1/19/2010 - The activist activist group Rainforest Action Network (RAN) linked General Mills to destruction of rainforests in Southeast Asia in dramatic fashion on Tuesday, when it unfurled a giant banner, reading "Warning: General Mills Destroys Rainforests", outside the company's Minneapolis headquarters building. The stunt was executed to highlight the role that palm oil consumption has in deforestation in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. Expansion of oil palm plantations over the past twenty years has emerged as one of the biggest threats to the Southeast Asia's rainforests, which house such endangered species as the orangutan, the pygmy elephant of Borneo, and the Sumatran rhino. Palm oil production has also become a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, which result from deforestation, degradation and conversion of peatlands, and fires set for plantation establishment.
RAN says that at least a hundred General Mills products, including goods sold under Pillsbury, Betty Crocker, Stovetop Hamburger Helper and Toaster Strudel brands, contain palm oil or palm oil derivatives. RAN is calling for General Mills to commit to buying only responsibly-sourced palm oil.
"General Mills could do a lot to transform the palm oil supply in the food industry and to protect rainforests, communities and the climate," said Madeline Gardner, Minneapolis-based activist, in a statement. "As an industry leader and a trusted brand, General Mills could have a huge impact in changing the food industry for good."
Unilever, the world's largest corporate buyer of palm oil, has already committed to using only palm oil produced in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. Last month the company severed ties with Sinar Mas after an investigation showed that the palm oil producer was clearing rainforests and draining peatlands. In its campaign, dubbed The Problem with Palm Oil, RAN argues that General Mills and other companies face a risk of consumer backlash if they continues current sourcing policies. "Palm oil is a leading cause of rainforest destruction in places like Indonesia," said Ashley Schaeffer of Rainforest Action Network. "As long as General Mills is using irresponsibly sourced palm oil, their customers will have to worry that they are contributing money to rainforest destruction."