GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! NEONICS I. Gardeners: neonic-coated seeds, the flowers in our gardens, lethal to pollinators & bees


Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner and family to an ‘organic practices’ beekeeper

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.


Dear fellow Honest Weight Food Co-op (HWFC) Member-Owners, food co-op lovers, and gardeners,

Today, I’m initiating a series about neonicotinoids, insecticides which have been implicated in massive numbers of pollinator deaths, as well as honey bee die-offs, called colony collapse disorder (CCD).

Since it is the fall planting season and many co-op families are busy planting, I’m leading off this series with a neonicotinoid-warning to gardeners.


“Homeowners are planting flowers in their yards thinking they’re helping bees and they’re basically planting poison plants…”

Erin MacGregor-Forbes, Maine Beekeeper

from The Case of The Vanishing Bees by Tom Turner
Posted on Earthjustice

A relatively new industrial agriculture (BIG Ag) practice is the coating of seeds with neonicotinoids (‘new nicotine-like insecticides’ or ‘neonics’), 1 an insecticide which damages the central nervous system of honey bees and pollinators and can cause paralysis and death. Neonics have been clearly implicated in colony collapse disorder (CCD) and massive honey and bumble bee die-offs across the country. 2

Since the mid-2000s, when this practice gained strong momentum, BIG Ag has been routinely coating the seeds of many mono-crops with these pesticides; corn – America’s no. 1 cash crop – soy, wheat, cotton, sunflowers, 3 potatoes, canola (oilseed rape), sugar beets, 4 many cereal grains and legumes, and some vegetables are only some examples of the mono-crops which are getting this seed treatment, both here in the US and throughout the world.

It was also in the mid-2000s that the United States – in a never-seen-like-this-before calamity! – began losing, on average, one third of its managed honey bees annually, as estimated by researchers; a horrific trend which has continued to this day and, in many states, has gotten even worse. 5

71 to nearly 100 percent of the corn seed used in the US today is treated with neonics; a majority of soybean seeds are, as well. Farmers report it is all but impossible to buy corn seed that has not been neonic treated. Seed companies have been steadily increasing the amount of this pesticide used per seed, to the point where some seeds are now routinely being coated with five times the original amounts used!

Neonics are the most widely-used insecticide in the world today. In the US, there are six neonics, called ‘active ingredients,’ registered by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) for agricultural use: imidacloprid (the most widely-used, worldwide), acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, thiacloprid, and thiamethoxam (nitenpyram, a seventh, is not registered for used in agriculture). They are being used extensively in (non-organic) agriculture as a foliar spray, in soil drenching, in tree trunk injections, and as a coating for seeds.

It is noteworthy that three neonics were banned in the EU in 2013 for two years, for use on bee-attractive, flowering crops (e.g. corn, sunflowers and canola), and their use was also restricted on ornamental crops (e.g. annuals and perennials). The EU is currently reviewing this ban with the possibility of making it permanent.

It was only very recently, that researchers began to investigate just how pervasive the use of neonic-coated seeds is in the US. As it turns out, the federal government wasn’t even gathering stats about the use of neonic-coated seeds because, under EPA guidelines, it is not considered a pesticide application! 6 This 2015 study, by Margaret R. Douglas and John F. Tooker from Penn State University, states:

“…We synthesized publicly available data to estimate and interpret trends in neonicotinoid use since their introduction in 1994, with a special focus on seed treatments, a major use not captured by the national pesticide-use survey …

… It is remarkable that almost the entire area of the most widely grown crop in the U.S. (i.e., maize) is now treated with an insecticide, yet we have no public survey data reflecting this trend… 7

Pesticide-coating of seeds represents a frightening paradigm shift in pesticide deployment; instead of using pesticides after pests become evident, BIG Ag now prophylactically treats all the seeds of particular crops, before they are even planted.

According to a 2016 Minnesota Department of Agriculture report, neonics in the US are being used primarily as seed treatments. Of those seed treatments, 80% consist of neonic pesticides.

According to this report, Pollinators and Pesticides, by the Center for Food Safety:

“From 2009-2011, over 3.5 million pounds of neonicotinoids were applied to roughly 127 million acres of agricultural crops annually across the United States.” 8

With 3.5 million pounds of neonicotinoids applied annually to US crops – covering an area which represents approximately one twelfth the area of the US, minus Hawaii and Alaska – how can it be that the EPA does not consider this seed-coating a pesticide application, when we are blanketing our farmland and ecosystem with a toxic load of neonics each and every year? (see 6)

The BIG Ag practice of coating seeds in neonic pesticides also extends to annuals – flowering, as well as vegetable & herb plants – perennials, bulbs, rhizomes, larger ornamentals (shrubs), and indoor potted plants.


Flowers are the primary source of honey bees’ food, from which they gather pollen & nectar. It takes the entire lifetime of each of ten, nectar-gathering field bees – each of whom live for six weeks during the summer – to make 1 teaspoon of honey. Notice the soft, fine hairs of this honey bee; her ‘fur’ collects and moves pollen from one flower to another.

Neonics are also being used extensively in other landscape applications, by both homeowners and landscape professionals, including as foliar sprays, soil drenching of turf and trees, and trunk injections.

That there is a pervasive BIG Ag, industry-wide practice of coating seeds with a toxic, systemic pesticide is a fact not well known by most people, let alone home gardeners.

Millions of American home gardeners are – every spring, every fall – transporting hundreds of thousands of flowering annuals and perennials to our homes and gardens – each of our front & backyards, porches, decks, sidewalks, mailboxes, bird feeders, window boxes, and railings decorated with a profusion of beautiful blooms and blossoms – with absolutely no idea that we are poisoning the honey bees and pollinators, for whom a flower is an essential source of food.



“I was asked yesterday by Minnesota Public Radio reporter Dan Gunderson how long I thought we had before disaster struck. ‘How long?’ I answered. ‘It isn’t a question of how long any more, the disaster is here.'”

New York commercial beekeeper Jim Doan forced out of business by pesticide losses
Tom Theobald, Colorado beekeeper

Neonics are systemic, water-soluble pesticides, meaning the pesticide doesn’t simply remain on the surface of the plant. It, instead, travels through a plant’s vascular system, permanently poisoning the plant for the life of the plant: roots, stems, leaves, fruit, berries, flowers, nectar and pollen.

In pollinators, the poisoning by neonics is cumulative; each and every time a honey bee, for example, visits a stand of neonic-tainted clover blossoms in a day, her own neuro-toxicity increases.

Neonics are  – just like the systemic DDT about which Rachel Carson warned in her 1962 book, Silent Spring – very toxic to the living things in an ecosystem, enduring, and their use creates unintended & dire consequences.

However, the DDT Rachel Carson warned about pales in comparison to the toxicity of neonics. Some neonics are, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, “…at least 5,000 to 10,000 times more toxic to bees than DDT… .” 9 These pesticides are, therefore, highly toxic to honey bees and pollinators in tiny amounts.

Furthermore, when some neonics breakdown, these metabolites can be 10-16 times more toxic to pollinators!

The maximum annual usage of DDT in the US (which occurred in 1959) was 80 million pounds. Using the 2009 figure for US neonic usage (which he found was 3.4 million pounds), beekeeper Tom Theobald estimated (given that neonics are 5,000 – 10,000 times more toxic than DDT and he used the more conservative figure of 5,000) that, per year:

“We are now drenching American farmland with the equivalent of 17.5 billion pounds of DDT.” 10

These statistics alone should put to rest any question that neonicotinoid pesticides are causing great harm to bees - and pollinators - in the United States. Our environment is a frighteningly more poisonous and toxic place than Rachel Carson could ever have imagined.

“One of the most concerning aspects about neonicotinoid seed treatments is their propensity for contaminating the environment: when used as a coating on seeds, only 1.6-2.0% of the amount of the active chemical applied actually enters the crop itself, leaving the remainder of the chemical coating to pollute the environment.” 11

When neonic-coated seeds are first sown, a pesticide dust cloud is released into the wind, contaminating neighboring fields, flower-rich hedgerows (including, for example, nearby organic wildflower habitats 12) and pollinators, which can be harmed on both a contact and an oral basis by some neonics. This pesticide’s water solubility makes it especially dangerous as it very easily travels everywhere, ultimately contaminating our ground water, ponds, rivers, streams, and wetlands. That there is a ‘downstream’ effect to land and water invertebrates, as well as bats and insect-feeding woodland birds, is a given.

This neonic dust, by the way, can also include talc or graphite (used as seed lubricants with forced air seed planters). According to a 2012 Purdue University study in Indiana, this contaminated talc is “light“and “mobile” and “…the exhausted talc showed extremely high levels of the insecticides – up to about 700,000 times the lethal contact dose for a bee…” 13

The article continues:

” ‘Whatever was on the seed was being exhausted into the environment,’ Krupke said. ‘This material is so concentrated that even small amounts landing on flowering plants around a field can kill foragers or be transported to the hive in contaminated pollen. This might be why we found these insecticides in pollen that the bees had collected and brought back to their hives.'” 14

Is anyone researching the damage which tons of airborne, (non-purified?) talc itself might be inflicting upon pollinators and the environment (and anyone in proximity to talc-contaminated air and fields), in addition to the neonics in the talc itself?

What is the impact of talc (and/or graphite), being brought back to the hive in the pollen which field bees collect? 15

[See these images, detailing the US increase in the use of seed treatments of just one neonic, imidacloprid, from 2000 –  2014.]

Neonics, doing double damage, degrade slowly as they continue to poisonand they are taken up by neighboring plants. In soil, neonics have a half-life of between 148 days to as long as nineteen years. These pesticides accumulate with each application, creating, of farmland – of your garden – year-by-year, an increasingly toxic environment for pollinators.

It was absolutely shocking to discover that one of the seeds available with a neonic-coating – used as a cover & rotational crop and to seed pasture is clover. Clover is a favorite flower of honey bees; how many millions of us of us enjoy our clover honey! Pasture sown with this seed will subject bees – who will return multiple times throughout the day – to longterm, low level (sublethal) exposure to toxic neonics, poisoning of the hive, and eventual, likely, colony collapse. 16

Gardeners, what kind of world are we allowing wherein a simple flower has become, to a bee, a poisonous bio-hazard?


Home gardeners, and their pollinators, may be exposed to much higher concentrations of neonics – in landscape ornamentals, annuals, perennials and through landscape contractor practices and homeowner application – than those allowed for in large-scale, commercial agricultural crops:

"Products [neonicotinoids] approved for home and garden use may be applied to ornamental and landscape plants, as well as turf, at significantly higher rates (potentially 120 times higher) than those approved for agricultural crops." 17
One report from 2014 revealed, "Amounts used on ornamentals lead to residues 12-16 times greater than found on crop plants." 18

You cannot wash, soak or scrub this pesticide off. It creates, of any new plant you bed into your garden, a neonic-producing factory, poisoning everything it produces – including the pollen and nectar – for the life of that plant (please read, here).

Your own backyard garden can become a source of this toxic poison, exposing the honey bees, bumblebees, butterflies and monarchs, moths, beetles, lady bugs, native pollinators, hummingbirds, birds, bats (and earthworms) which visit your garden to sublethal (enough to harm but not kill) or lethal doses of neonics.

To be blunt: the beautiful flowers in your own garden, which woo the pollinators, may be wooing them to their death. 19

BeesKnees (2)

The yellow sacs – ‘pollen baskets’ – on this bee are packed to the brim with pollen, gathered from flowers and stored for delivery to the hive, behind the bee’s knees – hence the term ‘The Bee’s Knees!’ Make sure you only purchase local, ‘certified organic’ plants so the pollen which visiting honey bees collect in your garden is free of neonicotinoids.

According to a recent UN report put out by its Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity Ecosystem Services (IPBES), some pollinators – up to 40% in some locations! – are now facing extinction.

The IUCN stated in a 2014 report that 9% of all bees and almost 24% of bumblebees in Europe are now threatened with extinction.

On March 21, 2017 – just six month ago – the rusty patched bumble bee became the first bee in the continental United States to be federally-protected under the Endangered Species Act. This should be a day of mourning for all those who cherish bees and should serve as an urgent wake-up call: for with bees as an ‘indicator species,‘ alerting us as to the health (or illness) of an ecosystem, are we now in trouble?

[Right now, please watch this documentary, A Ghost in the Making Searching for the Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee, by Clay Bolt.]

“…even tiny doses
of a neonicotinoid pesticide
called imidacloprid reduce the amount
of pollen collected by bumblebee colonies by 57
percent, and … the effects last for at least
a month after exposure.” 20

To help you understand neonicotinoids and the poisoning of bees, birds and beneficial insects – from the perspective of an Integrative Pest Management (IPM) specialist – I cannot recommend this publication highly enough: the nonprofit Bio-Integral Resource Center’s April 2014 Special Edition Quarterly, entitled Neonicotinoids, Bees, Birds and Beneficial Insects. It’s short; please read it cover-to-cover.

“The major risk [to birds] is seed

treatments; one imidacloprid treated

corn seed, 3-4 cereal seeds,

or 4-5 canola seeds

can be lethal

to the

average bird.” 21

William Quarles, PhD, IPM Specialist, Executive Director of the Bio-Integral Resource Center (BIRC)



“A single corn plant grown from an imidacloprid-treated seed will have access to 1.34 milligrams (mg) of imidacloprid from the soil it is grown in. In contrast, the recommended label application rate for a perennial nursery plant in a three-gallon pot is 300 mg of imidacloprid, an amount that is 220 times more imidacloprid per plant.”

Gardeners Beware:Bee-Toxic Pesticides Found in “Bee-Friendly”
Plants Sold at Garden Centers Nationwide

Friends of the Earth, 2013

Honey bees can travel up to three miles from their hive, however, they will tend to stay within a mile, or so, from home. Flowers are honey bees’ only source of food (with a few minor exceptions) and it may be in your garden where they are getting pollen (when fermented with nectar it becomes “bee bread,” their source of protein) and nectar (when fermented it becomes “honey,” their source of carbohydrate).

Your garden flowers are their kitchen larder!

It is not well-known that honey bees also store water in the hive. Have a source of fresh water for visiting honey bees and pollinators, especially during the hot days of summer. (Use a shallow container and place stones in it, so the honey bees have a place to land.)

A Friends of the Earth (FoE) pilot study, 22 released in 2013, Gardeners Beware: Bee-Toxic Pesticides Found in “Bee-Friendly” Plants Sold at Garden Centers Nationwide, reported that at major retailers across the country, 7 out of 13 flowering garden plants tested contained neonics. In 2014, Mother Earth News recommended only buying “certified organic transplants.” 23

A follow-up FoE study – Gardeners Beware 2014 – demonstrated the sheer, devilish perversity pervading the gardening industry: over half of the ‘bee-friendly plants’ tested, were, themselves poisoned with neonicotinoids, with no warning whatsoever provided to the consumer!

Bees, in particular, are extremely sensitive to, thus easily harmed by, neonicotinoids. These poisoned ‘bee-friendly’ plants, when transplanted to your garden, will harm or kill visiting bees…

…and you will never even know it happened.

In 2016, even though the new FoE report indicated there is progress, it was shocking to see favorite annuals like coreopsis, salvia and petunias as testing extremely high in neonic residues. This FoE report shows that most large retailers are implementing plans to eliminate neonics from their plant sales’, as well as labeling any which have neonics in them.

However, there are still many US consumer reports of plant retailers continuing to openly sell plants grown with neonics without labels, professing ignorance as to their plant products, or who are being out-and-out deceptive in their sales’ practices.

If you chose to buy these plants and plant them in your garden…

…you may be endangering the pollinators in your backyard with neonic pesticides.


One significant (and, as yet, unrecognized by the public) place where neonics are entering the plant supply chain is at the creation of a plug (seedlings, liners, starts). These are seedlings, raised from seed in individual cells and sold ready for transplanting. Many nurseries purchase flats of plugs / starts from seedling wholesalers and transplant them, to save on the time, space and warm conditions needed to germinate seeds. When they order trays of these plugs / starts, they can select – at the point of sale – the option to have seeds grown which are “coated.” (See this example of a plant catalogue, utilized by plant retailers, which sells coated plugs, pp. 61-70 and 112.)

So, it is with the very seed itself – or, rather, the toxic treatment of the seed – where both the danger to pollinators …as well as the silent poisoning of our gardens, begins.

Without neonic-warning labels on each and every plug and start (which will, themselves, each be moved and transplanted at least once) – it becomes impossible for the home gardener to know if the adult plant they are purchasing is 100% guaranteed-free of a neonic pesticide.

Retailers, themselves, may not even know if their plugs and starts were neonic-treated, or what other chemicals may be in them! For example, one company in the plug business since 1968, has two nurseries which produce ornamental plant plugs, in nurseries in China.

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, in its 2016 report, How Neonicotinoids Can Kill Bees, states, “…to our knowledge, no measurements are available of pollen or nectar residues of ornamental plants after coated seeds are planted…24

Just as it was uncovered that no federal agency was tracking the annual tonnage of neonics being spread across millions of acres of farmland via seeds, it appears no one is tracking just how poisoned the flowering plants, herbs, vegetable seedlings, annuals, perennials and bulbs are, which millions of gardeners are bringing home.

In 2016, Maryland became the first state to regulate neonic use among consumers; a  major weakness, however, is the lack of a requirement to label plants, seeds or nursery stock treated with neonics. The law places no neonic restrictions upon industry: for example, seed and pesticide companies, farmers, veterinarians and the home repair industry.


Much harder to control is the lingering presence of pesticides that have been applied to plants months before they reach your garden. There have been reports of dead bees – both honey bees and bumble bees – around commercially grown hanging baskets…

Neonicotinoids in Your Garden
Jennifer Hopwood and Matthew Shepherd

CONSIDER THIS: How many families - in just your neighborhood - planted or displayed neonic-poisoned flowering plants this summer? What has that done to the food supply of pollinators?

This is happening to pollinators all across the United States, in every single neighborhood, in every single town, village and city.

We gardeners need to get the word out: please talk to your neighbors - one neighbor at a time - and educate them. Use this FoE document, Bee Bold Take a Stand Against Bee Killing Pesticides, to help you.

Neonic usage is pervasive in the ‘home & garden’ world. It is industry-wide practice to use neonics as a foliar spray. Soil drenching, in the treatment of turf, trees and ornamental shrubs is another common application method, as well as trunk injections; pesticide residues can remain for months or years. Check the chemicals of landscape contractors you hire and – before you purchase – make sure that any plants, bulbs, rhizomes, bare root plants, shrubs and trees have not had their roots or soil neonic-drenched.

Even the hanging baskets you buy, overflowing with gorgeous annual blossoms, are routinely soaked in a vat of neonics 25 and neonics are included in some “plant starter mixes” (soil)!

With December coming, some families had better prepare for this one: neonics (imidacloprid and thiamethoxam) are approved for use on Christmas trees! Does this include wreaths? Door swags? One would assume yes. This fact may alter many Christmas, Solstice and winter celebrations of those families which also seek to protect pollinators. 26

Many town & city arborists across the country are routinely treating public shrubs and trees with neonics; some are flowering. This has become standard procedure in arboriculture. 27 Turf treatment with neonics, on both public and private land, is epidemic.

Neonics have found their way into our public parks, gardens, golf courses, nature centers, and even our children’s ball fields and playgrounds!

Many common “garden care” products (used by both homeowners and landscape contractors) contain neonicotinoids. These neonic products (and see here, pp. 60-61, and here) are readily available at hardware stores, garden centers and Big Box stores. The variety of trademarked neonic products on the market is so vast, I was unable to locate a single comprehensive, up-to-date product list to point you to!

I found out why. Searching at the EPA website for the six registered and active neonic pesticides approved for use in agriculture, here, returned a staggering 1,688 individual neonic product names – with names like Venom, Maxforce, Assail, Malice, Dominion and Scorpion – all either for sale on store shelves directly to consumers or to seed companies, farmers, vets and others, licensed to use these products in industrial agriculture!

The EPA site was not at all consumer-helpful. Go, instead, to the Pesticide Research Institute’s (PRI) Pesticide Product Evaluator, where you can quickly search for the pesticide data you need. (PRI assisted in the writing of the FoE reports, cited above.) Use of this database requires a fee, however, they allow for a one-day free trial. (I am still searching for a free, searchable site for consumers.)

Neonics are also being used to control parasites in pets (fleas, ticks and worms: please check with your veterinarian for the neonic “Nitenpyram,” and have them also check their databases for the other six registered neonics); as well as indoor insects (e.g. ants, termites, bedbugs); and as a wood preservative treatment, in insulation and building supplies. Neonics are – in point of fact – registered with the EPA for multiple different uses impacting consumer homes and gardens.

Given that the seeds of cover crops, like clover, are available with a neonic-coating, the next logical question is: What about grass seed? Is that, too, available with a neonic coating? A New Zealand writer, Jodie Bruning, asks: What’s all that coloured stuff on our grass seeds? This document confirms it is neonics.

This Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) report, Highly Hazardous Pesticides  Neonicotinoids, indicates, again, neonics are being used on grass seed. (I have not yet confirmed usage in the US. A quick call to the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY), should get me the name of the right person to ask about neonic-coated grass seed here in NYS, as a start.)

The ramifications, not only to our soil and pollinators, but to earthworms, beetles and the birds which eat earthworms and beetles – if neonic-coated grass seed is indeed on the market and being sold to US homeowners – is frightening.

Home owners and gardeners  have – unknowingly and without their permission – become the vector for a poison  – at doses allowed to be much, much higher than those used in food crop agriculture – which is endangering our pollinators and polluting not only our backyards, but – because we have not demanded public policy changes at the village, town and city levels – also our neighborhoods, parks, public spaces, and playgrounds.

One need only remember the fate of the rusty patched bumble bee to recognize we families must take action at the local level to protect our pollinators.


Since the FoE reports documented that some plant retailers are being deceptive and, given that plant neonic treatments are totally invisible, the warning, caveat emptor!  – buyer beware! – applies.

One of the FoE’s recommendations to retailers in its report, Gardener’s Beware 2016, is that retailers offer, for sale to the public, “third-party certified organic starts and plants.” 28

However, be warned that 36.2% of the respondents in the Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State of the Industry White Paper, a trade publication, stated they will continue to use neonics in production.

You, the consumer,

NEED to complain. When

enough consumers show – with their

wallets – that they won’t buy these

poisoned plants and they will

buy ‘certified organic’

plants – they’ll get

the message.

Your voice matters! Complain! Be upset! Post your neonic concerns with plant sellers! Call the plant managers! Because this FoE 2015 report demonstrates that consumer pressure can be leveraged to create change in the garden industry: Growing Bee-Friendly Garden Plants: Profiles In Innovation.

And, because forewarned is forearmed, here are some of the answers with which plant retailers are being prepped, by industry, for those times when we savvy consumers come along and start asking really uncomfortable and pointed questions about neonics in their plants.


Changing you gardening behaviors and habits is critical and it really matters.

Friends of the Earth makes it clear that we gardeners and homeowners are now part of the problem:

"Unfortunately for bees, other pollinators and for all of us, the now common cosmetic use of neonicotinoid pesticides in gardens, lawns and landscapes is an important factor in declining health of managed and wild pollinators." 29

If you are using neonics in your garden or grass or allowing landscape contractors to use these chemicals in your garden, on your grass, on your shrubs and trees, or anywhere on your property, STOP! Figure out a different strategy. Please consider going organic!

As gardeners, one of the safest courses for our honey bees and pollinators is to only purchase ‘certified organic’ plants which are labeled as such. Only buy from reputable, well-known plant sellers, who publicly advertise that they do not allow neonics (and pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides) use at any stage of plant production.

A reputable nursery should be more than willing to verify this for you; nurseries, unlike ‘Big Box’ stores, are in the business of growing and selling plants and they value the relationships with longtime, repeat customers.

Be assertive; if you are not satisfied with the answers you get, walk away from that plant retailer and do not go back.

The safest course for home gardeners (and least expensive, for you thrifty green thumbs!), in my opinion? Propagate your own seeds in organic soil medium from ‘certified organic’ heirloom seeds and seeds which you saved yourself and initiate the time-honored practice of seed and plant exchanges between fellow (organic) gardeners.

For it is you, on behalf of the pollinators which grace your backyard, who are 100% in charge of which flowering plants end up in your garden. Plant wisely.


A beekeeper who uses organic practices in hive management, inspecting a Kenyan Top Bar Hive (KTBH), shaped like a hollow log (a preferred wild honey bee habitat). This hive allows for easy inspection without unnecessarily disturbing the bees. He uses no gloves – to allow for sensitivity in inspection – and (often) no smoke, due to his familiarity with the rhythm of the hives.



Honest Weight Food Co-op (HWFC) does not have a written, publicized neonic policy. I, therefore, am including the non-organic plants, seeds and gardening products (like straw, hay and soil) for sale at HWFC in this warning. Only purchase ‘certified organic’ plants and gardening products from HWFC. Its policy should state that HWFC will only purchase regionally-grown, ‘certified organic’ 30 indoor and outdoor plants, seeds, cut flowers, wreaths, door swags & evergreen products, and garden supplies. Period.

The policy needs to require written contracts with all plant & garden vendors, in which the vendor explicitly states that it does not use neonicotinoids (and any pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides) at any stage of plant production, including in plugs & starts, soil mediums, foliar sprays, and elsewhere on the farm. Each plant needs to have a clear label.

With the gardening industry the way it is today – the industry-wide use of neonic-treated plugs & starts, the use of neonics in planting mediums, the greenhouse foliar spraying with neonics – it is simply not good enough to strive to not carry plants which are neonic-treated. HWFC must NOT carry any neonic-treated plants and supplies.

For “striving” will not keep our pollinators out of harm’s way.

This sample letter and questionnaire to a ‘valued grower’ from FoE (pp. 49-52) is a well-thought out way to insure that all the seeds, plants, and plant supplies HWFC sells are safe for pollinators; FoE highly recommends ‘certified organic’ as being the safest.

FoE also published a report and scorecard, Swarming the Aisles Rating Top Retailers on Bee-Friendly and Organic Food, which should be reviewed by our co-op for the ‘pollinator protection policies’ being implemented at top US food stores.


Before you buy those mum plants,

those unlabeled crocus bulbs,

that Christmas tree or wreath,


to make sure they have a label

that says they’re neonic-free


better, that they’re ‘certified organic.’

If not,

put them right back…

…and walk away.

We are very fortunate that, in addition to non-organic plants, HWFC includes ‘certified organic’ plants and seeds in its plant selections; many local nurseries do not. (Lots more about The Farm at Miller’s Crossing – a Hudson Valley farm selling certified organic vegetables, grass fed beef and maple syrup, and whose certified organic flower, vegetable and herb plants HWFC has sold for years – in a special, upcoming post.)

It is crystal clear to me – who has a family member who is a longtime ‘organic-practices’ beekeeper – that, until the plant-growing industry cleans up its act, our co-op needs to adopt the above policy and aggressively implement and publicize it.

We at HWFC cannot wait another season, for Christmas trees and wreaths will be coming in, probably loaded with neonics… …and without labels alerting us not to buy them.

Many other large corporations, like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart’s, BJ’s Wholesale Club and Whole Foods have already adopted plans to get rid of neonics. Our co-op needs to proclaim its commitment to our pollinators and be proud of its stand against the sale of neonics and pesticides in any and all of the seeds, cut flowers, bulbs, holiday wreaths, plants and plant products which it offers for sale to the public.



Since we’re on the subject of seeds, let me highlight the two regional seed companies whose seeds HWFC sells. 31 Both offer ‘certified organic’ selections:

Take the time to read this wonderful interview with Fedco Seeds‘ founder, CR Lawn. Fedco, a Maine-based business founded in 1978, is a co-operative; HWFC has been a member for decades, maybe almost since Fedco’s founding! Approximately 30% of its seeds are ‘certified organic’ and Fedco sells neither coated nor genetically-modified seeds. They are quite knowledgeable about all the recent BIG Ag trends in seed production. Each February, HWFC Member-Owners look forward to the delivery of the simple, black & white newsprint Fedco seed catalogue, and we families, collectively, place an order with Fedco – all scrambling to meet their deadline! – and receiving a nice discount. Fedco seeds are sold at the store throughout the growing season, as well. 32

HWFC also sells seeds from the Hudson Valley Seed Company, which, since May 2013, has been both “a Certified Organic Farm and a Certified Organic Handler.” Their website states: “We offer heirloom and open-pollinated seeds for vegetable, flower, and herb varieties. Many of these seeds we produce on our own small farm; the rest we source from other local farmers, farmers in other regions, and from trustworthy wholesale seed houses that are not owned by or affiliated with multi-national biotech companies.” In addition, they “have signed the Safe Seed Pledge, and … adhere to Vandana Shiva’s Declaration [on] Seed Freedom.

This company is quite a treasure for us here in the Hudson Valley! Their ‘Art Packs’ (this is the ‘coating’ your seeds come in!) are designed by artists, many from the northeast and many who are, themselves, gardeners. This is an incredible, added bonus to your seed purchase!

Fall Bulbs

Fedco appears low on fall bulb stock, please browse; Hudson Valley Seed Company has plenty in stock and “All bulbs are neonicotinoid-free, as well as systemic fungicide and systemic pesticide-free.”

Before you purchase your fall bulbs, please listen to this The Organic View radio show, Hidden Dangers of Systemic Pesticides on Tulips & Bulbs, with host June Stoyer, as she interviews Jeroen Koeman, President & Co-Founder of EcoTulips LLC.



“In the past we didn’t designed gardens that play a critical ecological role in the landscape, but we must do so in the future … As gardeners and stewards of our land, we have never been so empowered to help save biodiversity from extinction, and the need to do so has never been so great.” 33

Douglas W. Tallamy

It’s not enough to purchase ‘certified organic’ annuals and perennials, if your intent is to feed local pollinators. You will want to bed in a variety of native flowering plants which are suited to your climate and soil and which span the growing season, so as to produce a variety of flowers, all season long. Be sure to plant late-bloomers for autumn pollinator needs.

If you just can’t part with certain beloved perennials, stick with the old-fashioned & heirloom varieties, something my Dad, a gardener, always recommended. They are ‘tried and true’ and they offer a better shot at providing good sources of pollen and nectar for pollinators than common, hybrid cultivars.

For, what you may not know, is that many of the annuals and perennials which you buy at ‘Big Box’ stores, grocery stores and most garden centers & nurseries are hybrids, bred specifically for the beauty and size of their blooms: their ‘curb appeal’ to humans. They are not bred for the flowers’ ability to produce high-quality, nutritious pollen and nectar.

Therefore, you need to become familiar with the wonderful world of native plants. Oh, joy, a new adventure in gardening to begin!

Here are three good resources to begin learning about native, pollinator-friendly plants for your garden: Friends of the Earth’s Bee & Bee Create Your Own Bed and Breakfast for Bumblebees, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation’s Pollinator Plants Northeast Region and Douglas W. Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens.


In its second year, this HoneyBee Fest in the tiny NY hamlet of Narrowsburg, offered local honey, bee-related crafts, honey ice cream, music, bee workshops, and even a modest Bee Parade! Narrowsburg has officially “adopted” the honey bee; other Sullivan County towns have each “adopted” a different pollinator.

Kim Eierman, an Environmental Horticulturist and a presenter this weekend at the Narrowsburg, NY HoneyBee Fest, and with whom I met, highly recommended the works of Dr. Doug Tallamy, Sara Bonnett Stein, (who has sadly passed away) and her book Noah’s Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards and, of course all of Rachel Carson’s books, including Silent Spring. Here is her own list of resources and her list of bee-friendly native perennials and late-blooming native perrenials. I am simply floored at the wealth of valuable information available on her website!


 This stand of native flowers in a suburban, upstate NY garden provides a better source of food for pollinators than the non-native cultivars and hybrid perrenials offered at most nurseries and ‘Big Box’ stores.

Ms. Eierman, founder of EcoBeneficial, who cautioned me to remember “right plant, right place,” when selecting native plants, is a “Certified Horticulturist through the American Society for Horticultural Science … an Accredited Organic Landcare Professional, a Steering Committee member of The Native Plant Center, and a member of The Ecological Landscape Alliance and the Garden Writers Association … She teaches at the New York Botanical Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, The Native Plant Center in NY, Rutgers Home Gardeners School and several other institutions.

She recommended these two regional native plant nurseries, the Catskill Native Nursery in Kerhonkson, NY and Earth Tones Native Plants in Woodbury, CT, as being reputable, knowledgeable and happy to work with you in planning your pollinator garden.

Remember, in addition to honey bees, there are many other pollinators; native bees, bumblebees, butterflies, native wasps, moths and hummingbirds are just a few of the many different kinds of pollinators which might live in or fly through a backyard garden, seeking food and drink. Make sure your native plantings provide food for them, too. Study Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens and his new book, with co-author Rick Darke, The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden, and peruse the wonderful, (free!) information at EcoBeneficial.



Do not support BIG Ag and the gardening industry’s harmful, destructive and toxic practice of growing plants from neonic-coated seeds or the spraying & dousing of plants with neonic pesticides.

  • Do not share your family’s ‘garden budget’ with any retailer which is not selling ‘certified organic’ plants and seeds, (see 30) which are labeled as such.
  • Do not allow plants treated with neonics or pesticides onto your property. (Be sure to review your lawn & garden contractors’ chemicals, and your own, as well. Go organic.)
  • Do support ‘certified organic’ seed and plant growers & retailers.
  • Do support regional, native plant nurseries, which specialize in understanding how plants and pollinators help each other.
  • Do begin planting for pollinators even if you know nothing about it. Read! Learn! Begin! One plant at a time, create a pollinator habitat in your own backyard.
  • Do take the first step, and switch to organic gardening, if you have not yet done so.

Take the time to just sit and watch the pollinators in your backyard. That’s it, just observe. Let them teach you.

For our pollinators’ and our honey bees’ lives depend upon your wise plant purchases and your organic land stewardship.

And please remember, Grassroots Action is Powerful! We gardeners can, one-by-one, in our backyards, towns & villages & counties, help effect the change pollinators need, together.


This sign, in the front yard of Christ Lutheran Church in Woodstock, NY, which we passed on the way home from the Narrowsburg, NY HoneyBee Fest, says it all:
If you plant it, they will come.”


Future topics I will be exploring relating to neonics and our honey bees and pollinators include:

  • Neonicotinoids: a public policy nightmare. Get involved to help NY’s pollinators!
  • Are neonic-coated seeds even allowed in NYS?
  • Whatever happened to that NYS Pollinator Task Force, formed in 2015, which seems to be missing-in-action …a case of “Task Force Collapse Disorder” right here in NY’s capital? (Let our own local author, Tracy Frisch, introduce you to that topic in Why Andrew Cuomo’s Pollinator Task Force Won’t Save New York’s Bees.)
  • How to invest your town, village, county or city in supporting pollinators.
  • The pervasive & frightening use of neonics in our food supply.
  • “Greenwashing” initiatives in which BIG Food and BIG Organic are investing BIG Sums, to lure you – the consumer – into believing they are doing everything possible to protect pollinators. (They’re not.)
  • The beekeeper’s perspective, from those natural beekeepers who specifically use organic principles in hive management.
  • The large, commercial ‘migratory beekeepers’ – who truck thousands of beehives all across the country following seasonal crops  – and whose apiaries are among those being threatened – and disappearing – because of BIG Ag mono-cropping practices and neonic-poisoned crops.

GiveBeesAChanceDo you think ‘John Lennon would approve of this message?’


If you liked this post, learned something from it or have a question, please leave me a note, below. Feedback is welcomed!

In true grassroots’ fashion, pass this information on to other pollinator & plant lovers, organic food lovers, and your friends and family, of course.

You can also sign up to receive automatic GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! updates in your email box. When you scroll upward, an icon, ‘follow,’ will appear in the lower right hand corner of your screen. Click on that and follow!


This series of posts about the dangers of neonicotinoids – and the dangers to our seeds – is dedicated to Mom and Dad: Dad, who was a greenhouse man and the head gardener on a Hudson River estate, where we lived in the gardener’s cottage (learn about Dad’s battle with ‘THAT woodchuck,’ here), and Mom, who was a florist, by his side, and a lifelong backyard gardener. Mom and Dad taught my brother and me to love the land, plants, birds, bees and animals which are the grace, wonder & beauty, in our everyday life. I cannot even imagine having a gardening conversation with them, in which the words butterflies or hummingbirds appeared in the same sentence as the word ‘extinct.’

Dad warned my brother and me when we were kids, sitting together in the back of the greenhouse on a warm, autumn day, watching him as he prepped some seeds for saving, “Kids, now I want you to remember this. Listen to me. Pay attention! Always save your seeds.” These words of my Dad, the gardener, resonate as I bear witness – fifty years later, ever the gardener’s daughter – to the assault upon our pollinators and upon our seeds.

© Laura Hagen


The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philpot Curran



1. Please read the books:
2010: The systemic insecticides: a disaster in the making by Dutch toxicologist Henk Tenneke
2008: A Spring without Bees: How Colony Collapse Disorder Has Endangered Our Food Supply by Michael Schacker.

The Center for Food Safety maintains a list of peer-reviewed, scientific studies documenting the adverse impacts of neonicotinoids, here.

2. Where you get your news from is critical. There is the ‘real‘ news about CCD, honey bee and pollinator die-offs and pollinator extinction threats – as expressed by organizations I have cited in this blogpost, such as Earthjustice (here and here); Center for Food Safety (here, here, here, here, here); The Pesticide Action Network of North America (here, here, here, here, here, here;); Beyond Pesticides (here, here, here); Friends of the Earth (here); Pesticide Research Institute (here); The Neonicotinoid View on June Stoyer’s The Organic View Radio Show (here and here); The Pollinator Stewardship Council (here and here);  The American Bird Conservancy (here and here), and others.

Individual beekeepers who have been defending honey bees and pollinators include Jeff Anderson, Lucas Criswell, Gail Fuller, David Hackenberg. In addition, Steve Ellis of Old Mill Honey Co. (MN, CA), Jim Doan of Doan Family Farms (NY), Tom Theobald of Niwot Honey Farm (CO) and Bill Rhodes of Bill Rhodes Honey (FL); beekeepers who won one battle.

And then there is the ‘fake news’ being pumped out by standard media outlets like, for example, Bloomberg (Bees Are Bouncing Back From Colony Collapse Disorder) and some public radio outlets (Are Bees Making A Comeback From Colony Collapse Disorder?).

US Right to Know warns against the Genetic Literacy Project in its July 18, 2017 article Jon Entine and Genetic Literacy Project Spin Chemical Industry PR.

3. Due to sunflowers being one of BIG Ag’s mono-crops which utilizes neonic-coated seeds, birders are cautioned to only purchase organic sunflower seeds for the wild birds they feed.

4. Beekeepers who supply fondant (a “fudge” made of sugar and water) during the winter months, need to be aware that close to 50 percent of the white, table sugar in our country is manufactured from sugar beets. Not only are sugar beet seeds routinely neonic-coated but, as of 2009, 90 – 95 percent of US sugar beet production was reported as using Monsanto’s Roundup Ready® GM sugar beet seeds; the decision to do so was made in 2005. See: One Man’s Battle Against GM Sugar Beets by Ken Roseboro, editor of The Organic and Non-GMO Report.

For your fondant, source white sugar which is made from cane not sugar beets and, if possible, organic.

5. For example, in 2015-2016, NY was among the states which had the highest rates of (managed) honey bee die-offs, with 54.1 percent losses! National averages for the same time period were 44 percent. Some NYS commercial beekeepers have recently experienced 70 percent losses!

Annual losses of thirty percent had become the new national average, since 2006 – 2007. Prior to this, 5 – 10 percent in annual loss was the national norm among US managed honey beekeepers.

The USDA considers annual losses of 18.7 percent to be unsustainable.

This is a crisis.

6. Please read this 2016 article, Beekeeper Who Sounded Alarm on Colony Collapse Disorder Loses 90 Percent of His Hives, by Maryam Henein, the director of the award-winning documentary film, Vanishing of the Beesto understand how the US EPA is able to continue allowing neonic-coated seeds to be utilized in agriculture.

See the April 26, 2017 Citizen Petition to Regulate Coated Seeds under FIFRA.

In a partial victory, on May 8, 2017, a federal court ruled on a four-year old case, that the EPA violated the Endangered Species Act when it approved 59 neonicotinoid pesticide registrations, including uses for landscaping and ornamental plants. Tom Theobald, the beekeeper cited above, was one of the plaintiffs, which also included beekeepers Steve Ellis, Jim Doan, and Bill Rhodes; Center for Food Safety (CFS); Beyond Pesticides; Sierra Club; and Center for Environmental Health. It remains to be seen how this decision will help pollinators.

7. Douglas, Margaret R. and John F. Tooker. “Large-Scale Deployment of Seed Treatments Has Driven Rapid Increase in Use of Neonicotinoid Insecticides and Preemptive Pest Management in U.S. Field Crops.” Department of Entomology, The Pennsylvania State University. Environmental Science & Technology: 2015, 49 (8), pp. 5,088–5,097: pp. 5,088, 5,093. Web. 15 September 2017.

See the article by Nathan Collins, Bee-Harming Pesticides Are More Common Than Anyone Thought and this article, First National-Scale Reconnaissance of Neonicotinoid Insecticides in United States Streams, which both referenced the above study.

8. Walker, Larissa. “Pollinators and Pesticides.” Center for Food Safety, September 2013: p. 4. Web. 21 September 2017.

9. Conclusions of the IUCN Task Force on Systemic Pesticides. “Harm.” Worldwide Integrated Assessment, January 2015. Web. 20 September 2017.

See the IUCN Task Force on Systemic Pesticides’ chart comparing the toxicity, in honey bees, of DDT to neonicotinoids, here, in, Effects of neonicotinoids and fipronil on non-target invertebrates by L.W. Pisa

The IUCN’s Task Force on Systemic Pesticides – initiated by a group of European scientists – formed the Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impact of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems (WIA). WIA “has made a synthesis of 1,121 published peer-reviewed studies spanning the last five years, including industry-sponsored ones. It is the single most comprehensive study of neonics ever undertaken, is peer reviewed, and published as open access so that the findings and the source material can be thoroughly examined by others.

10. Stoyer, June, host and Tom Theobald, special guest co-host. “The Big Picture on Neonicotinoids.” The Organic View Radio Show. The Neonicotinoid View, 8 September 2014. Web. 20 September 2017.

Please also see Tom Theobald, Are neonicotinoids the new DDT?

11. Walker, Larissa. “Pollinators and Pesticides.” Center for Food Safety, September 2013: p. 5. Web. 21 September 2017.

Dr. William Quarles states, “About 2-20% of a seed treatment is absorbed by the plant.” See: “Neonicotinoids, Bees, Birds and Beneficial Insects.” Bio-Integral Resource Center. Common Sense Pest Control Quarterly: Special Issue April 2014, Vol. XXVIII, Number 1-4: p. 3. Web. 25 September 2017.

12. USDA whistleblower, former USDA employee, and agro-ecologist and entomologist Dr. Jonathan Lundgren started a research initiative, Blue Dasher Farm, and has already begun producing data; this research demonstrates that simply growing a bunch of wildflowers (‘hedgerows‘) around fields which are continuing to be actively contaminated with neonics & windblown neonic seed dust will not protect pollinators from ongoing contamination by toxic neonics. (Consumer alert: funding ‘hedgerow‘ projects  – to the tune of millions of donated, corporate dollars to worthy nonprofits – is becoming the popular means for BIG Food and BIG Organic to [try and] demonstrate they are protecting our pollinators: ‘greenwashing‘ aimed directly at the consumer, assisted, in some cases, by happy, cartoon honey bees and colorful wildflowers on food product packages.)

This 2014 Center for Food Safety report, Heavy Costs  Weighing the Value of Neonicotinoid Insecticides in Agriculture, was peer-reviewed by Dr. Lundgren, in his role as a Research Entomologist, US Department of Agriculture.

13. Wallheimer, Brian. “Researchers: Honeybee deaths linked to seed insecticide exposure.” Purdue University. Purdue University News Service: 11 January 2012. Web. 27 September 2017.

The study referred to is: Krupke, Christian H., Greg J. Hunt, Brian D. Eitzer,  Gladys Andino, Krispn Given.” Multiple Routes of Pesticide Exposure for Honey Bees Living Near Agricultural Fields.” PLOS ONE. 03 January 2012. Web. 27 September 2017.

14. Ibid.

15. How many tons of talc are poisoning our farmlands each year? Is the talc which is being utilized purified and cosmetic-grade or not? Please see the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s document, Talc. (Talc is a substance implicated in ovarian cancer deaths among women.)

16. This is an Australian source.

This Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA) report, Highly Hazardous Pesticides  Neonicotinoids, indicates neonics are being used on clover seeds in Canada. I am still researching the use of neonic-coated clover seeds in the US.

17. Hopwood, Jennifer, Mace Vaughan, Matthew Shepherd, David Biddinger, Eric Mader, Scott Hoffman Black, and Celeste Mazzacano. “Are Neonicotinoids Killing Bees? A Review of Research into the Effects of Neonicotinoid Insecticides on Bees, with Recommendations for Action.” The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, 2012: pp. v-vi. Web. 13 Sept. 2017. or

18. Quarles, William, PhD. “Neonicotinoids, Bees, Birds and Beneficial Insects.” Bio-Integral Resource Center. Common Sense Pest Control Quarterly: Special Issue April 2014, Vol. XXVIII, Number 1-4: p. 5. Web. 25 September 2017.

See the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation’s 2016 report, How Neonicotinoids Can Kill Bees, for the case study, Comparison Between Agricultural and Backyard Products, pp. 50-53.

As an aside, cut flowers are toxic with many different pesticides! This article by Dr. Mercola will help you locate organically-grown cut flowers.

19. This The Guardian article by Karl Mathiesen, Bees may become addicted to nicotine-like pesticides, reviews the 2015 study, Sébastien C. Kessler,, Bees prefer foods containing neonicotiniod pesticides.

20. News Editor. “Neonicotinoid Pesticides Harm Bees’ Foodgathering Ability.” Environment News Service, 29 January 2014. Web. 02 September 2017.

21. Quarles, William, PhD. “Neonicotinoids, Bees, Birds and Beneficial Insects.” Bio-Integral Resource Center. Common Sense Pest Control Quarterly: Special Issue April 2014, Vol. XXVIII, Number 1-4: p. 8. Web. 25 September 2017.

Also see this January 2015 WIA document, Conclusions of the Worldwide Integrated Assessment on the risks of neonicotinoids and fipronil to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning: “Overall, at concentrations relevant to field exposure scenarios in fields sown with coated seeds, imidacloprid and clothianidin pose risks to small birds, and ingestion of even a few treated seeds could cause mortality or reproductive impairment to sensitive bird species.

22. Please see these organizations’ pollinator resource pages: Friends of the Earth, here, and Pesticide Research Institutehere.

23. This is the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) publication, Guidance Seeds, Annual Seedlings, and Planting Stock in Organic Crop Production (NOP 5029).

24. Hopwood, Jennifer, Aimee Code, Mace Vaughan, David Biddinger, Matthew Shepherd, Scott Hoffman Black, Eric Lee-Mäder and Celeste Mazzacano. “How Neonicotinoids Can  Kill Bees The Science Behind the Role These Insecticides
Play in Harming Bees.” The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, 2016: p. 45. Web. 23 Sept. 2017.

The Pollinator Stewardship Council, here, the Pesticide Action Network of North America, here, the Center for Food Safety, here and here and Earthjustice, here, are all, like the Xerces Society, doing critical work for pollinators and the threats posed to them by neonicotinoids.

25. Once the season is over, where is the soil from these poisoned hanging baskets going? Are ever-thrifty gardeners dumping it into their gardens? Placing it in the compost pile? Saving it for re-use with which to re-pot an indoor plant? Using it to pot up a treasured perennial to gift to another gardener?

How much neonic-poisoned soil and dead plant matter has entered the ecosystem of our individual backyards, gardens and neighborhoods (and public parks, gardens, nature centers, and playgrounds), year-after-year, over the last 10-12 years, just from neonic-coated seeds, neonic spraying and soil dousing of ornamental plants alone, plant treatments about which we gardeners knew nothing?!

Gardening organically now appears to be the only safe option.

26. Honey bees make propolis (“bee glue”), a sticky, antifungal, antibacterial substance used to seal cracks in the hive, from, among other things, the resin from conifers. With the Christmas tree industry now using neonics on its December products, it opens up yet another avenue for contamination of the honey bee hive by neonics.

27. Read about the June, 2013 killing of 50,000 bumble bees in Oregon after foliar spraying of trees with a neonic: Scientists Call for an End to Cosmetic Insecticide Use After the Largest Bumble Bee Poisoning on Record.

28. Kegley, Susan, PhD, Tiffany Finck-Haynes and Lisa Archer. “Gardeners Beware 2016 Bee-Toxic Pesticides Found in “Bee-Friendly” Plants Sold at Garden Centers Across the U.S..” Friends of the Earth U.S. Friends of the Earth, August 2016: p. 17. Web. 10 September 2017.

29. Ibid, p. 17.

30. NOFA-NY: I am currently looking into the meaning of ‘certified organic’ plants  & seeds, as defined by the USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and, additionally, if there are any NYS regs. which may apply to the labeling and sale of ‘organic’ plants and seeds sold in NYS. The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) is the place to go to for questions like this. (And please consider joining!)

Here is, by the way, NOFA-NY’s 2014 Policy Resolution on Neonicotinoids.

New York farmers may also join the NOFA-NY Farmer’s Pledge program. “The Farmer’s Pledge™, [is] a separate and distinct program from USDA Certified Organic … A Farmer’s Pledge certificate displayed at a farm market stand shows customers a farmer’s commitment to responsible growing and a willingness to be transparent to their community. It shows that a farmer takes an environmentally responsible, ecologically sound, holistic approach to farming. This is a wonderful program for farms transitioning to certified organic, small start up farms, and farms that are already certified organic.

Certified Naturally Grown: Would purchasing ‘Certified Naturally Grown’ (CNG) seedlings and plants provide a 100% guarantee that pollinators won’t be harmed from neonics? I don’t know. It needs looking into.

More and more small family farms, which value organic principles but which can’t afford the time and expense of USDA National Organic Program (NOP) certification, are choosing ‘CNG‘ as an option. Here is CNG’s FAQ.

You should read the Cornucopia Institute’s NOP exposé, to understand the threats to small farms: The Organic Watergate—White Paper Connecting the Dots: Corporate Influence at the USDA’s National Organic Program.

How does the USDA NOSB ‘certified organic‘ differ from the NOFA-NY Farmer’s Pledge™ differ from Certified Naturally Organic (CNG)? We have now reached the point of absolute confusion for your average consumer and gardener in NYS, including me. I cannot clarify this for you, because it appears very murky. Until I understand the difference, I am sticking to purchasing plants and seeds which are ‘certified organic.’

31. Before there was (almost) anybody, there was Johnny’s Selected Seeds; many of us relied upon Johnny’s! There are, thankfully!, many more companies selling organic, non-GMO seeds. As I uncover reputablecertified organic‘ seed company lists, I will post them here:

Here is NOFA-NY’s list of sources for organic seed.

Here is Beyond Pesticide’s list of Companies That Grow and Distribute Organic Seeds, cited at the Friends of the Earth website.

Here is The Skinny on Seeds and Seedlings from Certified Naturally Grown (CNG).

The Pollinator Stewardship Council has wildflower seeds for sale here as well as pollinator “houses”.

Here are two seed company recommendations from the Xerces Society: Ernst Conservation Seed Company. “Ernst is one of the largest native grass and wildflower seed producers in eastern North America…” and Pollinator Conservation Seed Mixes.

I love this SmallFootprintFamily’s The Ten best Seed Companies for Heirloom and Non-GMO Seeds. For example, this blogpost alerts us that, “Seeds of Change was acquired by the Mars company…” (Be sure to scan the comments!)

For your information, Dr. Phil Howard at Michigan State University, has been keeping track of seed industry structure and the consolidations which have occurred between 1996-2013. Please view his other Info Graphics, as well, especially his “Organic [Food] Industry Structure” Info Graphic.

32. Co-op Member-Owners, please read Fedco Seeds’ founder CR Lawn’s Fall 2003 article, Where Have All the Co-ops Gone?, about the demise of US consumer co-operative food distributors (wholesalers) and consolidations with United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI). 14 years later, where have all the (retail) co-ops gone?

33. Tallamy, Douglas W. “Gardening for Life.” Web. 24 September 2017.


This blogpost is referenced at EcoBeneficial!

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! “GMOS REVEALED” video series: free viewing this weekend!


Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.


UPDATE September 16, 2017: Visit the Albany County, NY Hilltowns on a self-guided Farms & Artisan Tour, Saturday and Sunday, September 16-17. Support our local farm families, many of whom are organic or on their way to organic!

Dear fellow HWFC Member-Owners, fellow US food co-op Member-Owners, and those who value and cherish organic food for your family!

Longtime since I posted: life… …and the gardening season… …drew my energy elsewhere! That said, here is really, really important  information for your family.

Please watch the nine-part video series “GMOS REVEALED,” spearheaded by the team of Dr. Patrick Gentempo, Dr. Beau Pierce, and film-maker Jeff Hays (Bought, Doctored, Undoctored). The series has already run once – FOR FREE – starting on 08/22/17. It was announced on the LIVE Q&A Session, two nights ago, that GMOS REVEALED will be running again – FOR FREE – starting this weekend (09/09/17). It has already had more than 1 million views worldwide. Please go here, GMOS REVEALED, provide your email, and you should get updates re. the next FREE viewing dates/time.

The GMOS REVEALED team decided to repeat the free viewing, given that so many families in Texas were unable to watch it, due to the hurricane.

This FREE viewing is time limited; it will end on Sunday, September 10th at midnight EST. Again, go to:


Please do an internet search on the term “GMOS REVEALED” to read reviews about the series.

The GMOs REVEALED website states:

“What are they not telling us?

FACT: Glyphosate, the chemical originally developed to de-scale 
pipes, boilers and metals, is now used to KILL plants. What’s 
more, it is found in 75% of processed foods.

Global Leaders in the fields of medicine, law, agriculture and 
politics share their unique expertise as they explain the 
complex relationship between bacteria, soil, and your body.

GMOs ARE POISON. People and animals that eat genetically modified 
food crops are consuming high levels of toxic glyphosate 
herbicide. There is an unholy marriage of toxic Glyphosate 
herbicide and foods genetically engineered to tolerate 
large doses of it. It’s silently poisoning our land, food, and US!

FACT: The National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy 
estimates that 85% of U.S. corn is genetically modified. Other 
widely modified crops include canola oil, alfalfa and sugar beets.

FACT: GMOs are banned in 27 countries. Also, in 61 countries 
foods must be labeled as being genetically modified - but not in 
the U.S.

Discover how Big Agriculture and companies like Monsanto have 
drastically influenced agriculture in America, leading to 
corrupt, inhumane and toxic farming practices.”

American Families Need to Stop Buying Foods Produced with GMOS and the Toxic Chemicals Glyphosate, Roundup, and the Class of Pesticides Known as Neonicotinoids

This series (~23 hours) was so phenomenally informative – with explosive new information – to my own family’s understanding of our food supply, hidden GMOs (and “genetic splicing,” “gene editing,” and “genetic silencing”), Glyphosate, Roundup Ready GMOs, neonicotinoids (neonics) and the active and ongoing threat to US honey bees and all pollinators from those neonics – that I am going to formally ask HWFC to buy a copy of the series for viewing by any and all HWFC Member-Owners.

I encourage you to ask your local library to also purchase a copy of GMOS REVEALED. We need to get this info out to more families in our own area.

  • Be sure to listen to the interview with Mark Kastel of The Cornucopia Institute, which provides “economic justice for family scale farming.” The Cornucopia Institute is, specifically, an organic industry watchdog organization; I learned a lot from this interview.

We, as food co-op Member-Owners, cannot remain ignorant of the facts presented in this series, given that our business is food …and that we present ourselves as a locally-owned food co-op which actively supports local, organic, bio-dynamic, and sustainable farmers and farm products, and that our policies, as of the January 29, 2017 Membership Meeting, address the GMO issue in our Food and Product Manual, which says, in part:

HWFC shall require that our suppliers, including distributors, be required to disclose any information that they know about the GMO content for the product we are purchasing.”

After viewing this series, you need to find out which of the food & plants which Honest Weight Food Co-op is selling:

  • are genetically-modified?
  • have Roundup or Glypohosate in them?
  • include wheat, oats, barley, edible dry beans, or sunflowers: which, in the US, are routinely sprayed with Glyphosate as a pre-harvest dessicant? Lentils, peas, non-GMO soybeans, corn, flax, rye, triticale, buckwheat, millet, canola, sugar beets and potatoes which are likely sprayed with Glyphosate as a pre-harvest dessicant?
  • have neonicotinoids (neonics) in them: neonics are now being used to coat many of the the seeds which farmers buy
  • are not labeled as being genetically-modified and/or as having Roundup, Glyphosate and/or neonics in them?
  • include ingredients or “sub-ingredients” which themselves likely (or do) contain GMOs, Roundup Ready GMOs, Glyphosate, and/or neonics.
    • There are many, many, many “ingredients” or “sub-ingredients” which may be toxic; please take the time to do your homework.
  • leave you thinking – at checkout – that your purchases are safe from Roundup, Glyphosate, GMOs, and neonics – due to the lack of disclosure on the label?

Which of the food & plants which Honest Weight Food Co-op is selling are:

  • 100% organic, a label which provides the only means we consumers have right now to be (pretty) sure the food & plants we are buying are free of Roundup Ready GMOs, Glyphosate, GMOs, and neonics?

I cannot answer these questions, but each and every one of us Member-Owners needs to ask these questions, quantify the answers for our families, and take a good, hard look at our co-op’s wholesale food supply, especially the inner aisles with their large percentage of processed, packaged, non-organic, “natural” foods.

While We’re on the Subject: What Is “Organic?”

Did you  know there is not one but four separate categories of organic labeling, as authorized by the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)? Yes, four! It’s not enough to just “buy organic!”

You had better learn the differences right now! The USDA NOSB made buying organic food unnecessarily complex and burdensome, especially for busy families:

1. “100 percent organic”

"'100 percent organic' can be used to label any product that 
contains 100 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and 
water, which are considered natural). Most raw, unprocessed 
farm products can be designated '100 percent organic.' 
Likewise, many value-added farm products that have no added 
ingredients—such as grain flours, rolled oats, etc.—can 
also be labeled '100 percent organic.'"

2.  “Organic”

"'Organic' can be used to label any product that 
contains a minimum of 95 percent organic ingredients 
(excluding salt and water). Up to 5 percent of the 
ingredients may be nonorganic agricultural products 
that are not commercially available as organic and/or 
nonagricultural products that are on the National 

3. “Made with Organic ______”

"'Made with Organic ______' can be used to label a product that 
contains at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients 
(excluding salt and water). There are a number of detailed 
constraints regarding the ingredients that comprise the 
nonorganic portion."

4. "Specific Ingredient Listings"

"The specific organic ingredients may be listed in the ingredient 
statement of products containing less than 70 percent organic 
contents—for example, 'Ingredients: water, barley, beans, organic 
tomatoes, salt.'”

We do know now – from the above definitions – that “nonorganic ingredients’ are allowed in foods labeled as “organic.” Exactly which “nonorganic” ingredients are allowed in foods with the three label designations, which are not “100 percent organic?

At the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service NOSB website, I drilled down to the regulations governing “processed products,” which is what you and I would find on the shelves of our food co-op, and which would end up in our shopping cart. (I did not review the regulations governing synthetic and nonsynthetic substances allowed/prohibited in organic crop and/or livestock production.)

Here is the USDA NOSB’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, which gives you the information about “processed products.” There are two regulations which govern “processed products:”

Here is §205.605, which governs “Nonagricultural (nonorganic) substances allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as ‘organic’ or ‘made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s)).'”

Here is §205.606, which governs “Nonorganically produced agricultural products allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as ‘organic.'”

There are a whole lot of ingredients allowed in organic foods which are suspect and which I would not chose to eat!

To my mind, there is so much wiggle room here – which could allow for Roundup Ready, genetically modified organisms in organic food – that I am not going to comment until I contact the Cornucopia Institute, US Right to Know, the Organic Consumers Association, Food and Water Watch, Food Democracy Now!, and others, for clarification.

However, begin your own research. See the Food Democracy Now! and The Detox Project report: Glyphosate: Unsafe On Any Plate Food Testing Results and Scientific Reasons for Concern. Perhaps this report will provide data on GMO/Glyphosate levels being found in organic foods. (In fact, it does, to a limited degree.)

My bottom line: buy “100 percent organic,” 100% of the time, and buy locally-made; support our local, organic farmers! It seems to offer the consumer the safest protection from GMOs, Roundup and Glyphosate.

The “Dark Act” Is In Play: We Have Been Denied The Right To Know

The passage of The Dark Act (“Deny Americans the Right to Know”) or the Roberts-Stabenow Compromise last summer (2016), has given the food industry virtual carte blanche in including Roundup Ready GMOs and GMOs in our (non-organic) food supply and they do not have to disclose that fact on food labels. This is in effect right now; if you are buying non-organic foods, that food could have Roundup Ready GMOs in it…

…and you would not even know it.

The label, on which we are accustomed to reading the “List of Ingredients” to help us make wise food purchase decisions, has been hijacked…


…and, in part, silenced.

Imagine that: a label which does not tell you what’s in the product! Isn’t that the purpose of a list of ingredients on a label: to tell you what’s in it?

Secret, unknown ingredients – Roundup Ready GMOs, Glyphosate – are now being included in our food and we have no way of finding out which foods they are in!

Please go to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) website to update yourself on this travesty which is now harming American families: Tell Congress: Repeal the DARK Act! According to this OCA article:

How did corporations convince Congress to ignore the will of more than 90 percent of Americans? The Big Food companies that both sell a lot of GMOs but also have bought up influential organic brands, convinced leaders of the Organic Trade Association (OTA) to do their bidding.

The leaders of this coup were Smuckers, Danone, UNFI, General Mills, and Organic Valley.

Smuckers and UNFI have long held seats on the OTA board, while Danone is represented by recent acquisitions Earthbound Farm and WhiteWave. It’s easy to see why Danone, General Mills, Smuckers and UNFI would oppose labels, given how many GMOs they sell. But why did Organic Valley play along? Because of its business relationships with Danone and General Mills.”

UNFI, or United Natural Foods, Inc., is the primary wholesaler for Whole Foods (now owned by Amazon). It is also the primary wholesaler for HWFC, and many other large, independently-owned, US food co-ops, through their contracts with National Co+op Grocers (NCG).


The information in GMOS REVEALED is crucial to your family’s health. Take the time and listen to the well-known physicians & researchers this weekend!!

Do you know, positively, that the food, plants, and water which you buy for your family are all free of Glyphosate, Roundup, Roundup Ready GMOs, and neonicotinoids?

Do you know what these chemicals do to your own health? The health of your children?

Better find out.


  • 4% of the entire US population had chronic diseases in the 1960s. In 2017, 46% of just US children (pediatrics) now have a chronic disease by the age of 12.
  • 1 in 40 children in the US today have been diagnosed with autism. That stat, in the 1960s, was 1 in 10,000 children.
  • Did that statistic sink in? 1 child in 40 in the US today today is diagnosed with autism. Estimates are – if nothing is done – by approximately 2040 1 in 2 US children will have autism.
  • A doctor has positively correlated the rise in certain auto-immune diseases in the U.S. (diabetes is one example, autism and ADHD are others) with the introduction of genetically-modified foods into the food supply in 1996.
  • Doctors revealed that glyphosate bio-accumulates in your own body, every single time you ingest it. This poison also – at the same time – harms your own body’s ability to detox it out.
  • US wheat, oats, barley, edible dry beans and sunflowers are routinely sprayed with Glyphosate as a pre-harvest dessicant. Lentils, peas, non-GMO soybeans, corn, flax, rye, triticale, buckwheat, millet, canola, sugar beets and potatoes which are likely sprayed with Glyphosate as a pre-harvest dessicant.
    • This use of Glyphosate as a dessicant has nothing to do with – and is a separate issue from – the use of Glyphosate or Roundup in GMOs.
  • There is NO REQUIREMENT for the food, agri-business and agri-chemical industries to disclose the presence of Glyphosate / Roundup / Roundup Ready GMOs / neonics in any non-organic food your family eats. Organic foods are not supposed to have these chemicals in them, per USDA NOSB regulations.
  • LABELS DO NOT TELL YOU if Roundup, Glyphosate, Roundup Ready GMOs, GMO ingredients and/or neonics are present in that food. The lack of this data on the food label DOES NOT MEAN THE FOOD IS FREE OF THESE SUBSTANCES.
  • VIRTUALLY ALL sugar beets grown in the US today are treated with neonicotinoids (“neonics,” which are implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and killing honey bees) and are GM, Roundup Ready. White sugar is just one of the products made from sugar beets; 54% of domestically-produced white sugar comes from sugar beets.
    • MSG / processed free glutamic acid is often produced by growing GM bacteria on a sugar beet medium.
  • VIRTUALLY ALL (non-organic) corn and soy seed in the US today is treated with neonics.
  • VIRTUALLY ALL (non-organic) corn and soy grown in the US today is also GM, Roundup Ready.
  • Corn products or derivatives are pervasive in our food supply (see here, here, and especially here and here) and other common household products, as well (see here.) Go and check the labels of the processed, packaged food you buy, to confirm this!
    • Examples of just some of the food products made from corn are: high fructose corn syrup, cornstarch, some ascorbic acids (vitamin C) and some vitamin Es, vitamin fillers, cellulose, baking powder, citrate, citric acid, Xylitol, Sorbitol, corn meal, Maltrodextrin, Dextrose, Ethanol, HVP, flavoring, Malic Acid, Malt, Malt flavoring, modified food starch, MSG/processed free glutamic acid, Xanthan Gum.
  • Corn and soy are among the top feed used for livestock. The chemicals they ingest – the Roundup Ready GMOS, Glyphosate and neonics in (non-organic) corn and soy feed- are ingested by you in the eggs, chicken, turkey, beef and pork, and so on, which you eat.
  • Scientists are now asking the question: does Genetically-Modified, Roundup Ready food alter the genetic make-up of humans and our diverse gut bacteria? Do you even understand the ramifications of that possibility? You’re not alone, most of us don’t either. It is very, very serious.

Please go to GMOS REVEALED, and plan to give as much time as you can this weekend to viewing it. Your family, our honey bees and pollinators – and our food co-op – deserve it!

And please support local, organic farm families with your food dollars. They are protecting our soil, water, food and pollinators.

I will do my part and ask HWFC to purchase this series, for use by any and all HWFC Member-Owner families.


© Laura Hagen


The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philpot Curran