Waitrose removes three neonicotinoids from supply chain

waitrose_logoWaitrose is asking suppliers of fruit, vegetables and flowers to avoid the use of three formulations of neonicotinoid based pesticides on crops destined for the supermarket. The move comes in light of concerns about their effects on bees, butterflies and other important pollinators.

Under a ‘Seven Point Plan for Pollinators’ (see below) that begins immediately, farmers supplying Waitrose are to stop using three systemic formulations of neonicotinoids by the end of 2014 at the latest. The three formulations - imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam - will no longer be used on crops attractive to bees and other pollinators. The restriction on use is a precautionary measure and will remain in place until scientists can demonstrate conclusively whether or not the formulations are adversely affecting populations of pollinator insects.

The approach will also be rolled out progressively to commodity crops such as oil seed rape on the Waitrose Farm at Leckford in Hampshire and as soon as practicable to other areas of the arable sector that supply Waitrose.

In addition the supermarket chain has announced that it will fund a significant research project with the University of Exeter into the effects on pollinators of multiple pesticide use. The work will look at the impact of combinations of neonicotinoids and other pesticides on pollinators. The results of the three year programme will be used to develop alternative methods of pest control.

Waitrose Director of Quality & Technical David Croft said: “We have been looking at pollinator health for some time in close collaboration with our fresh produce suppliers. Given the concern about these pesticides and the need to support pollinators we believe this is a responsible precautionary step as part of a wider, holistic approach under our seven point plan.

“The role of pollinating insects such as bees is crucial in sustaining agriculture in the long term, as part of a thriving ecosystem that will support food security, healthy diets and the wider agricultural economy.

“The current debate on the decline of pollinators has raised attention about the potential adverse impact of neonicotinoid pesticides. With this in mind, and in favour of strengthening pollinator presence, Waitrose is supporting a precautionary approach with these chemicals.”

Waitrose Managing Director Mark Price added: “Waitrose aims to be a restorative retailer, putting back more than we take from the environment and we believe our decision on the three formulations of neonicotinoids is appropriate until conclusive evidence is put forward about the effects of these three chemicals. This is part of a programme of action to understand better the effect that commercial farming has on pollinators and to help our farmers develop cost-effective alternative methods of pest control on their crops.

“Pollinators play a key role in the future sustainability of farming in this country and further afield, an area where Waitrose continues to lead the way through our work and close relationships with our farming suppliers, our work to help fund the Centre of Excellence for UK Farming, our work with the Soil Association Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme, on our own farm in Hampshire, and through the Waitrose Agronomy Group with our suppliers.”

The Waitrose Seven point plan for pollinators

Specifically Waitrose is:

  1. Supporting the EU's review into the use of three key neonicotinoids (imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam), on crops attractive to bees.

  2. Avoiding the use of these three neonicotinoids in our fruit, vegetable and flower supply chains for Waitrose products. This will focus on flowering plants attractive to pollinators and see these pesticides being phased out worldwide, beginning immediately and working over the next two seasons.

  3. Supporting further research into pollinators through the University of Exeter. The work will look at the impact of neonicotinoids, other pesticides and the combination of both on pollinators. The results will contribute to the development of alternative methods of pest control if the chemicals are found to have long term adverse effects. This will be a three year programme of work.

  4. Ensuring, through our farm engagement and supply chain development work via the Waitrose Farm Assessment that all fresh produce farms initially (and arable farms subsequently) monitor and develop bee/pollinator activity. This is based on our previous work with the University of Sussex, via our Agronomy Group, where Waitrose and our fresh produce suppliers work closely together to strengthen standards.

  5. Strengthening control frameworks for our commodity crop ingredients such as wheat and oil seed rape, adopting the LEAF standard in these sectors as a proven platform for future environmental development. This will support the delivery of learnings from our produce agronomy and CEUKF activity in the arable sector. Our own Waitrose farm at Leckford is already LEAF certified for these crops.

  6. Engaging our consumers including Waitrose Partners (who are co-owners of our business, as well as working in our business) to gather more data on pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, through their own observations. Customers will be asked to share their observations via web developments and apps that are being developed jointly with Earthwatch and the University of Sussex, to contribute to the growing fact base on pollinators and so help to frame future developments that support pollinators.

  7. Investing in the development of organic farming to support a wide range of crops that enable choice for consumers. Our support for organic farming also extends to funding from the sale of Duchy Originals from Waitrose that, via the Prince of Wales Charitable Trust, is enabling the Soil Association to develop and share learnings from organic farming across all farming areas to support and strengthen sustainability for the future.

Waitrose owns its own 4,000 acre farm at Leckford in Hampshire, which has been part of the John Lewis Partnership for nearly 90 years. Managed to high environmental standards, it produces a rich variety of goods for Waitrose including milk, cider, apples, mushrooms, Leckford chicken and rapeseed oil.

The Centre of Excellence for UK Farming (CEUKF) & Farming Futures

CEUKF is a pioneering supply chain partnership initially funded by Waitrose and established by the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University and the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) with an expanded membership that includes Farming Futures (www.farmingfutures.org.uk) and a number of other top UK research institutions. The Centre is designed to deliver on the current and future requirements for sustainable food supply in the UK. In order to do this, it is important to bring the best, independent research scientists in a number of disciplines together with food retailers and their supply-chain partners to work on what is a complex problem affecting us all. Professor Nigel Scollan holds the Waitrose Chair for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security at the University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS). http://www.farmingfutures.org.uk

The Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme supports innovation in sustainable agriculture. The programme helps British farmers identify and adopt practices that improve their productivity in an environmentally responsible way. The programme focuses on ecological approaches that reduce farmers’ reliance on purchased inputs. It is therefore be particularly relevant to producers who farm to organic standards, yet is open to all. The programme is funded by the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation and is delivered by the Soil Association in partnership with Duchy Originals from Waitrose and the Organic Research Centre.

The Waitrose Agronomy Group is a team of technical experts from the supplier and grower base who, since 1999, have worked with Waitrose on issues affecting horticulture to ensure our supply decisions are science based and appropriate. Currently there are 12 supplier members, one pure science member and four Waitrose technical experts. We were pioneers of this approach.

Waitrose values are defined in the four pillars of the Waitrose way which sets out its brand policy in these key areas: Championing British, Treading Lightly, Treating People Fairly and Living Well.

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