|Editorial PN 93|
In 2009, PAN UK assessed the ten leading UK supermarkets on their pesticide policies. Two years on and we have repeated the exercise to see what progress (if any) retailers have made (page 20). This time around we supplemented the supermarkets’ own information with questionnaires and interviews to try to dig deeper and get a better picture of their performance. Once again the Co-operative and Marks and Spencer have come top. These two retailers are streets ahead of their competitors in developing and implementing ambitious pesticide policies. Importantly, these companies also support their suppliers to help them comply with their demands. Both of these retailers are well advanced in phasing out endosulfan so that the recent decision of the Stockholm Convention to ban this chemical will only have a limited impact on their supply chains. This is a clear example where acting proactively to address an environmental and social problem results in a competitive advantage.
Meanwhile, Aldi and Lidl remain firmly at the bottom of the table. Their performance in the UK is particularly disappointing given that their German parents appear to be much more progressive. Most of the remaining supermarkets, while not in the same league as the two leaders have improved their performance, with the exception of Sainsbury’s which has dropped back. Many of the supermarkets have begun to promote activities that support pollinators, but only one – the Co-op – has taken steps to restrict the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. The UK government has steadfastly resisted calls to ban these systemic pesticides which have been implicated in serious bee declines because they say the link is not clear enough. However, evidence is mounting. On page 19 we report from Italy which introduced a precautionary ban on neonicotinoid use on maize in 2008.Winter losses of beehives have halved since the ban started, and bee deaths related to maize have plummeted. This should act as a wake up call for those countries – including the UK – which continue to dither over introducing their own bans. One of the striking features of the Italian research is that maize yields have not suffered as a result of the ban, demonstrating that there are many alternatives available. Biological control is proving a popular – and effective – pest control strategy worldwide, and on p12 we learn how it is making dramatic inroads in Brazil which is, paradoxically, the world’s biggest user of synthetic pesticides.
Pesticides have long caused problems in Africa and two articles in this issue (p9 and p16) outline steps that PAN partners are taking to raise awareness and improve pesticide management on the continent.
It is with great sadness that we report on the death of Nobel Laureate, and founder of the Green Belt Movement,Wangari Maathai (see p5). Dr Maathai spoke eloquently about the links between poverty and environmental degradation and was a champion for rural women in particular. Her work was an inspiration for us all and she will be sorely missed.