UPDATE February 26, 2021:
In 2017, we committed to ending our purchases of all ingredients that had been chemically dried using the herbicide glyphosate — one of the most ubiquitous chemicals used in agriculture — by the end of 2020. We did not achieve our goal, but we have been actively working on it for the past three years. We remain committed to ending the use of glyphosate as a drying agent in our supply chain. Here are a few reasons why this process has taken longer than we originally expected:
- Frankly, the process has been harder than we imagined it would be. We know that the oats and wheat found in our delicious chunks and swirls, like cookies and brownies, have the potential to be dried using glyphosate. And because we purchase such chunks from external suppliers (who in turn purchase the ingredients that go into them from their own suppliers) and use them in a variety of different flavors, the process is complex. Working with our ingredient suppliers, we have not yet been able to identify fully traceable supply chains specifically dedicated to grains grown without the use of glyphosate as a drying agent for the flours they use.
- Because Ben & Jerry’s flavors are available globally, we manufacture them in both Europe and North America. Not surprisingly, our supply chains work differently on each continent. We have prioritized this work in the US because we produce more ice cream in the US than abroad. Our approach in the US has been to work with our suppliers to source wheat and oats from the regions of the United States where, because of favorable weather conditions, glyphosate is not commonly used to dry the harvest. Chemical drying is not common in drier growing regions, and our suppliers have provided us with signed assurances that they are limiting their purchase of these ingredients to those regions. While we can’t be certain that we have completely eliminated the use of glyphosate in our supply chain by purchasing crops that have not been chemically dried based on regional sourcing alone, we are confident that we have made significant progress and will use periodic testing to be sure this remains true. We’ll also continue to evolve our sourcing strategies to obtain even better assurance that we have achieved our commitment for our US manufacturing processes.
- In the EU, we have made less progress. There are fewer regional differences in drying practices across Europe, so the approach we’ve used in the US is less applicable there. We’re now shifting our focus to our European supply chain and hope to have more details on our strategy soon.
We know that even after we succeed in these efforts it is still likely that trace amounts of glyphosate may still be found in our products because use of this chemical has become so ubiquitous. It can be detected in samples of agricultural products grown without its use, and even in rain water. From the beginning, we have taken on this challenge because we believe that society must end its reliance on herbicides, starting with use of glyphosate as a drying agent, and build a more sustainable approach to agriculture. But rest assured that Ben & Jerry’s products are 100% safe to eat. We are working to eliminate the use of glyphosate in the production of our ingredients because it’s important to us and our fans, but every chunk and swirl in every one of your favorite flavors is completely safe for you to enjoy.
We remain proud of the hard work we do every day to ensure that we make the absolute best ice cream in the best possible way. We have never wavered in our commitment to making ice cream that is safe to eat and tastes great. Our values-led sourcing team works incredibly hard to ensure that the ingredients we use to make our euphoric flavors are a reflection of our values as a company. We believe the day-to-day operations of our business, including who we choose to buy our ingredients from, is an opportunity to make the world a little bit better. We remain committed to the reduction of chemical use in agriculture and will continue to be as transparent as possible about our ongoing journey toward more sustainable practices. Look for reporting on this and other aspects of our values-led sourcing and sustainability programs published in our annual Social and Environmental Impact Report.
In light of recent reports, we'd like to reassure our fans that our products are safe to eat and that the trace levels of the herbicide glyphosate detected were significantly below safe levels according to all global food safety regulations. Even the lab that performed the tests of U.S. and E.U. flavors admitted in the New York Times that the levels found in Ben & Jerry’s products “would seem totally irrelevant”.
At Ben & Jerry’s, we've worked hard to be responsive to our fans desire for a more sustainable and less industrialized kind of farming. That's why we've taken many steps over the years to move towards a less chemically intensive and more transparent food system. We led the legal fight in the United States to label dairy products from cows treated with rBGH, the synthetic artificial growth hormone; we phased out use of genetically engineered ingredients in our products; and we've been dogged advocates for mandatory disclosure of GE/GMO ingredients in food products. Despite this work, we were disappointed to learn that recent testing in the United States and Europe revealed trace levels of the commonly-used herbicide glyphosate in several of our flavors. Disappointed, but not totally surprised. Glyphosate is one of the most widely used herbicides in agriculture and is everywhere – from mainstream food, to natural and organic food, and even rainwater--and that’s the issue.
But simply saying trace levels are in everything is not a strategy. That's why we're pleased to make two important announcements that are part of our ongoing journey.
1. No more ingredients using glyphosate-dried crops. Ingredients like wheat and oats are commonly sprayed with glyphosate as a drying agent before harvest. This practice is the most common and likely pathway for the presence of glyphosate in the food system. By no later than 2020, we will stop sourcing ingredients that have been made with crops chemically dried using glyphosate. We understand and share our fans’ desire to limit the amount of chemicals in the food system, which is why this step is important. In addition, we intend to advocate for policies that would end use of glyphosate as a chemical drying agent.
2. Sourcing organic dairy. We are excited to bring an innovative, new product line to market in 2018 that will source 100% organic dairy in the base mix. We believe this sends an important signal to our fans and suppliers of our support for a more sustainable approach to agriculture. We anticipate our new line will represent up to 6% of our total U.S. sales.
We're proud to take these steps and believe that they move us closer to our vision of a more sustainable approach to agriculture and dairy and our fans' desire for a less chemically intensive food system.