Honey Nut Cheerios helps conserve habitats
If we didn’t have pollinators, we wouldn’t have a lot of our favorite foods.
There’s been a lot of buzz lately about declining pollinator habitats. It’s a major concern for us, considering about 30 percent of all ingredients grown for use in General Mills products rely on pollination.
So, today Honey Nut Cheerios is taking action with an aggressive goal to do something new about the decline.
The brand just announced that by the end of 2020, farms that Honey Nut Cheerios sources oats from will house about 3,300 total acres of dedicated pollinator habitat on 60,000 acres of land.
“The best way to really help bees is to provide them really good nutrition and places where they can forage and nesting sites where they can live,” says Dr. Marla Spivak, professor of entomology and bee researcher at the University of Minnesota. “General Mills is doing so much to help the bees. So, all around where they’re growing oats for Honey Nut Cheerios, they’re going to be planting wildflowers, some native species that will really benefit all of our bees. They’ll benefit our native bees and honey bees will also be using these flowers for their food. It’s just a really nice combination to have the oats and the flowers bordering them.”
With today’s announcement, General Mills is now making one of the largest commitments to pollinator conservation by a company.
“We wanted to do something for pollinators that would truly leverage our scale,” says Jared Pippin, associate marketing manager for Cheerios. “We talked with experts in the field. 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.”
This video shows you how and why Honey Nut Cheerios is supporting the bee population in North America.
This move today by the Honey Nut Cheerios brand team in the U.S. builds on a recent program by their colleagues working on the brand in Canada – “Bring Back the Bees.”
Both Honey Nut Cheerios campaigns come at a critical time.
But General Mills – along with several of our brands – has been an active partner in efforts to improve the pollinator population for many years.
We collaborate with leading researchers – such as the University of Minnesota and conservationists, primarily the non-profit Xerces Society – to improve the health and quantity of pollinators.
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. Through this partnership, dollars invested by General Mills are matched 1 to 1 by NRCS, effectively doubling the impact of both partners. Learn more, here.
Earlier this month, Cascadian Farm announced it is working with the Xerces Society to plant thousands of acres of pollinator habitat at the brand’s supplier farms by the end of 2020. (You may also recall the brand’s “Bee Friendlier” campaign in 2014).
Other large-scale habitat projects have already been planted or are currently underway on farms supplying ingredients to Muir Glen, LÄRABAR and Annie’s, with additional projects being planned.
“It’s wonderful that Honey Nut Cheerios and our other big brands are getting on board, because that’s how you really influence change,” says Tom Rabaey, principal agronomist for General Mills. (Tom talks about General Mills’ commitment to pollinators, in this audio clip).
According to the USDA Farm Service Agency, bees have experienced an unprecedented scale of habitat loss with more than nine million acres of grass and prairie land converted to crop land since 2008.
“The real issue around honey bees and pollinator health or the viability of those insects is really a result of changing agricultural practices the last 30 years that has resulted in a decline in habitat,” Tom says. “As agriculture has transformed, the landscape – prairies, pastures, meadows and hayfields – has disappeared over time.”
So, it’s crucial that we restore pollinator habitats.
“Pollinator conservation addresses issues other than just bee health, it provides wildlife habitat for all native species in surrounding farms and there’s soil conservation that goes with it,” says Beth Robertson-Martin, manager of our Organic Center of Excellence at General Mills. “You’re conserving water because these are native hedgerows, so they’re drought resistant. And then you’re also addressing a big concern of a lot of modern agriculture, which is lack of biodiversity.”
It’s not just about habitat growth, though. The Xerces Society is also working to educate farmers on conventional farms about integrated pest management.
“In addition to planting a hedgerow, when it’s a conventional farm we’ll work with the farmer to develop a pesticide program that’s more consistent with providing a positive environment for the bugs and the bees,” Beth says. “The integrated pest management is critical to conventional farms to help support pollinator health.”
According to Jared, in this audio clip, farmers in our Honey Nut Cheerios supply chain appreciate the guidance.
He says we hope our commitment will make a positive difference restoring pollinator habits and inspire others to do something too.
“If our pollinators continue to decline at the rate they are, we are in jeopardy of losing a good chunk of our food supply,” says Jared. “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.”
“This is truly a General Mills initiative where we are nurturing our planet, serving people and doing the right thing all the time,” Beth says. “This is a way that we can show that our scale is making a huge positive impact. This not only makes a big impact in pollinator conservation, but this also is guaranteeing that we’re still around to continue to do the right thing.”
It’s certainly a big move, appreciated by our partners, that will bloom into something even bigger.
“By focusing specifically on pollinator conservation within the supply chain, General Mills is going above and beyond any other food company in terms of supporting pollinators,” says Eric Lee-Mäder, pollinator program co-director, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “This approach is so significant because it is directly changing farm conditions for pollinators with high quality wildflower habitat and better protection from pesticides.”
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