In honor of Earth Day, Green Century is celebrating a victory for some of our planet’s most important and threatened creatures: wild pollinators.
From almonds to vanilla, nearly three quarters of the worlds food crops rely on wild pollinators such as bees, birds, and butterflies for production. Representing a value of hundreds of billions of dollars to the global economy, ensuring the health of pollinators is critical to the stability of our food system.
Unfortunately, populations of wild pollinators critical to agriculture are declining across the globe. Over one-third of honeybee colonies have vanished since 2006 due to Colony Collapse Disorder in the United States, a phenomenon where the vast majority of adult honeybees disappear from a hive without a trace. The population of Monarch butterflies in North America has plummeted 84% between 1996 and 2015. Globally, 9% of bee and butterfly species and 16% of bird and bat species are at risk of extinction, which has significant ramifications for the entire food chain.
These losses are caused, in part, by toxic chemicals commonly used in industrial agriculture and their effects on ecosystems. Neonicotinoids, a class of pesticide representing one quarter of the global pesticide market, coats the seeds of almost all corn and nearly half of all soy grown in the United States. Highly persistent in soil and water, neonicotinoids act as a nerve agent in insects, targeting the central nervous system and resulting in paralysis and death. The disappearance of Monarch butterflies has been largely linked to the destruction of native milkweed plants across the Midwestern U.S. by commonly used herbicides containing glyphosate.
All of this spells big problems for wildlife, farmers, consumers, and the Earth. Fortunately, some regulatory agencies are beginning to take notice. In December 2013, the European Union enacted a ban on three neonicotinoid pesticides. In July 2014, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced plans to restrict neonic use across the National Wildlife Refuge System. In lieu of expedient federal action, states such as Maryland, Connecticut, and Minnesota have passed regulations restricting neonicotinoids while similar bills were introduced in ten other states during the 2015-2016 legislative session.
Green Century has a longstanding commitment to work with corporations to reduce harmful pesticide use and promote pollinator habitats, best exemplified by our ongoing engagement with Dr Pepper Snapple. A 2017 Green Century proposal asking Dr Pepper Snapple to report on strategies to reduce pesticide use within its supply chain received 30% support of votes cast at its annual meeting. We have continued to work with the company and are pleased to announce that we have withdrawn our 2018 proposal following the release of Dr Pepper Snapple Group’s first Sustainable Agriculture Policy. The policy commits the company to working with suppliers to use integrated pest management (IPM) techniques and natural pest control in agricultural production in order to reduce the use of pesticides.
This Earth Day, as you enjoy that crisp apple or bowl of fresh strawberries, remember to thank the wild pollinators that played a part in helping to produce some of this planet’s most delicious and nutritious foods. Through increased agricultural stewardship and a shift away from toxic pesticides, we can help to ensure that wild pollinators are a permanent part of a healthy and vibrant food system.
*As of March 31, 2018, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc. comprised 0.00%, 0.21% and 0.00% of the Green Century Balanced Fund, the Green Century Equity Fund, and the Green Century MSCI International Index Fund respectively. References to specific securities, which will change due to ongoing management of the Funds, should not be construed as a recommendation by the Funds, their administrator, or their distributor.
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