In partnership with the Sustainable Rice Platform, a global alliance of agricultural research institutions, agri-food businesses, public sector and civil society organisations convened by the United Nations Environment Program and the International Rice Research Institute, Mars Food has announced the first global standard for sustainable rice
Mars Food, in partnership with the Sustainable Rice Platform, (SRP), a global alliance of agricultural research institutions, agri-food businesses, public sector and civil society organisations convened by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), has announced the first global standard for sustainable rice.Mars Food – which owns the Uncle Ben’s brand - also announced its commitment to sustainably source 100% of its rice by 2020 using the SRP standard."Caring for our environment as well as our entire supply chain from end-to-end is more than usual corporate responsibility. It's an imperative for Mars Food," said Fiona Dawson, President of Mars Food. "Through the global standard, we hope to create benefits for all involved from the farmers to our consumers. The benefit for us is that is that we are ensuring premium quality rice, whilst also ensuring a higher income for farmers, and a better environment for current and future generations. It is a truly mutual solution."The SRP standard consists of a set of criteria for sustainable rice cultivation that can be used across the globe to reduce the environmental footprint of rice production and improve the lives of rice farmers. The standard consists of 46 requirements organised under eight broad topics, including productivity, food safety, worker health, labour rights, and biodiversity. Rice plays a critical role in global food security, providing livelihoods for over 140 million smallholder farmers in developing countries and is a staple food for nearly half of the world's seven billion people.Mars Food said it will use the standard as a benchmark against which to assess its rice supply chains – identifying where there are gaps and developing strategies to improve sustainability. The company has already begun piloting implementation of the standard with rice farmers in two countries – Pakistan and India. A controlled farming program in Pakistan, in partnership with Rice Partners and Bayer CropScience, has grown from 31 smallholder farmers in 2011 to 400 farmers in 2015 who produce Basmati rice grown with the correct application of chemicals and harvested with practices to improve food safety and water quality. In India, Mars said it is embedding new learnings while also piloting the SRP standard.The standard complements and builds upon the company's Better Food Today. A Better World Tomorrow and the Mars Mutuality Principle, which the company says demonstrate its commitment to helping rice farmers improve yields while reducing water use and greenhouse gas emissions and improving socioeconomic conditions in the communities where high-quality rice is grown.