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Kellogg’s Cites ‘Sustainability Initiative’ In Plans to Phase Out Glyphosate In Cereals

Food giant aims to phase out glyphosate as preharvest aid in wheat and oats by 2025.

The Kellogg Company aims to phase out the use of glyphosate as a desiccant – or means of hastening the crop’s drydown prior to harvest – in its major wheat and oat supply chains by 2025. 

The global food giant, makers of well-known foods including Frosted Flakes breakfast cereal, Pop Tarts toaster pastries, and Pringles potato crisps, announced its intent on its Open for Breakfast website: 

“…We know that some consumers have questions about the use of the herbicide glyphosate (also known by its brand name Round Up) as a drying agent a few weeks before harvest, particularly with wheat and oats. This practice is done by some farmers in certain circumstances – like harvesting the crop more quickly if weather is challenging.

“Although this practice is not widespread in our wheat and oat supply chains, we are working with our suppliers to phase out using glyphosate as preharvest drying agent in our wheat and oat supply chain in our major markets, including the U.S., by the end of 2025.”

The nonprofit consumer advocacy group, As You Sow, takes partial credit for Kellogg’s decision. In 2017, As You Sow filed a shareholder resolution with Kellogg’s on the subject of glyphosate. This led to discussion between investors and the company during which investors asked Kellogg to reduce the use of glyphosate by producer farms; specifically, to eliminate the practice of applying glyphosate just before harvesting grains. As You Sow filed pushing the company to collect and report information on supply-chain pesticide use. The proposal was withdrawn after the company demonstrated significant new commitments. 

Caitlin Eannello, spokesperson for the National Association of Wheat Growers, says NAWG has been in contact with Kellogg’s.

“We explained to them that preharvest applications occur on 3% or less of wheat acres in the U.S.,” Eanello says. “These applications are made after the wheat plant has shut down, when wheat kernel development is complete and the crop has matured, just a little more than seven days prior to harvest.”

Wheat plants on which glyphosate is applied do not absorb glyphosate. However, green weeds in these fields will be killed by the herbicide.

Eanello adds that the U.S. EPA has approved glyphosate use as a harvest aid, provided that farmers apply when the wheat kernel is 30% moisture or less after grain development. The amount of glyphosate on harvested wheat after a preharvest treatment has repeatedly tested well below the EPA-approved maximum level.

According to the National Wheat Foundation, if there was one part per billion of an herbicide residue in a 1-pound loaf of bread, a person weighing 150 pounds would have to eat 36,000 loaves in a day to reach the acceptable daily intake. Similarly, a person would need to drink over 50,000 bottles of beer or eat 450,000 standard 1.5-ounce servings of oatmeal per day.

On January 30, the EPA announced its findings of a regulatory review of glyphosate. The agency concluded there are “no risks of concern to human health when glyphosate is used according to the label and that it is not a carcinogen.”  

In an email response to Successful Farming magazine’s request for comment, Kellogg’s says phasing out glyphosate use as a harvest aid is part of the company’s sustainability and responsible sourcing programs. 

“To that end, we are:

  • Incorporating pest management and pesticide use into our 2020 ingredient materiality assessment. This assessment will provide a foundation for future strategies for responsibly sourcing our ingredients.
  • Improving the Kellogg Grower Survey and its scope to expand the number of ingredients and improve data collection on pesticide use, and continuing to report on the survey annually as part of our Responsible Sourcing Milestones.
  • Investing in new pesticide reduction elements for our Origins programs that benefit the farmer and the environment.
  • Phasing out preharvest desiccation with glyphosate in our wheat and oat supply chains in our major markets – which includes the U.K., France, the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Australia – by the end of 2025.

“We aligned to this direction at the end of 2019 and are working with our suppliers and other stakeholders to create an action plan to meet this commitment,” the statement concluded.

In a prepared statement, Amy Senter, chief sustainability officer for Kellogg’s, says, “Kellogg Company does not own or manage farms or use pesticides when we make our foods, so we have been engaging with our suppliers about pesticide use, including desiccation with glyphosate, in our ingredient supply chains since before 2017. We have publicly reported on this engagement, including feedback we received from farmers and suppliers on glyphosate use in North America. We also directly support farmers and suppliers in our sourcing regions to drive sustainable agriculture, including on integrated pest management. All of Kellogg’s finished foods meet regulatory requirements, and we continue to actively monitor the science, regulations, and consumer preferences on this topic.”

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