Wheat is the most widely grown cereal crop, farmed on more acres than any another commercial crop. The use of irrigated water, perticides and fertilizer in wheat contribute to water scarcity and water pollution issues.

This brief provides a summary of the main environmental and social factors that affect wheat production worldwide; however, it spotlights key players in the U.S. value chain, and provides examples of actions being taken by companies operating or headquartered in the U.S.


  • Wheat is a staple of diets around the world. Production tripled since the 1960s, propelled by global population growth and rising incomes.
  • Improvements in yield made it possible for production to keep pace with rising demand without a significant expansion in the amount of land used to grow the crop.
  • Increased use of irrigation water, pesticides and fertilizer drove the yield growth in large part, contributing to water scarcity and water pollution issues.
  • Investors should address business risk in the wheat supply chain through direct engagement with their portfolio companies and by supporting relevant policies and multistakeholder collaborations.

Environmental and Social Factors that Drive Risks

Commodity Background

About three-quarters of all U.S. grain products, such as bread, pasta, and cookies, are made from wheat flour. Outside of the U.S., wheat is also regularly used for animal feed. In the European Union, almost half of wheat production is used to feed animals.  

Top Production Regions

Wheat is produced around the world, with the top five producing nations

accounting for about 50 percent of total global production.


Supply Chain

Some segments in the U.S. wheat value chain are highly concentrated


Company Examples

General Mills

General Mills committed to source 100 percent of its U.S. wheat by 2020 from growing regions that demonstrate continuous improvement using the Field to Market framework.

Kellogg Company

Kellogg Company is committed to responsibly source wheat (as well as other commodities) by 2020 through a combination of certification, direct investment in programs on the ground, and/or documented continuous improvement in the places where these ingredients are grown.


Mondelez International committed that by 2020, 75 percent of biscuits in its Western European biscuit business will be made with wheat grown based on its Harmony program, which involves using precision technology to efficiently use and limit fertilizer and pesticide use. The partnership includes more than 1,700 farmers across Europe.