Most of our products contain agricultural ingredients, and we are dedicated to producing the safest, highest-quality and best-tasting beverages and convenient foods in every part of the world. The continued growth and success of our company depends on healthy ecosystems that can support sustainable and regenerative agriculture. To that end, PepsiCo seeks continuous improvements in agricultural practices that minimize pesticide and other agrochemical use. Our robust food safety programs are designed to assure the safety of every product, every day in every market.
To the World:
When used responsibly, pesticides and other agrochemicals have a role to play in sustainable agriculture because they can improve crop yield from farms and plantations. Improved yields can help to ensure a reliable and productive food chain, reduce pressure to convert more land, help to keep food affordable for consumers and support farmer incomes. Pesticide use has led to concerns around unintended environmental and health impacts. These include the potential for pesticide residues on the raw agricultural materials used in food manufacturing; impacts on the health of soil, pollinators, local water systems and the broader ecology; and, if not handled and applied properly, potential health impacts on farm workers and communities.
PepsiCo understands the concerns around pesticides and takes them seriously. In recognition of these concerns, evolving regulations and the importance of responsible pesticide use to our business and stakeholders, we established a cross-functional Global Pesticide Council comprised of senior leaders across key functions to evaluate pesticide issues and direct the Company’s policies and programs. The work is structured around five key areas:
- Pesticide usage
- Risk assessment
- Compliance with global regulations
- External engagement
- Internal governance & communication
The Council’s mission is to ensure global compliance, anticipate changes in the marketplace and take proactive steps to minimize pesticide-related risks. These include environmental and human health risks associated with the application of pesticides in agricultural production as well as food safety risks associated with our raw materials. We take into account the fact that pesticides are highly regulated and routinely evaluated by expert government agencies in markets around the world, to address both environmental and human health risks.
Sustainable agriculture and integrated pest management (IPM)
Our Global Sustainable Agriculture Policy sets standards of performance and expectations for growers across our diverse, global supply chains, including compliance with governmental laws, regulations and industry standards, including appropriate use of pesticides. Our aim is to support sustainable practices that substitute and promote natural controls for some agrochemicals, foster ecosystem balance, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate crop losses. Our policy also recognizes the risk of water pollution from pesticides and the need to responsibly manage water runoff from farms.
To implement our policy, PepsiCo sets specific performance goals on regenerative agriculture and sustainable sourcing of major agricultural raw materials, backed by our global Sustainable Farming Program (SFP) or an equivalent program. The SFP is a comprehensive framework to gauge environmental, social and economic impacts associated with our agricultural supply chain. The SFP Fundamental Principles and Scheme Rules are available on our website and provide information on the overall framework as well as specific practices that PepsiCo expects our farmers to adopt, including measures to support safe, legal and responsible use of pesticides and minimize agrochemical application through IPM.
PepsiCo has worked closely with our growers for years and we have a strong heritage of partnering with experienced farmers who are responsible stewards of natural resources. The SFP has been fully implemented and independently verified across 30 countries and with approximately 4,500 audited farmers, from large agribusinesses to smallholder farms. Crops addressed through the program include key ingredients we source directly such as corn, oats and potatoes, among others. The assessments completed on our direct supply chain alone represent more than 40% of our total agricultural supply chain by volume. For more on our sourcing progress with the SFP, see Agriculture.
The SFP’s framework contains nine environmental, four social and three economic sustainability topics, with detailed criteria and global standards for each. Under the environmental pillar, agrochemicals are one of the nine topics, providing a platform through which PepsiCo gathers information on implementation of our principles of pesticide management. The topic includes seven principles, which we categorize in the following way:
Sustainable protection of crops against pests includes prevention and monitoring of pest problems, using pesticide control methods only when necessary and targeting only the pests that can harm crops. IPM is an important tool for advancing these practices. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization defines IPM as:
the careful consideration of all available pest control techniques and subsequent integration of appropriate measures that discourage the development of pest populations and keep pesticides and other interventions to levels that are economically justified and reduce or minimize risks to human health and the environment. IPM emphasizes the growth of a healthy crop with the least possible disruption to agro-ecosystems and encourages natural pest control mechanisms.
We encourage our farmer suppliers to use a variety of tools to reduce risks from pests. Using a combination of biological, physical and chemical tools to identify, manage and reduce pest risks can help minimize overall economic, health and environmental impacts. Under IPM, actions are taken to control pests only when their numbers are likely to exceed acceptable levels. Any action taken is designed to target the troublesome pest and limit the impact on other organisms and the environment. Although applications of pesticides are always the last resort in an IPM program, they may be needed to help control the spread of disease, ensure farmer safety and/or prevent direct plant loss.
Protecting food safety and quality
PepsiCo has detailed internal programs and procedures for food safety. A summary of our policies, programs and actions may be found on Product safety and quality.
With respect to pesticides and other agrochemicals, PepsiCo’s growers and suppliers are required to follow our Global Supplier Code of Conduct and have pesticide management programs. A copy of our Global Raw Material Quality and Food Safety Policy is included in our contracts, which require suppliers to comply with all applicable rules and regulations. We have various programs that involve pesticide audits and/or pesticide surveillance, including focused testing of raw materials for residues and implementing corrective actions where appropriate. We have a long-term program to work towards third-party Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) certification for farmers globally, which includes details of pesticides used and their application. This program has started with North American and European potatoes and includes an annual independent third-party audit at harvest time to a recognized scheme, which includes a detailed inspection of pesticide use on farms. Pilots are underway in other geographies and for additional crops including corn and oats in the U.S.
The legal limits for pesticide residues in commodities and finished products are governed by local laws and regulations, which cover products produced both conventionally as well as organically. These limits specify the allowable pesticide residue levels and reflect good agricultural practices and assure safety. Studies published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and by the European Food Safety Authority concluded that the vast majority of food consumed within the U.S. and the EU, respectively, is largely free of pesticide residues or contains residues that fall within legal limits.1 For example, over 99% of food produced in the U.S. was compliant with federal pesticide residue limits, according to the USDA study.
Protecting agricultural workers
PepsiCo is compliant with laws and regulations in countries where ingredients are grown and where products are sold. We are aware of concerns around occupational exposure to glyphosate, an herbicide used by farmers, including its use as a drying agent prior to crop harvesting. Glyphosate has been used by farmers around the world for more than 40 years because of its ability to control weeds and its safety profile, which has been vigorously tested and affirmed by numerous risk assessment authorities and independent expert panels.2 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted a thorough review of the most up-to-date safety studies, and in January 2020, they reiterated their view that there are no risks of concern to human health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label.3 Though we do not own any farms, we expect and encourage growers, especially those with whom we have direct relationships, to comply with local agricultural practices and label restrictions to ensure that the pesticides are applied safely and responsibly.
Protecting bees and pollinators
We recognize the potential impact of pesticides, among other environmental stressors, on beneficial pollinators as an important issue within PepsiCo’s supply chains. With respect to the group of pesticides called neonicotinoids (“neonics”), our recent evaluation of the science indicates that significant advancements have been made in understanding the impact of neonics on pollinators, birds and other organisms4, resulting in additional and ongoing regulatory scrutiny, including bans in some parts of the world.
In response to these developments, PepsiCo monitors scientific and regulatory issues related to neonics under our Global Pesticide Council. We have engaged with a wide range of external stakeholders and enlisted external experts to conduct studies and broaden our understanding, including the potential for viable alternative approaches. We continue to implement our policies and programs, such as the SFP, to address the use of all pesticides in our supply chains and minimize unintended impacts to pollinators.
Since launching the SFP in 2015, the program has enabled PepsiCo to obtain data and improved visibility into our agricultural supply chains, including the use of IPM. PepsiCo is engaging with our agriculture teams and growers to support the development and implementation of IPM improvement programs, including making the business case for IPM and training on appropriate IPM based on the size and capability of the grower. Our goal is 100% compliance with our SFP Code globally, and we are using third-party verification to ensure that growers are employing the right practices, including IPM. While the impact of IPM on pesticide application will vary according to a complex set of factors, including crop type, region and climate, IPM helps reduce the amounts of pesticides used.
In 2022, the Global Pesticide Council revised its strategic plan and made significant progress across several key areas of work, including:
- Advancing foundational horizon scanning initiatives;
- Improving internal awareness and understanding through consumer message testing and global pesticide media updates;
- Implementing new audit and selective surveillance programs for potatoes, oats, corn and citrus;
- Creating a protocol on change management;
- Maintaining a Pesticide Priority Risk Dashboard to drive awareness of regulatory activity across key markets;
- Investigating the use of lower risk alternatives for key crops; and
- Improving agriculture supplier management and direct oversight of farmers.
Working with farmers
Good Agricultural Practices
In 2022, we continued to work with farmers to implement Good Agricultural Practices, including GAP certification in key geographies and on key crops. At the end of the year, 100% of our potato suppliers in the U.S. and Canada were GAP certified and 98% of our European potato suppliers were GAP certified. Pilots are underway in other geographies and crops.
Comparing year-end 2022 performance with the baseline established from 2015-2018, farmers' compliance with our IPM program requirement has improved from less than 50% to nearly 96% globally. The remaining IPM non-conformance is primarily attributed to smallholder farmers with whom we are continuing to support the implementation of IPM practice.
As part of our efforts to promote IPM, we engage directly with farmers in our Demonstration Farm Program. The program showcases practices that are leading to the commercialization of innovative ag-tech and the scaling of proven practices that lead to regenerative outcomes. By the end of 2022, we had 89 farms in the program globally. It enables the farmers we work with to share their firsthand experiences, which encourages broader adoption. In 2022, we worked with our partners to support different areas of regenerative agriculture practices such as agrochemical and water use efficiency, advancements in IPM and many aspects of precision farming. Our demonstration farms yield measurable outcomes and value for farmers, the environment and the business. For example:
- In Europe, we are using a special “Late Blight” warning app which is developed by Wageningen University (Netherlands). This in-season decision support tool helps potato farmers to reduce their pesticide usage and increases plant health.
- We have also teamed up with agro-tech companies such as AgroScout to pilot precision agriculture programs for more efficient and targeted use of pesticides. For example, we are using drone technology and an integrated machine learning platform in Latin America. The technology improves scouting coverage and accuracy, reduces the amounts of pesticides needed for spraying and improves plant health.
We have made progress in promoting responsible use of pesticides and implementing our food safety programs, yet we also face challenges:
- Farmers' compliance with our IPM program requirement has improved from less than 50% between 2015 and 2018 to nearly 96% globally in 2022.
- The acquisition of businesses such as Pioneer Foods extends our agricultural footprint and will take time to assess capability and implement our global programs.
- We continue to see an increase in changes to local pesticide regulations, especially in the EU, and the speed at which these changes are introduced is impacting global supply chains.
PepsiCo actively engages with multi-stakeholder groups, peer companies and NGOs to develop, promote and adopt best practices related to responsible use of pesticides. We participate in a range of collaborative programs that focus on regenerative and sustainable agriculture generally and pesticide use specifically. These include Field to Market, The Sustainability Consortium, The Keystone Policy Center and the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform, among others. These platforms allow collaboration and dialogue with peer companies, growers and other critical stakeholders to better understand established and emerging best practices related to pesticide use and disclosure thereof and help drive industry-wide progress and solutions.
The collaborative efforts of the PepsiCo Global Pesticide Council are continuing to address our key challenges and to prioritize and govern PepsiCo pesticide programs in order to ensure global compliance and minimize pesticide-related risks. To achieve our ambitions, PepsiCo’s Global Pesticide Council has developed a five-year strategic plan with clear deliverables, including industry benchmarking, and we are expanding our centralized global scientific and regulatory tracking. Among our priority actions, we continue to engage externally and continue to promote learning opportunities for our staff and management. In addition, we are continuing our program to investigate potential biologic or other alternatives. We have significantly expanded our supplier management programs and continue to review expansion thereof as appropriate to our business. In 2022, we revised our strategic and five-year plan to better focus on identification and mitigation of potential issues and will continue to re-visit it as appropriate. In addition, the Council is continuing to conduct deep dives to better understand consumer concerns about pesticides and overseeing targeted ingredient surveillance programs.
2Gary M. Williams, Marilyn Aardema, John Acquavella, Sir Colin Berry, David Brusick, Michele M. Burns, Joao Lauro Viana de Camargo, David Garabrant, Helmut A. Greim, Larry D. Kier, David J. Kirkland, Gary Marsh, Keith R. Solomon, Tom Sorahan, Ashley Roberts & Douglas L. Weed (2016) A review of the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate by four independent expert panels and comparison to the IARC assessment, Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 46:sup1, 3-20, DOI: 10.1080/10408444.2016.1214677.
3EPA Finalizes Glyphosate Mitigation; For Release: January 30, 2020. https://www.epa.gov/pesticides/epa-finalizes-glyphosate-mitigation
4Pisa, L., D. Goulson, E.C. Yang, D. Gibbons, F. Sánchez-Bayo, E. Mitchell, A. Aebi, J. van der Sluijs, C.J.K. MacQuarrie, C. Giorio, E.Y. Long, M. McField, M.B. van Lexmond, and J.M. Bonmatin. 2021. An update of the Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA) on systemic insecticides. Part 2: impacts on organisms and ecosystems. Environmental Science and Pollution Research 28(10):11749-11797
June 29, 2023