General Mills puts more pollinator conservation in supply chain

11 May 2016

More farms that supply the US food firm General Mills are to create land dedicated to pollinators.

General Mills said that declining pollinator habitats was a major concern for the company as around 30% of all ingredients grown for use in its products relied on pollination.

It said that by the end of 2020, farms that supply oats for its Honey Nut Cheerios brand would house about 3,300 total acres of dedicated pollinator habitat on 60,000 acres of land.

General Mills said this move was one of the largest commitments to pollinator conservation by a company.

Jared Pippin, associate marketing manager for Cheerios, said the company wanted to do something for pollinators that would leverage its scale. “We talked with experts in the field,” he said. “We talked with our employees in our sourcing division, and we decided that what we can do to make a difference is plant this habitat on the fields we source our ingredients from.”

The initiative builds on a similar programme by the brand in Canada, called ‘Bring Back the Bees’. General Mills and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) have partnered with the Xerces Society to restore large areas of habitat for pollinators on farms nationwide.

Earlier this month, General Mills’ brand Cascadian Farm announced it was working with the Xerces Society to plant thousands of acres of pollinator habitat at the brand’s supplier farms by the end of 2020.

Other large-scale habitat projects have already been planted or are currently underway on farms supplying ingredients to other General Mills brands Muir Glen, LÄRABAR and Annie’s, and other projects are planned.

General Mills said that according to the USDA Farm Service Agency, bees have experienced an unprecedented scale of habitat loss.

“If our pollinators continue to decline at the rate they are, we are in jeopardy of losing a good chunk of our food supply,” said Pippin. “This is a big issue that we can help solve by planting wildflowers. We’re just trying to do that on as big of a scale as we can.”

Eric Lee-Mäder, pollinator program co-director at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, said that by focusing specifically on pollinator conservation within the supply chain, General Mills was doing more than any other food company to support pollinators.

“This approach is so significant because it is directly changing farm conditions for pollinators with high quality wildflower habitat and better protection from pesticides,” he said.

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