MINNEAPOLIS - Area anglers caught more than fish on Saturday morning as agribusiness giant Cargill was publicly denounced as a driver of climate change and global deforestation. Activists with California-based Rainforest Action Network (RAN) transformed a Lake Minnetonka sailboat into a floating banner which read “Cargill: Biofueling Climate Change.” A second boat carried a large balloon with the message “Cargill: Foe to the Family Farmer.”
The demonstrators were drawing attention to Cargill’s role as a top producer of soy and palm oil for industrial biofuels, which the company bills as a sustainable alternative to petroleum. Environmental advocates have accused Cargill and other agribusinesses of clear-cutting tropical rainforests and draining carbon-rich peat swamps to make way for new soy and palm plantations in order to meet growing worldwide demand for biodiesel. The resulting spike in deforestation has caused Indonesia and Brazil, home to the planet’s two largest rainforests, to become the world’s 3rd and 4th largest greenhouse gas emitters, respectively.
“Minnesotans have a right to know what Cargill is doing,” said Andrea Samulon, a member of RAN’s Rainforest Agribusiness Campaign and organizer of today’s action. “Cargill is perpetuating the myth that biofuels are the solution to global warming, when they are actually intensifying it. As awareness grows around climate change, people want to know that their local companies are helping, not hurting the problem.”
Cargill controls a dozen soy and palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia. The agribusiness giant is the fourth-largest exporter of palm oil from Malaysia and holds 14,000 acres of plantations – all on newly cleared land – throughout Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. With demand for biofuels on the rise in recent years, production of these oils has expanded at a rate of 2.5 million acres per year in the tropical forests of Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.
In addition to their contributions to climate change, U.S. agribusinesses have been linked to egregious human rights violations on and around industrial soy and palm oil plantations, including displacement of Indigenous and local farming communities, poor working conditions, and in some cases slave labor.
“If Americans knew the extent to which U.S. agribusinesses were contributing to rainforest destruction and climate change, there would be an immediate outcry to change their practices,” said Leila Salazar-Lopez, director of RAN’s Rainforest Agribusiness Campaign. “Cargill has a responsibility to stop converting the world’s remaining rainforests into factory farms and to immediately address the grave human rights abuses associated with their operations.”
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