Popcorn giant commits to following Pop Weaver’s lead in commitment to phase out bee-toxic seed coatings
November 25, 2015 (WASHINGTON, DC)—Center for Food Safety (CFS) today congratulated Pop Secret, owned by Diamond Foods (DMND), for taking a bold step towards removing bee-toxic insecticides from their popcorn supply. In October, CFS launched a campaign urging the company to phase out the use of neonicotinoid seed coatings. In an email to CFS late last week, Pop Secret committed to following the same phase-out plan as one of their suppliers, Pop Weaver. The plan includes “removing 50% of its neonicotinoids usage in 2016, 75% in 2017, with a long-term commitment of further reducing usage by working with agricultural universities and those companies supplying neonicotinoids to the seed industry.” This is the now the second U.S. food company to commit to phasing out uses of neonicotinoid seed coatings.
“It’s really encouraging to see leaders in the popcorn industry respond to consumer demands and make these commitments to protect bees and the environment,” said Larissa Walker, pollinator program director at Center for Food Safety. “The popcorn industry has the ability to instigate a much-needed transition to more sustainable growing practices, and we’re looking to other companies to join Pop Secret and Pop Weaver as they work to improve their supply chains.”
Details of Pop Weaver and Pop Secret’s phase-out plan have yet to be released. “We have offered to work with both Pop Weaver and Pop Secret to effectively reach these benchmarks and ultimately phase out the use of bee-toxic seed coatings all together,” said Walker. There are roughly 40 insecticides currently registered for use as an active chemical on popcorn, including 3 bee-toxic neonicotinoid chemicals: clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and imidacloprid. Between 79 and 100 percent of corn seed in the U.S. is coated with neonicotinoids, and popcorn is no exception.
Seed coatings are a common but relatively new method of applying pesticides to crops. The seed is covered with the pesticide or pesticide mixture (fungicide, herbicide, and insecticide combinations are common), allowing the chemicals to be taken up into the plant as it grows – ultimately rendering the whole plant toxic. Yet only 5% of the active chemical pesticide on the seed coating enters the plant, leaving the remaining 95% to enter the environment through seed dust or soil contamination and water runoff.
The widespread use of neonicotinoid seed coatings on popcorn is particularly alarming because of their documented harm to pollinator species, like bees, that are vital to our food supply and environment. To date, more than 4 million Americans have called on the government to take stronger actions to protect bees from toxic pesticides like neonicotinoids.
Pop Weaver and Pop Secret are not alone in taking action to protect bees from neonicotinoids: In 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that their agency is banning neonicotinoid insecticides from being used on all wildlife refuges nationwide by January 2016. The European Union has a moratorium on the most toxic uses of neonicotinoids. The Province of Ontario, Canada plans to reduce the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-coated corn and soybean seeds by 80 percent by 2017. And just last week, the Province of Quebec, Canada also announced plans to restrict uses of neonicotinoids.