Cookie maker Mondolēz focuses on sustainable wheat cultivation

Mondelēz is committed to the environment and biodiversity by promoting sustainable wheat cultivation through the Harmony program. - Photos: Mondelēz International
Mondelēz is committed to the environment and biodiversity by promoting sustainable wheat cultivation through the Harmony program. - Photos: Mondelēz International

The largest European cookie maker, Mondelēz International, is working on sustainable wheat cultivation as part of a broad program against climate change. Over 1,300 farmers in seven countries are participating. In addition to a premium, they can follow training sessions and check their sustainable performance via an app.

The American food company Mondelēz produces cookies and chocolate under well-known brands such as Oreo, LU, Prince, Milka, and Liga. One of the largest European production locations is located in Herentals, Belgium, where Mondelēz produces 70,000 tons of cookies per year.

Mondelēz has been working for some time to reduce its own environmental impact. The company sees a role for itself in mitigating climate change and protecting biodiversity. This is done, among other things, through the rollout of Harmony, a sustainable wheat cultivation program.

Farmers are encouraged to work more according to the principles of regenerative agriculture

The program was rolled out from France fifteen years ago and was developed in consultation with farmers, millers, cooperatives, agricultural, and environmental specialists. The first project started with a group of 69 French growers, and currently, 1,360 farmers in seven European countries (including France, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Poland, and Spain) are participating, along with local cooperatives.

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Products of Mondelēz International.
Products of Mondelēz International.

Making sustainable decisions continuously

What Mondelēz aims to achieve with the Harmony program is improved soil health, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, protection of biodiversity, and water conservation. Farmers are provided with guidelines for this purpose. At every step, the farmer must make a sustainable decision, program manager Cecile Doinel explains. From choosing wheat varieties to grain storage, which must be done without disinfectants. To save logistics and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, only farmers in areas around Mondelēz factories participate.

The goal is not for farmers to stop using crop protection products altogether

Farmers are encouraged to adopt farming practices that optimize the use of crop protection and fertilizers. According to Doinel, the goal is primarily for farmers to justify their use. “We don’t aim for farmers to stop using crop protection. There are a few substances that are most harmful to their health and the environment, which are not allowed in this cultivation. It’s more about using crop protection as a last resort and applying it in the right dosage while adopting more regenerative agricultural practices.”

Soil health

Regenerative practices mainly focus on soil improvement. Farmers must grow a variety of crops to enhance soil fertility. In addition to wheat, legumes play a crucial role, as they capture CO2, thus limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Farmers must also consider biodiversity, which has been a priority of the Harmony program since day one, says Doinel. “For each agricultural company, there is a requirement that at least 3% of the cultivated area consists of flowering field margins.” Bee hotels are also found in the fields. Furthermore, Mondelēz focuses on resistant wheat varieties.

Regenerative principles

The cultivation is not organic but not conventional either, says Doinel. According to her, it is a hybrid approach. There are no defined European standards for regenerative agriculture. However, for Mondelēz, it involves a holistic approach, aiming for the production of high-quality crops while also seeking biodiversity restoration, primarily through soil improvement.​

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