While glyphosate is best-known as a herbicide (weed killer) used on crops genetically engineered to be resistant to it (eg. soy, corn, canola), its presence in breakfast cereals and other products made from oats, wheat, and other conventional (Non GM) crops is due to its application as a pre-harvest desiccant (drying agent), especially in the northern regions of the Great Plains and the grain belt of Midwestern and western Canada, where cold, wet weather comes early.
Following a wave of class action lawsuits and growing awareness due to initiatives such as The Detox Project (which certifies products as ‘Glyphosate Residue Free'), CPG brands have been under pressure to address the use of the herbicide as a desiccant.
In a statement on its website picked up by the Washington Post, Kellogg notes: "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 pre-harvest drying agent in our wheat and oat supply chain in our major markets, including the US, by the end of 2025.
"In addition, we are working with farmers through our Kellogg’s Origins program, expanding and further investing in programs that focus on conservation practices and integrated pest management, which can reduce the need for chemical plant protection.
As You Sow first filed a shareholder resolution with Kellogg on the subject of glyphosate in 2017. This led to ongoing dialogue between investors and the company during which investors asked the company to reduce the use of glyphosate by producer farms; in particular, investors asked the company to eliminate the practice of applying glyphosate just before harvesting grains. As You Sow filed another resolution for the 2020 shareholder meeting pushing the company to collect and report information on supply chain pesticide use; the proposal was withdrawn after the company demonstrated significant new commitments.
"We are hopeful that its action will lead other food producers to do the same. At the same time, we are also keeping our eyes focused on the ultimate goal of reducing agricultural use of all toxic pesticides in food supply chains and getting farmers off the pesticide treadmill for good,” commented Christy Spees, As You Sow’s environmental health program manager.