Gardeners Beware: Poison in Your Garden

Beyond Toxics LogoFOR THE PRESS

To contact Beyond Toxics, please call or email:

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director
Beyond Toxics
Phone: 541-465-8860 |

Press Conference: Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Time: 11:00-11:30AM
Address: 436 West 21 Ave., Eugene 97405 (across from Washington Park, a pesticide free city park in Friendly Neighborhood)
Visuals: Active bee hive, dead bees, examples of flowers tested for this report, pesticide-free garden and city park.
Photos and B-Roll available for download below.
For Interview: Lisa Arkin (Beyond Toxics), Philip Smith (Oregon Sustainable Bee Keepers), Jen and Doug Hornaday (Healthy Gardens=Healthy Bees)

Poison in Your Garden:
New tests find bee-killing pesticides in 51% of “bee-friendly” plants from garden centers across U.S. and Canada

[Eugene, OR ]– Many “bee-friendly” home garden plants sold at Home Depot (NYSE: HD), Lowe’s (NYSE: LOW) and Walmart (NYSE: WMT) have been pre-treated with pesticides shown to harm and kill bees, according to a study released today by Friends of the Earth and allies, including Beyond Toxics.

The study, Gardeners Beware 2014, shows that 36 out of 71 (51 percent) of garden plant samples purchased at top garden retailers in 18 cities in the United States and Canada contain neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides -- a key contributor to recent bee declines. Some samples contained very high neonic levels in the flowers. Those levels raise alarm bells as it is possible that the pollen and nectar from the flowers could severely harm or even kill bees.

The study is a larger follow up to a first-of-its-kind pilot study released by Friends of the Earth last August. The new study expanded the number of samples and number of locations where plants were purchased, and also assessed the distribution of neonic pesticides between flowers and the rest of the plant.

“The high percentage of contaminated plants and their neonicotinoid concentrations indicate that many gardens with ‘bee-friendly plants’ may actually be harming bees,” said Lisa Archer, director of the Food & Technology program at Friends of the Earth-U.S. “Most gardeners have no idea that their gardens may be a source of harm to bees.”

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director of Beyond Toxics of Oregon, stated, “We are calling on retailers to get neonicotinoid pesticides out of their plants and off their shelves. Until then, gardeners should buy organic plants to ensure the safety of bees.” Oregon has suffered at least three high-profile bee die-offs during 2014 Pollinator Week. The bee deaths were linked to neonicotinoid sprays on trees.

“Our data indicate that many plants sold in nurseries and garden stores across the U.S. and Canada are being pre-treated with systemic neonicotinoid insecticides, making them potentially toxic to pollinators,” said Timothy Brown, Ph.D., co-author of the report from the Pesticide Research Institute. “Unfortunately, these pesticides don’t break down quickly so these flowers could be toxic to bees for years to come.”

“Pollinator decline is a grave concern for farmers and consumers world-wide,” said Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon). “I am deeply concerned about the findings in this report, which illustrates why passing our Save America’s Pollinators Act is so urgent.” Blumenauer introduced the Save America’s Pollinators Act (HR 2692), which directs the Environmental Protection Agency to suspend use of the most bee-toxic neonicotinoids for use in seed treatment, soil application, or foliar treatment on bee attractive plants, and to review these neonicotinoids and make a new determination about their proper application and safe use.

“I was pleased to see the White House call for the establishment of a Pollinator Health Task Force, which is a positive step. I will continue to urge the EPA to both expedite its review of neonicotinoid pesticides, and, in the meantime, suspend their use until the agency has thoroughly demonstrated that these pesticides do not pose a threat to pollinators,” Blumenauer stated.

Bees and other pollinators, essential for the two-thirds of the food crops humans eat every day, are in decline in countries around the world. The European Union banned the three most widely used neonicotinoids, based on strong science indicating that neonics can kill bees outright and make them more vulnerable to pests, pathogens and other stressors.

A new meta-analysis of 800 peer-reviewed studies released yesterday by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides – a group of global, independent scientists – confirms neonics are a key factor in bee declines and are harming beneficial organisms essential to functional ecosystems and food production, including soil microbes, butterflies, earthworms, reptiles, and birds. The Task Force called for immediate regulatory action to restrict neonicotinoids.

Neonicotinoid insecticides have been responsible for several high profile bee kills from high doses of the pesticides, but a strong and growing body of science shows that neonics contribute to impairment in reproduction, learning and memory, hive communications and immune response at doses far below those that cause bee kills. In this study, all of the nursery plant samples where neonics were detected have the potential to harm or even kill bees.

More than half a million Americans have signed petitions demanding that Lowe’s and Home Depot stop selling neonics. In the face of mounting evidence and growing consumer demand, nearly a dozen nurseries, landscaping companies and retailers, including BJ's Wholesale Club with more than 200 locations in 15 states, are taking steps to eliminate bee harming pesticides from their garden plants and their stores.
“A growing number of responsible retailers have decided to be part of the solution to the bee crisis and are taking bee-harming pesticides off their shelves,” said Lisa Archer, director of the Food & technology program at Friends of the Earth-U.S. “We urge Home Depot, Lowe’s and other major retailers to join these leaders in making our backyards and communities safe havens for bees.”

A majority of the UK’s largest garden retailers, including Homebase, B&Q and Wickes, have already voluntarily stopped selling neonics.

In addition to pressuring retailers, U.S. groups are calling for the government to restrict neonics in the United States as they have in the EU. Despite more than a million public comments urging swift protections for bees, the EPA has delayed taking substantive action on neonicotinoids until registration review is complete.

In 2013, U.S Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.) introduced the “Saving America’s Pollinators Act” which seeks to suspend the use of neonics on bee-attractive plants until EPA reviews all available data, including field studies. This bill has bi-partisan support and 65 cosponsors.


The Report Gardeners Beware 2014: Bee-Toxic Pesticides Found in “Bee-Friendly” Plants Sold at Garden Centers in the U.S. and Canada, tips for consumers and a complete list of the co-releasing organizations and cities where plant samples were gathered can be found at

Friends of the Earth – U.S., founded by David Brower in 1969, is the U.S. voice of the world’s largest federation of grassroots environmental groups, with a presence in 74 countries. Friends of the Earth works to defend the environment and champion a more healthy and just world.

Pesticide Research Institute is an environmental consulting firm providing research, analysis, technical services and expert consulting on the chemistry and toxicology of pesticides.

Friends of the Earth U.S., the Pesticide Research Institute and SumOfUs, are releasing the report today with American Bird Conservancy, Bee Safe Neighborhoods, Beyond Pesticides, Beyond Toxics, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Ecology Center, Environment New York, Environment Texas, Environmental Youth Council, Food and Water Watch, Friends of the Earth Canada, Georgia Organics, Green America, Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association, Maryland Pesticide Network, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, Organic Consumers Association, Pesticide Action Network North America, Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Save our Environment, Toxics Action Center, Toxic Free North Carolina, Turner Environmental Law Clinic, and The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in the following cities: Ann Arbor, MI, Atlanta, GA, Austin, TX, Boulder, CO, Boston, MA, Baltimore area, MD, Eugene, OR, London, Ontario, Minneapolis, MN, Montreal, Quebec, New York, New York, Portland, ME, Raleigh, NC, Sacramento, CA, San Francisco, CA, St. Augustine, FL, Vancouver, British Columbia and Washington, DC.


How Your Bee-Friendly Garden May Actually Be Killing Bees

Eugene area reporting:
Jefferson Public radio:
"Bee Friendly" Plants Can Be Poisonous To Pollinators (June 25, 2014)

Treated plants put bees at risk, study says
But neonicotinoids were not detected in retail plant samples taken in Eugene
By Saul Hubbard, Eugene Register-Guard (JUNE 26, 2014)

Are the flowers you buy at big box stores poisonous to bees? (June 25, 2014)


 Links to B-Roll:

Links to short videos with narration:

Beyond Toxics' Mission
Beyond Toxics works to guarantee environmental protections and health for all communities and residents, regardless of their background, income or where their home is located. We expose root causes of toxic pollution and help communities find solutions that are appropriate to their needs.

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Lisa Arkin, Executive DirectorLisa Arkin, Executive Director (photos)



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