The Co-operative prohibits eight pesticides as part of radical new ‘plan bee'

28 January 2009

The Co-operative today (28 January) became the first UK retailer to prohibit the use of a group of eight pesticides as part of a radical new ten-point plan designed to help reverse the worrying decline in the British honeybee population.

Launching Plan Bee, The Co-operative announced that it would expand its market-leading pesticide policy and temporarily prohibit the use of all eight of the neonicotinoid family of chemicals on own-brand fresh produce.

These chemicals have been implicated in honeybee colony collapse and restricted elsewhere in Europe (although not as yet in the UK), and as a precautionary measure The Co-operative Food will engage with suppliers to eliminate their usage where possible, and until such a time as they are shown to be safe. 

In addition, as part of its ten-point plan, The Co-operative will make available £150,000 for research into the decline of the honeybee. This is the UK’s largest ever private donation for bee research, and will pay particular attention to UK farming practices, the impact of pesticides and the restricted gene pool bees are derived from. In the spring of 2009, The Co-operative Farms will commence a three-year research project that will seek to identify the optimal mix of wildflowers that can be sown (in field margins and on “set-aside” land) to attract and support honeybees.

Another crucial part of Plan Bee will be awareness raising and education. The Co-operative will support the distribution of a dramatic new film that highlights the global decline in bee populations and the possible reasons behind the collapse. Over January and February, previews of the film will be shown to Co-operative members at forty locations around the UK. It will be released in cinemas across the country later in 2009.

At many of the film showings, Co-operative customers and members will receive advice on bee-friendly gardening from the RSPB, and at all they will receive free packets of specially mixed wildflower seeds and access to subsidised bee boxes and other equipment.

Paul Monaghan, Head of Social Goals at The Co-operative said: ”Nature’s number one pollinating machine appears to be breaking down and no one knows for sure why. But it’s not just pretty gardens that are at stake; one third of the average diet relies on honeybees. Last week the Government finally accepted that there was a problem, however, we are still not seeing any real recognition that pesticides could be a contributory factor.

“The great thing, though, is that we can all do our bit to turn things around. Whether it’s a lush rural retreat or tiny urban window box, we can plant and garden in ways that help the honeybee thrive. At The Co-operative we have more than three million members and we hope to educate and empower them to be ambassadors for Plan Bee.”

Simon Press, Senior Technical Manager at The Co-operative Group said: “The Group has been working with its suppliers since 2001 to reduce pesticide use and already has a market-leading pesticide policy, which prohibits the use of 98 pesticides. We believe that the recent losses in bee populations need definitive action and as a result are temporarily prohibiting the eight neonicotinoids pesticides until we have evidence that refutes their involvement in the decline.”

For more information contact: 

Dave Smith
PR Manager
The Co-operative Group
0161 827 5614
07702 152771

The ten-point Plan Bee is as follows:

The Co-operative Food will temporarily prohibit the use of neonicotinoid-based pesticides on own-brand fresh produce. These are Acetamiprid, Clothianidin, Dinotefuran, Fipronil, Imidacloprid, Nitenpyram, Thiacloprid and Thiamethoxam.

  1. £150,000 will be made available to support research into the demise of the honeybee, with a particular focus on UK farming, pesticides and gene-diversity. The largest ever private contribution to bee research in the UK.
  2. Over three years, The Co-operative Farms will trial a new wildflower seed mix that will be planted alongside crops on its farms across the UK. The Co-operative Farms is the UK’s largest farmer with more than 25,000 hectares of land under management.
  3. Co-operative Farms will invite beekeepers to establish hives on all Co-operative Farms in the UK.
  4. The Co-operative will engage its three million members in a campaign to protect and nurture the bee population in the UK, with advice and tips featuring on its website.
  5. Members will be invited to attend one of forty screenings of a special preview from a forthcoming film that addresses the decline of the worldwide bee population and the significance of the bee in food production. In addition, The Co-operative has also commissioned a new bespoke documentary on the decline of the bee population in the UK.
  6. The Co-operative will partner with RSPB’s “Homes for Wildlife” Team and empower members to garden in ways that are honeybee-friendly.
  7. An initial 20,000 packets of wildflower seed mix will be made available to members free of charge.
  8. Bee boxes are being sourced and made available to Co-operative members at discounted prices.
  9. The Co-operative will support its members and colleagues to find out more about amateur beekeeping and will encourage links between local beekeepers and members.