A Grist article on two Michigan schoolgirls’ efforts to get the Girl Scouts to stop using palm oil in their famous cookies has been going viral on the Net today.
Many Girl Scout cookies include palm oil, which is largely responsible for deforestation in Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia and Malaysia. Most global palm oil production comes from Borneo – the third largest island in the world that’s divided among Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei and is home to the iconic orangutan, Sumatran tiger and pygmy elephants.
Photo by Melissa Doroquez
Palm oil plantations, most of which are on cleared out forestland, have contributed to Borneo’s devastating forest fires. These fires, that have sometimes burned for years on end, have made Indonesia the third-largest carbon emitter in the world.
The pollution is exacerbated because many rainforests here lie atop peat bogs that store great quantities of carbon that are released when the forests are cut down and the bogs drained to make way for plantations.
Although about 80 percent of current world palm oil output is used in food products, non-food uses, especially as a biofuel, are increasingly becoming important, contributing to greater demand and higher prices for palm oil. The European Union’s aim of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020, partly by requiring that 10 percent of vehicles run on biofuels, is expected to bring a fresh surge in palm oil demand and this could lead to further destruction of wildlife as well as displacement of forest-dependent Indigenous communities like the Dayaks and the Penan. Orangutan’s are especially threatened because the love eating young palm oil plans. Plantation owners regard them as pests and have no qualms in hunting them down.
But to get back to Girl Scout cookies – why pick on them exclusively? They aren’t the only ones out there using palm oil in their food products. A Facebook page, Save the Orangutans, has put together a list that includes several popular candies (M&M, Snickers and Twix), health bars (Clif bar, Balance Bar) as well as cosmetic companies (Lancôme, Avon, Sephora) that use palm oil.
Check out Rainforest Action Network’s info page on palm oil to learn more.
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