboBees”, which can actually pollinate artificially, have been developed by Japanese researchers. The motivation for this effort is the fact that forty percent of bees’ species, our natural pollinators, are nearing extinction.
One major factor driving their extinction is the uncontrolled usage of pesticides in conventional agriculture. In the recent “Swarming the Aisles II” report by Friends of the Earth, it was found out that among the 25 top food retailers, 20 have failed to protect bees, and consumers as well, from toxic pesticides.
“Food retailers are failing to protect pollinators from pesticides, a leading driver of their decline,” said Dr. Kendra Klein, senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth. Although the food retailers are committed in driving sustainability and social responsibility, the study says it turned out that majority were unsuccessful in decreasing usage of pesticides in their supply chains.
Shifting to Organic Agriculture
“One solution to the pollinator crisis is organic agriculture. Retailers must support more American farmers’ transition to organic, which is a triple win for our pollinators, farmers and all of us,” added Dr. Klein. Unlike conventional agriculture, the organic agriculture prefers utilizing 50 percent additional bees than using toxic pesticides.
“Food retailers need to phase out toxic pesticides and expand organic to distinguish themselves from the pack. We urge major U.S. food retailers to work with their suppliers to eliminate pollinator-toxic pesticides and expand domestic organic offerings,” said Lisa Archer, director of the Friends of the Earth Food and Agriculture team.
Within a year, from 2016 to 2017, a staggering 8.4 percent sales increase was achieved by the organic food sector, beating the 0.6 percent sales increase by the overall food market. The downside to this shift is the increasingly losing market share of U.S. farmers to imports.
Although the country is responsible for almost half of the organic sales worldwide, its organic farmland represents only four percent of the global farmland. Hence, in order to realize a non-toxic food system within the country, the U.S. must commit to expanding its organic farmland and homegrown organic products.
Whole Foods Leads the Pack
In the scorecard shown by the study, Whole Foods is leading the other food retailers in three categories – reducing usage of pesticides, stocking organics, and implementing a transparent policy. On the contrary, its parent company, Amazon, was rated “F” in those categories.
Publishing the scorecard was motivated by the mounting consumer pressure on food vendors to adopt more environmentally-friendly sourcing policies. This effort is in support to the targeted 15 percent increase in overall organic offerings by 2025, eradicating the usage of pesticides that are toxic to both bees and consumers.
Whole Foods is one of the six companies included in Friends of the Earth’s report that stated a clear mission and commitment to meet the current demand of consumers for organic products. The other five companies are Albertsons, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Costco, Target, and Walgreens.
Many other food retailers included in the Swarming the Aisles report are competing in selling organic foods but only a few have expressed their commitments. Since the first release of their report in October 2016, the organization Friends of the Earth observed that the food traders have shown increasing transparency and commitments to expand organic products.