Lamb Weston Holdings – Pesticide Use (2019)
WHEREAS: Lamb Weston is a global supplier of frozen potato, sweet potato and vegetable products. The company states in public filings that its reputation would be adversely impacted by “[its] environmental impact, including use of agricultural materials.”
Conventionally-grown potatoes are among the most pesticide-intensive crops grown in the U.S. Potatoes consistently rank in the top ‘dirty dozen’ of fruits and vegetables with heavy pesticide loads, according to government data examined by the Environmental Working Group.
Widespread concern about the human health impacts associated with pesticide exposure is increasing. Scientists and health providers, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, issued a call to action in response to rising rates of neurodevelopmental disorders and other health problems in children. The group cites linkage between health harms and exposures to toxic pesticides.
The issue of toxic pesticide drift is a growing concern. After detecting drift-prone pesticides linked to cancer near homes next to potato fields a group of farmers, indigenous peoples and other residents formed the ‘Toxic Taters’ coalition to pressure potato growers in Minnesota to reduce pesticide use.
Potato seeds are routinely pretreated with neonicotinoid pesticides. Their systemic properties and prolific use has resulted in growing scientific consensus that this class of pesticide is an important factor in pollinator population losses and contamination of major waterways.
The Sustainability Consortium, a global organization committed to develop reporting methods across supply chains states that it “has identified sustainability hotspots around the production of potato crops including greenhouse gas emissions, fertilizer use, soil management, use of pesticides, and labor.”
Lamb Weston growers use tools to track sustainability measures, however, company-wide reporting is not available. Investors cannot assess pesticide use nor how the company is succeeding in managing associated risks.
Peers have taken action and are publicly disclosing metrics on pesticide use and efforts to protect pollinators.
1. Unilever has phased out World Health Organization Class 1 pesticides for tea production and intends to phase out Class 2 pesticides by 2020.
2. Sysco reduced pesticide use by nearly 4.9 million pounds in 2015, and reports on the quantity of pesticides avoided that affect beneficial organisms, including pollinators.
3. Costco’s Pollinator Health Policy encouraging suppliers to phase out the use of neonicotinoids and chlorpyrifos.
4. Major food and retail companies have adopted policies to restrict the use of neonicotinoids in their supply chains, including Whole Foods Market, Lowe’s, Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, BJ’s Wholesale Club, and Aldi.
RESOLVED: Shareholders request that the Board disclose at regular intervals, at reasonable expense and omitting proprietary or privileged information, available quantitative metrics on pesticide use in the company’s supply chain, and how pesticide use impacts pollinators.
Supporting Statement: While the company has the discretion to determine the precise content of the report, meaningful disclosures would allow investors to assess pesticide use over time, and include data on pesticides used as a seed pretreatment.