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Cargill denies allegations of illegal deforestation for palm oil production

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 07-May-2010

Cargill has denied allegations made by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) which claims that the company has destroyed rainforest for its palm oil plantations.

The RAN released a report on Wednesday called Cargill’s Problems with Palm Oil, accusing the agribusiness giant of destroying rainforest in Borneo, not complying with international standards on palm oil, and operating two ‘undisclosed’ palm oil plantations in Indonesia.

But Cargill has released a statement refuting these allegations, saying it works with well-respected non-governmental organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and Flora and Fauna International to help support sustainable development of palm oil in Indonesia.

“RAN claims Cargill has cleared rainforests and primary forests. This is categorically untrue,” the company said on its website.

It added: “We do not operate any undisclosed oil palm properties.”

Cargill is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – an organization founded in 2004 with the stated aim of promoting sustainable palm oil production and use – but the RAN claims the company violates RSPO criteria.

Meanwhile, six RAN protestors chained themselves to the staircase of the Cargill’s executive office in Minnesota on Wednesday in protest at the company’s sourcing of palm oil.

“Cargill has been lying to its customers and to our community,” said Eric Nielsen, a local activist who took part in the protest. “We want CEO Greg Page to act now to stop Cargill’s destruction of rainforests before it’s too late.”

Cargill has pledged to source at least 60 percent of its palm oil from suppliers certified by the RSPO by the end of the year. The company is a key US importer of palm oil, with customers including General Mills, Kraft, as well as Nestlé, which asked Cargill to stop purchasing palm oil from Indonesian supplier Sinar Mas, after a Greenpeace report alleged that it had been involved in illegal deforestation earlier this year. In response, Cargill said it would delist Sinar Mas as a supplier if independent verification validated the allegations and it did not take corrective action.

Cargill stopped sourcing palm oil from Indonesian supplier Duta Palma in 2008 because it did not meet its environmental standards.

Palm oil is used extensively in food and toiletries, but its production has had a devastating effect on South Asian rainforests, clearing habitats for endangered species like tigers and orangutans, while also adding to carbon emissions.

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