A pledge for agricultural sustainability and environmental friendliness has been announced by over a dozen major companies at the inaugural Walmart Sustainable Products Expo. In late April, the companies -- including Kellogg, Coca-Cola, Cargill and Johnson & Johnson -- agreed to a list of things including recycling initiatives and water-use reductions.

Monsanto also announced major pushes in irrigation and nutrient efficiency.

During a press call, Hugh Grant, Monsanto chairman and CEO, explained the rationale behind the move. “The cotton shirt any of us are wearing today required 700 gallons of water to produce,” said Grant. “The chicken meal for dinner tonight required roughly 500 gallons. The cup of coffee you drank to start the day required about 35 gallons of water to produce.”

Grant estimated Monsanto’s seed production operations around the world uses “between 100 million and 250 million gallons for irrigation purposes. To put that in perspective, an Olympic swimming pool holds 660,000 gallons. So, we pump between 150,000 and 400,000 Olympic swimming pools over our irrigated crops annually.

“There are improvements we can make here to improve efficient use of this precious resource. What’s important is the improvements in scale will aggregate quickly and be more than just ‘a drop in the bucket.’”

Monsanto, continued Grant, will immediately begin work “to reduce our global water footprint. We’ll do this by improving our water irrigation efficiency by 25 percent in our global seed production operations by 2020. Depending on weather, this could mean a savings of 70 to 80 billion gallons.”