U.S. Food Companies Trapped on Pesticide Treadmill, New Scorecard Finds
Global Food companies fail to address pesticide risk, reliance, and growing harm
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BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA—NOV. 8, 2023—As You Sow released its third "Pesticides in the Pantry" report today, ranking 17 major food manufacturing companies on their progress in pesticide reduction and the adoption of regenerative agricultural practices.
Compared to As You Sow's 2021 report, the overall average scores dropped from a “D” to an “F” due to continued heavy pesticide use in major food supply chains and a lack of progress in reducing harm to farmworkers, fenceline communities, ecosystems, pollinators, farm resiliency, and climate health.
While overall and individual scores were low, General Mills achieved the highest score of “C.” ADM’s overall grade jumped from an “F” in 2021 to a “C-” in 2023 and received the highest score for pesticide risk reduction strategies. ADM was also the only company that has effectively banned glyphosate as a pre-harvest desiccant across its supply chain. General Mills and Conagra adopted, maintained, or improved their pesticide reduction practices, with Conagra also significantly improving its pesticide risk-reduction strategies from 2021 to 2023. Kellanova, previously Kellogg, lost ground this year as it eliminated its goal of phasing out glyphosate as a pre-harvest desiccant by 2025.
"Low company scores highlight the industry’s stagnation in making the systemic changes necessary to increase the resilience of our food supply chain and reduce the destructiveness of the current chemical-based agribusiness system,” said Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow. “Shareholders, policymakers, communities, workers, and advocates want cleaner, healthier foods. As the documentary Common Ground points out, the time to transition to regenerative agriculture is now or never."
The report grades 17 companies under seven pillars, including Pesticide Reduction Policies, Regenerative Agriculture, and Farmworker Health and Safety. The report relies on a grading curve to determine companies' letter grades, as no companies received more than ten out of 27 possible points.
"Current farming practices that depend on monocrops and high pesticide use deplete the soil, allow dangerous levels of topsoil loss, harm people and ecosystems, and put food production at increasing risk under current climate-altered, high-risk weather patterns,” said Cailin Dendas, lead author and As You Sow’s environmental health coordinator. “These practices also continue to harm farmworkers. In the U.S., 83% of farmworkers are Hispanic, and many are likely to experience pesticide poisoning. This creates reputational risk associated with environmental racism as well as litigation risk to food companies."
"These companies are at a crossroads that will determine the health of our land, our communities, and their own viability as an industry,” said Dendas. “All companies need to monitor pesticide use in their supply chain strictly. But they can’t stop there. Food companies must ensure that regenerative agriculture policies are adopted to protect farmworkers and nearby communities and reduce harm to soil, waters, ecosystems, and climate."
As You Sow is the nation’s leading shareholder representative, with a 30-year track record promoting environmental and social corporate responsibility and advancing values-aligned investing. Its issue areas include climate change, ocean plastics, pesticides, racial justice, workplace diversity, and executive compensation.
Reprinted from here.