As scientific research continues to connect pesticide exposures to harmful human health effects, a new report ranked the efforts of 17 major U.S. food manufacturers to reduce pesticides in agriculture. The report was conducted by As You Sow and found General Mills, Lamb Weston, Del Monte, and PepsiCo to score the highest when it came their actions to reduce the growing risk of pesticide use.
The report, Pesticides in the Pantry: Transparency & Risk in Food Supply Chains, ranked 17 major U.S. food manufacturers “based on their performance on 28 indicators designed to measure how effectively companies are reducing pesticide risk and improving agricultural resiliency.” Out of 27 possible points, General Mills (16 points), Lamb Weston (15), Del Monte (14), and PepsiCo (14) scored the highest, while Post and B&G Foods scored the lowest (0 points each) followed by J.M. Smucker (1 point).
“Investors expect companies to be planning for the future and preparing for the effects of climate change,” Danielle Fugere, As You Sow’s president and a contributor to the report, said. “For food companies, climate resilience requires investing in agricultural systems that restore ecosystems and soil health and dramatically reduce the use of toxic chemicals.”
While there are “new initiatives that aim to transition land to regenerative farming practices that are better for the environment, farmers, and consumers,” this report confirms that “these efforts could be thwarted by continued use of pesticides as companies, for the most part, continue to ignore this important component of risk and resiliency.”
The harmful health effects of pesticide exposure includes cancer, cardiovascular disease, birth and developmental defects, liver and kidney disease, and obesity, according to scientific research. And pesticide-based agriculture is harmful to the environment as studies demonstrate it causes loss of critical pollinator species, reduced biodiversity and toxins in waterways.
Several companies made new commitments to reduce pesticide risk, according to the report, which is an improvement compared to 2019. But “problematically, companies continue to avoid addressing and accounting for pesticide use as a meaningful component of promoting agricultural resiliency,” according to the report. Therefore, As You Sow, offers “alternative solutions to support farmers in transitioning away from chemical-dependent farming systems,” such as certified organic farming, integrated pest management, and regenerative agriculture.