McDonald's prepares to switch its fries to a greener potato

The greatest potato consumer in the U.S. is McDonalds (MCD), which buys 1.5 million tons of spuds every year to make french fries for the world. Of course, buying so much of a single commodity means McDonald's choices greatly affect the rest of the country -- and it makes the company an easy target for advocates of sustainable growing.

In March, McDonald's acceded to the wishes of shareholders who wanted it to develop best practices for reducing the pesticides used to process its potatoes. The term "best practices" tends to be slippery, but any actions by McDonald's will by definition have a massive impact on the food industry. With that in mind, the company is working with growers and food scientists to develop new strains of potatoes that will satisfy customers while supporting the environment.