No, there’s no labeling on use of neonicotinoids in plants or seeds

bee and milkweed flower in Buffalo
A bee flies toward a milkweed flower. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

I got this question from a reader:

Hi Connie,

How can we be sure that we aren’t buying plants that have been treated with neonics, or grown from seeds containing neonics?

Is there a standard label to look for? Or certain brands that don’t deal in them?




Since I’m not a gardening expert, I contacted someone who knows more about  neonicotinoids, which are used in pest control. I talked to John Farfaglia, the extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County.

Here’s what Farfaglia has to say:

“While there is much more being done in greenhouse pest control with beneficial insects and other biological controls, the use of neonicotinoids may still be used in some crops where other control methods are not working.

“A major area of concern relating to this class of systemic chemical is that it is absorbed into the pollen and nectar of flowers, which may then be passed on to pollinating insects. This is one factor that has been studied in the decline of honeybee populations.

“I do not believe there is any labeling at this point that indicates if neonicotinoids were used in the growing of certain plants. I heard that some of the big box retailers were talking about requiring their plant suppliers to do this, but nothing definitive at this time.

“Serious organic gardeners can have more confidence when buying seeds from trusted organic suppliers and growing the plants themselves.”

How to get your questions answered

Sometimes readers contact me with questions that I can’t answer.

I’m not a gardening expert– I’m a writer by profession. I interview knowledgeable people in order to provide you with great articles on So when someone asks a question I can’t answer, sometimes I will contact an expert and post the answer.

Other times I post the question and rely on my readers to share their expertise by leaving a comment.

Sending a question to me to post can be helpful if you’re looking for a wide range of opinions and don’t mind waiting for the answer. If you want to try this route, email the question to me at and I’ll pose it to my readers in an upcoming issue.

A more efficient route for getting your questions answered is to turn to Master Gardeners with Cornell Cooperative Extension. Find contact information here for your county’s Cooperative Extension office.

Local garden centers can help with many of your questions, too. Many local garden centers grow the plants themselves and have knowledgeable people on their staffs. Check out our Gardening Directory for their contact information.

3 Comments on “No, there’s no labeling on use of neonicotinoids in plants or seeds

  1. Thanks for that information. People who are very concerned about organic gardening may be familiar with this issue, but I think it’s brand new to many home gardeners.

  2. Connie – There are a couple references on our website that can help gardeners on this topic ( First, a resource put together by the Xerces Society lists gardening products that contain neonicotinoids (see Neonictinoid Products to Avoid). As for seeds, the link Sources, Tips and Tricks lists both organic and non-gmo sources (local and otherwise). It also includes a list of seed/gardening suppliers with ties to the GMO/neonictinoid industry.

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