Numerous studies document the correlation between pesticide exposure and increased cancer risk. According to the U.S. President’s Cancer Panel, approximately forty chemicals found in EPA-registered pesticides are classified as “known, probable, or possible” carcinogens. In July 2016, scientists and health providers released a scientific Consensus Statement as a national call to action to reduce exposures to chemicals including pesticides.
Practices such as applying glyphosate to crops before harvesting—a protocol that makes harvesting easier but may result in increased pesticide residues on crops—are raising concerns. In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it planned to begin testing for glyphosate residues on some foods.
Neonicotinoids have been implicated as a contributor to the decline in pollinators. With crops reliant on pollinators valued between $235-$577 billion, chronic declines in these populations pose a threat to our economy and global food system.
Consumer interest in knowing how food is grown and its impacts on health and the environment is increasing. According to a Consumers Reports survey, 86 percent of people believe it is critical to reduce pesticide exposure.
Given these concerns, regulatory actions are increasing:
• In 2013, the EU banned three neonicotinoids;
• In 2016, Minnesota enacted restrictions on neonicotinoids, and is seeking legislative authority to regulate seeds treated with pesticides before they’re planted;
• In 2015, the EPA proposed a ban on the insecticide chlorpyrifos for agricultural use;
• In 2016, California regulators proposed rules banning farmers from spraying pesticides within a quarter mile of schools or daycare facilities.
Further, several companies are tracking and reducing pesticide use:
• Unilever discloses amounts of pesticides avoided by farmers using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices;
• Whole Foods has committed to reduce pesticide use and its “Responsibly Grown Pesticide Policy targets pesticides which pose the greatest risk to consumers [and] pollinators;”
• Sysco’s IPM Program reduced pesticide use by nearly 900,000 pounds over three years. Sysco also tracks pesticides avoided that affect pollinators.
PepsiCo’s disclosures, in contrast, do not provide sufficient information to determine how it is effectively managing pesticide risks. PepsiCo’s Sustainable Farming Initiative, which addresses only a portion of the total supply chain, guides growers to “optimize” the use of pesticides. However, it does not disclose metrics, detailed goals, or progress. Further, PepsiCo’s Performance with Purpose 2025 Agenda, which provides specific details on a range of sustainability-related issues, is notably silent on pesticides.
Resolved: Shareholders request that the Board publicly report on company strategies and policy options to protect public health and pollinators through reduced pesticide usage in PepsiCo’s supply chain.
Supporting Statement: While the company has the discretion to determine its precise content, proponents recommend that the requested report include:
• Quantitative metrics tracking the amount of pesticides used and avoided, along with the class of pesticides used, reported annually,
• Overall goals to reduce pesticide use and/or toxicity; and
• Measures including technical assistance and incentives provided to growers, to avoid or minimize the use of pesticides.