A new billboard has downtown Cincinnati buzzing.
The image: a dying bumblebee crumpled on its side, pleading “Help!”
The words: “Kroger, say NO to toxic pesticides.”
Friends of the Earth, an environmental organization with offices in Washington, D.C. and Berkeley, California, recently placed the striking billboard on Fort Washington Way to call attention to Kroger’s alleged use of pesticides that they say are harming local and national bee populations. Representatives of the organization say they are particularly concerned about pesticides within the food and beverage supply chains at Kroger, which is headquartered in Cincinnati and is the nation’s largest supermarket based on 2019 retail sales.
“Scientists across the world are warning that we are in the midst of an ‘insect apocalypse,’ largely driven by toxic pesticides,” Kendra Klein, Ph.D., senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth, says in an emailed statement. “Kroger must take urgent action to save bees and other pollinators, which are essential for one in three bites of food, before it’s too late.”
As part of its sustainability efforts, Kroger released a “pollinator protection statement” in 2019 outlining the bee-friendly steps it both already had taken and planned to take in the future. The statement focuses on Kroger’s elimination or reduction of neonicotinoids — insecticides that many environmentalists claim are the most harmful to bees — in live plant sales and outdoor flowers.
But that statement doesn’t specifically address pesticides within Kroger’s supply chains for its retail food and beverage lines, Friends of the Earth claims. The organization is urging Kroger to adopt specific policies in all aspects of business to better protect pollinators, citing favorable policies of competing retailers Giant Eagle, Costco and Albertsons.
“Giant Eagle has the industry-leading pesticide policy, which commits the company to eliminate use of neonicotinoids in its produce supply chain, a step which Friends of the Earth encourages Kroger to follow,” Friends of the Earth says in its statement.
At time of publishing, Kroger did not respond to multiple emails from CityBeat requesting comment.
Friends of the Earth says that its billboard stinging Kroger is part of a years-long collection of efforts backed by more than 100 environmental, consumer, farmer and farmworker organizations.