An estimated 3,300 acres on oat farms that supply oats for Honey Nut Cheerios will soon provide new dedicated, flower-rich habitat for pollinators. General Mills is partnering with the Xerces Society, a pollinator and wildlife conservation organization, to plant wildflowers on the supplier farms by the end of 2020.
As General Mills recognizes, bees have experienced an unprecedented scale of habitat loss. At the same time, more than two thirds of the crops used to feed people, accounting for 90 percent of the world’s nutrition, are pollinated by bees.
“Pollinator habitats are one of the most effective solutions in ensuring bees get the daily nutrition they need,” said Dr. Marla Spivak, a bee scholar at the University of Minnesota who has been collaborating with General Mills on the initiative. “Every day, 4,000 species of North American bees are traveling from flower to flower, shopping for the variety of good nutrition they need in order to thrive.
“My hope is this partnership between farmers, the Xerces Society and General Mills will not only beautify the North American countryside with vibrant wildflowers, but also help the bees we all rely on so much get back on their own six feet!”
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General Mills claims that this commitment, which is tied to its “We Need the Bees” campaign, makes the company one of the largest corporate contributors to pollinator conservation. The company stated that large-scale habitat projects have already been planted or are currently underway on farms supplying ingredients for its Muir Glen, Cascadian Farm, LÄRABAR and Annie’s brands, with additional projects being planned.
“Bees need a variety of good nutrition in their diets, just like humans, and General Mills is about good nutrition,” said Jared Pippin, associate marketing manager for Cheerios. “We are in the business of making food and all of the experts agree we can’t grow the crops needed for the food we eat if we don’t give the bees that pollinate them the nutrition they need. As a General Mills brand, we saw an opportunity to do more and are proud to be a part of this leading-edge movement to create pollinator habitats.”
Oats are wind-pollinated, not pollinated by honey bees, but the Cheerios brand is undoubtedly tied to “famous spokesbee, Buzz Bee, and his honey bee friends.” About 30 percent of all ingredients in General Mills’ products rely on pollinators, according to the company.
General Mills announced that Cheerios would be made without the use of GMOs in 2014, and the cereal is made without artificial flavors and colors. The latter will apply to all General Mills brand cereals by the end of 2016. Any of the company’s products which do contain GMOs will “soon” be labeled nationwide.
Meanwhile, conservation NGO Wildlife Habitat Council has released a white paper, “Prioritizing Pollinators in Corporate America,” to help companies understand the issue of pollinators’ decline and providing them with actions they can take to help.
As the organization points out, corporate lands of all sizes and scopes can have the potential to implement pollinator projects and contribute to the goals of The White House's National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. The National Strategy contains three overarching goals: the reduction in honeybee colony loss during winter; the recovery of the monarch population to 225 million butterflies on wintering grounds in Mexico; and the restoration or enhancement of 7 million acres of land for pollinators. The Wildlife Habitat Council asserts that public-private partnerships are an important tool for achieving these goals.
The organization’s white paper provides guidance for landowners to protect pollinators, increase public awareness on the issue, and create pollinator-friendly habitat, as well as examples of how companies have taken action. Corporations highlighted include Boeing, Exelon (Baltimore Gas & Electric), General Motors, ITC, Pacific Gas & Electric, PPG, and Waste Management.
“With thoughtful design, pollinator projects can meet business needs for site maintenance, employee and community engagement, and corporate goals for sustainability reporting,” according to the Wildlife Habitat Council.
One example of this claim in action is Boeing’s Pollinator Prairie in northeastern Kansas. A former Superfund site, Boeing transitioned the contaminated property into a “community asset that provides recreational opportunities, pollinator habitat, and pollinator education opportunities.”
In a similar vein, the Wildlife Habitat Council suggests that the new “green remediation” guidelines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offer opportunities to benefit pollinators. According to the Council, including pollinator-friendly plantings as part of remediation will align with the EPA’s new guidelines, save land managers on long-term maintenance costs, and support beneficial reuse of the property.