Recommendations for UK supermarkets

PAN UK is calling for supermarkets to take a range of measures to reduce pesticide-related harms linked to their operations. Below is a list of our full recommendations. As revealed by our ranking, the efforts made by different supermarkets vary greatly, so some supermarkets will be taking many of the actions listed below, while others far fewer. However, no supermarket is even close to adopting all the measures listed so they all have a way to go.

As a starting point, PAN UK would urge all supermarkets to state clearly in their company policies that their aim is to reduce both pesticide use and pesticide-related harms linked to their global supply chains. This will send a clear message to their suppliers about their direction of travel and provide their customers with confidence that their supermarket is working to better protect human health and environment from pesticides.

PAN UK’s ranking assessed supermarkets on eight key topics related to pesticides and our specific recommendations are presented below. We are calling for supermarkets to:

1. Support their suppliers to reduce pesticide use and adopt genuine Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approaches through the following actions:

  • Conduct research into IPM techniques and sharing it with all their suppliers, as well as making it publicly available.
  • Provide training and develop practical guidance documents on pesticide reduction and IPM.
  • Offer bespoke advice to farmers and growers on how to adopt IPM techniques.
  • Enable farmers and growers to come together and share learnings on IPM with each other by establishing grower groups.
  • Put in place measures to reduce the post-harvest use of pesticides such as ensuring that fresh produce is packed and stored well.
  • Prioritise the development of IPM strategies to replace active substances included in the PAN International List of Highly Hazardous Pesticides.

2. Stringently monitor pesticide residues and take action to reduce residues in food through the following actions:

  • Test a wide variety of products for pesticide residues including, but not limited to, fruit and vegetables, wheat and other cereal products, rice, meat, fish and dairy.
  • Prioritise the following active substances when testing for residues;
    • Those listed in the PAN International List Of Highly Hazardous Pesticides
    • Those banned for use by the EU for which permissible residue levels are set at 0.
    • Possible, probable, and known carcinogens and Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs)
  • Include random sampling of products from across the global supply chain in their residue testing programmes to discourage bad agricultural practice by suppliers.
  • Have in place stringent and timely action plans for dealing with problems of high residues, including working with specific suppliers to reduce pesticide use and adopt non-chemical alternatives.

3. Phasing out the most hazardous pesticides from their global supply chains through the following actions:

  • Take a precautionary approach by phasing out the use of the most hazardous pesticides.
  • Adopt the PAN International List of Highly Hazardous Pesticides as the basis of their monitored, restricted and prohibited lists.
  • Regularly review and update their monitored, restricted and prohibited lists in line with the latest scientific research and regulatory decisions.

4. Proactively communicate with customers to drive a change in attitudes which enables a reduction in pesticide use. Specifically, encourage customers to:

  • Buy fruit and vegetables which aren’t cosmetically perfect, thereby reducing the need for cosmetic pesticides.
  • Accept that they may occasionally find a ‘bug’ (ether a pest or a beneficial) in fresh produce they buy.
  • Accept that not all fresh produce will be available all year round.

5. Reduce the harm caused to bees and pollinators by their operations by taking a range of actions including but not limited to:

  • Ban the three bee-toxic neonicotinoids clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam (which were banned by the EU in 2018) from use anywhere in the company’s global supply chains.
  • End the use of other pesticides shown to be harmful to bees and other pollinators, including but not limited to acetamiprid, fipronil, sulfloxaflor, flupyradifurone and permethrin.
  • Provide support such as training, guidance documents and advice to all suppliers to adopt pollinator-friendly practices such as leaving field margins uncultivated.
  • Require suppliers to monitor pollinator activity and provide data to the company.
  • Support research on the effect of pesticides on pollinators, pollinator-health on suppliers’ farms and alternative non-chemical practices.
  • Create forums to bring farmers together to share tips and advice on protecting pollinators.
  • Engage in the process around the UK Government’s National Pollinator Strategy.

6. Become more transparent about pesticides by making a range of information publically available, including but not limited to:

  • Detailed results of their residue testing programme.
  • The company’s pesticide policy, including plans for reduction.
  • Lists of specific pesticides (active substances) which the company monitors, restricts and prohibits.
  • Case studies of best practice by suppliers to reduce pesticide use and adopt non-chemical alternatives.

7. Immediately end the sale of synthetic pesticide products in their stores and online.

8. Increase efforts to boost organic sales as part of a pesticide reduction strategy including:

  • Increase the range of organic products on offer.
  • Offer deals and discounts on organic products to encourage customers buy them.
  • Conduct proactive marketing and advertising of organic products.
Ask your supermarket to take action on pesticides