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NEW REPORT: Cargill Caught Destroying Rainforests, Endangering Orangutans

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Supplier to General Mills, Mars, Nestle, Violating RSPO Rules and Indonesian Law
Tuesday, May 4, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Cargill, the nation’s largest importer of palm oil and supplier to some of the nation’s largest food companies, was directly linked to rainforest destruction today in a report entitled Cargill’s Problems with Palm Oil: A Burning Threat in Borneo, released by Rainforest Action Network (RAN). The private agribusiness company is operating in violation of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Principles and Criteria and outside of Indonesian law on its plantations in Borneo.  Cargill is also failing to disclose the ownership of at least two plantations where they are actively clearing rainforests. The two plantations, located on Indonesian Borneo, are operating without legally required permits, resulting in clearing and burning of rainforests and carbon-rich peatlands and significant conflict with traditional and Indigenous communities. On one plantation, Cargill has cleared 10,500 hectares of rainforest since its operations began in 2005 – an area as large as all four Walt Disney World theme parks.

The report also raises serious questions about Cargill’s supply chain, documenting past and current purchases from three companies, SALCRA, Sinar Mas Group and Duta Palma, all closely associated with rainforest destruction, human rights abuses and greenhouse gas emissions. These practices are clearly in contrast to the company’s public stance on palm oil and its status as a certified member of the RSPO.

“Cargill is trying to have their cake and eat it too,” said Leila Salazar-Lopez of Rainforest Action Network. “While Cargill is proclaiming their commitments to RSPO standards, they’re going ahead and doing whatever they want to rainforests, waterways and community lands.”

Palm oil is one of the most commonly found ingredients in thousands of consumer products, from soap and lipstick, to breakfast cereal and soymilk. Its use is widespread and increasing around the world, but particularly in the United States, where its consumption has tripled in the last five years. As the nation’s largest importer of palm oil, Cargill supplies the commonly used ingredient to some of the nation’s largest food companies, including General Mills, Nestle, Mars and Kraft, making it likely that almost all Americans have bought Cargill’s palm oil sometime within the last week.

Unfortunately, palm oil has been tightly linked to the destruction of some of the world’s remaining rainforests. Expanding consumption has triggered expanded production, replacing once biodiverse rainforests with palm oil plantations and endangering unique species including orangutans and sun bears.

 “Cargill’s palm oil is everywhere in U.S. grocery stores,” continued Salazar-Lopez, “If you buy consumer products that contain palm oil, it’s likely that you’re buying Cargill’s palm oil made from rainforest destruction. And, if you’re a Cargill palm oil customer, you’re being lied to about where your palm oil is coming from”

The report’s revelations about Cargill come after months of controversy around palm oil in the industry. In December 2009, large palm oil producer Unilever cancelled its palm oil contract with Sinar Mas based on reports of the Indonesian suppliers’ poor environmental and social record. In March 2010, Cargill customer Nestle followed suit. Under siege by Greenpeace, Nestle also contacted Cargill to ensure that the U.S. agribusiness company was maintaining its stated social and environmental commitments around palm oil. Cargill publicly announced that none of their palm oil was sourced from Sinar Mas, but stated a commitment to reevaluating their relationship with the company nonetheless. The public deadline that Cargill set for this evaluation – by the end of April 2010 – has now passed.

The full report, including RAN’s recommendations, can be downloaded at: http://ran.org/cargillreport

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Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org

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