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Media contact:

Scott Hoffman Black, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, (503) 449-3792, [email protected]

PORTLAND, Ore., Jun. 27, 2023 — On Friday, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley announced new legislation that would create a pollinator-friendly plant labeling program, modeled after the Organic Foods Production Act that created organic labeling. The program would require the Department of Agriculture to create a certification program for plant producers in order to certify that their plants are not treated with pesticides harmful to monarchs and other pollinators.

Under the pollinator-friendly plant labeling program, plants must be native to the United States and must not have been grown using pesticides or substances that are not approved for use in organically grown products. Producers who choose to participate in the program would be able to use a “USDA pollinator-friendly” label on their plants and products.

“Protecting Western Monarch butterflies and other pollinators is a critical issue, and I know many of us are looking for ways to help,” said Sen. Merkley. “Projects like at home gardening are great ways that every day consumers can take action. But folks across the country buying milkweed plants to help boost pollinator populations may unknowingly be picking up pesticide-treated plants that are actually harming the pollinators they are intended to support. We need to ensure that consumers who want to help can find safe, pollinator-friendly plants when they head to their local nursery.”

Legislation follows findings of dangerous pesticide levels in pollinator plants at U.S. nurseries

Last year, a study by the Xerces Society and University of Nevada, Reno, found that milkweed plants in nurseries across the U.S. are frequently being treated with pesticides that are harmful to monarch caterpillars. As a result, well-intentioned consumers purchasing milkweed to help support pollinators are unknowingly exposing them to harmful environments. Even plants that were listed as “wildlife-friendly” did not have any fewer pesticides on them. This is particularly harmful for the western monarch, which is at risk of extinction according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature—having declined by more than 95% percent since the 1980s.

“Research has shown that pollinator plants sold in US nurseries often have high levels of pesticide residue, which can harm or even kill monarch butterflies and other pollinators,” said Scott Black, executive director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “Customers deserve to know whether the plants they buy are truly safe for pollinators. The Pollinator Friendly Plant Labeling Program bill introduced by Senator Merkley will establish the first ever certification that achieves that.”

The Pollinator-Friendly Plant Labeling Act is supported by The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, National Wildlife Federation, and the Sierra Club.

The Pollinator-Friendly Plant Labeling Act is also co-sponsored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Peter Welch (D-VT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).