Kitchen & Cooking

Leading Popcorn Maker Drops Bee-Killing Pesticide

Time to start catering to the bees’ needs?

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The threat of the consumer boycott is alive and well, especially when it comes to iconic products. Like, say, popcorn: Americans consume more than 16 billion quarts of the salty snack each year.

In October, an advertising campaign and petition drive was launched by the Center for Food Safety with the goal of pressuring two of the largest popcorn manufacturers, Pop Secret and Pop Weaver, to end use of neonicotinoids—a type of insecticide thought to be harmful to bees.

“Neonicotinoids can last in the environment for several years after application and exposure to these chemicals threatens a wide range of animals, including bees, butterflies, birds, and marine species,” the CFS explained.

Just a week later, Indiana-based Weaver Popcorn announced it would take steps to reduce and potentially eliminate use of neonicotinoid seed coatings in its Pop Weaver products.

The pesticide is used on field corn seed and popcorn seed before it is planted. While Pop Weaver says there is no human health risk, growing evidence increasingly points to pesticides—neonicotinoids, in particular—as the biggest factor in the massive bee die-off experienced during the last decade.

The fear is not that the world’s supply of honey is going to dry up. No, although we love a dollop of honey on our yogurt, it’s much worse than that.

Bees are responsible for pollinating most of the crops we eat, plus the cotton we wear. As journalist Hannah Nordhaus explained in her book The Beekeeper’s Lament, bees are “the glue that holds our agricultural system together.” A wide variety of crops depend on bee pollination for survival.

Recognizing its role as one of the largest popcorn suppliers in the country, Weaver announced it is “committed to removing 50 percent of its neonicotinoids usage in 2016, 75 percent 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.”

Whether other popcorn manufacturers like Pop Secret will join Weaver in phasing out the use of neonicotinoids remains to be seen.