Barry Estabrook for The Atlantic:
Wake up in the morning. Enjoy a warm, soapy shower. Eat a bowl of cereal, perhaps with soy milk. Dab on some lipstick …
Perform any of those mundane tasks and chances are you’ve done your bit to destroy a patch of rainforest somewhere in Indonesia where vast stands of virgin trees have been cut, bulldozed, and burned to clear land for palm oil plantations.
Once used primarily in cosmetics, palm oil, which is free of artery-clogging trans fats, has become the ingredient du jour in processed foods. In the United States, consumption of the stuff has tripled over the past five years. Growing oil palms is now the largest cause of deforestation in Indonesia, contributing to global warming and destroying crucial habitat for the country’s endangered orangutan population, which has fallen by half since the onset of the palm-oil boom.
Early this month, the San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network (RAN) published a scathing report linking agribusiness giant Cargill, Inc., the leading U.S. importer of palm oil, to rainforest destruction. Cargill sells oil to large food companies like General Mills, Nestle, and Kraft. RAN followed up with a demonstration at Cargill’s Minnesota headquarters, during which seven protestors were hauled away by police.
RAN accuses Cargill of violating the principles of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an eco-certification group that includes members from the industry (Cargill is a prominent one) and environmental organizations. Of the many charges in the report, the most surprising is an allegation that Cargill, in addition to owning two large palm plantations in Indonesia, secretly owns and operates two other plantations that are clearing and burning rainforests. The report also says the company is buying additional palm oil from companies “closely associated” with rainforest clear-cutting…
[continues at The Atlantic]