Thursday, October 11, 2007


Rainforest Action Network (RAN) launched a campaign today to stop U.S. agribusiness expansion in the rainforests by draping a 50-foot banner on the historic Chicago Board of Trade building at the start of this morning’s trading. Calling them the “ABC’s of rainforest destruction,” RAN singled out agribusiness giants Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Bunge and Cargill for their roles in destroying tropical rainforests and trampling human rights in South America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

By the time police and medics arrived on the scene to remove them from their perch, the activists had climbed to the 23rd floor of the 45-floor building. The 50-foot banner was an attempt to draw attention to and hopefully to "halt agribusiness expansion in the rain forests of South America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific," according to the protesters.

“Rainforests are our last and best defense against catastrophic climate change,” said Leila Salazar-Lopez, director of RAN’s new Rainforest Agribusiness Campaign. “ADM, Bunge and Cargill have 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 ran a full-page ad in yesterday's Chicago Tribune, which read in part:

"ADM, Bunge and Cargill are driving climate change by having rainforests slashed and burned to make way for massive biofuel crop plantations. Not only does this intensify global warming, it also threatens endangered species like the orangutan, displaces family farmers, and exploits Indigenous communities. Why would they do this? They’ll tell you they’re making the world a better place. But they’re really just making a buck."

Cargill, an agricultural giant that had $88 billion in sales last year, has operations in 66 countries, including a large operation in South America, where it buys and processes soybeans used for vegetable oil and animal feed.

RAN is far from alone in its concerns about the policies and practices of Cargill.

Co-op America says the company may tout the motto "nourishing ideas, nourishing people" as its international operations flourish, but Cargill is no stranger to criticism across its business interests. A nonprofit human rights organization, is suing Cargill on charges that they knowingly source cocoa plantations that use child slave labor. The Environmental Justice Foundation named Cargill as a major purchaser of Uzbek cotton, which is produced using largely uncompensated labor. In both instances, Cargill claims to have no knowledge of any misconduct. Within the U.S., Cargill poses a threat to farmers by pushing its genetically modified products onto the market, aggressively seeking patents for its seeds, and suing farmers that unknowingly cultivate Cargill-patented products on their farms. Cargill has tried to "green" its image with NatureWorks PLA, a biodegradable synthetic material that uses a corn base instead of petroleum, but Cargill does not publicize the fact that the corn used to produce NatureWorks PLA is genetically modified.

In addition, with the upsurge in interest in ethanol Brazil has become a target of major US based corporations. Why, you ask? Brazil produces ethanol from sugarcane that is five times more efficient than American corn-based ethanol. That's why.

On the blog "Young Philosopher" the scenario laid out is an ominous one:

"In 2009 the tariff on Brazilian ethanol imports - 54 cents per gallon - is set to expire. By then, presumably, there will be no choice: ethanol proponents will argue that to fill the federal mandate, the tariff should be dropped, and that will be the death knoll for the Brazilian rainforests."

The following is from ENN.

Save the Rainforest Banner Raised at Chicago Board of Trade

CHICAGO, Illinois, October 11, 2007 (ENS) - Five members of an environmental group protesting destruction of the world's rainforests were arrested Wednesday after draping a 50 foot long banner across the front of the Chicago Board of Trade building on the Loop.

On their banner, the Rainforest Action Network singled out agribusiness giants Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge and Cargill for "destroying tropical rainforests and trampling human rights" in South America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

The area was cordoned off for two hours while the Chicago Fire Department used ladder trucks to get the protesters down and to remove the banner. There were no injuries.

The demonstrators, four men and a woman from the San Francisco based Rainforest Action Network, RAN, were each charged with criminal trespassing, reckless conduct and criminal damage to property.

Archer Daniels Midland, ADM, Bunge and Cargill buy and sell commodity crops at the Board of Trade, including soybeans, which, along with oil palms, are planted on newly cleared rainforest land.

Growing demand for these crops has caused a spike in deforestation, RAN says, particularly in Indonesia and Brazil. With the world's two largest rainforests, these countries have become the world's third and fourth largest greenhouse gas emitters after China and the United States.

"Rainforests are our last and best defense against catastrophic climate change," said Leila Salazar-Lopez, director of RAN's new Rainforest Agribusiness Campaign.

"ADM, Bunge and Cargill have 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," she said.

RAN accuses the U.S. agribusinesses of "egregious human rights violations on and around industrial soy and palm oil plantations, including displacement of Indigenous and local communities, poor working conditions and, in some cases, slave labor."

"Agribusinesses like to say they're making the world a better place," said Salazar-Lopez. "But they're really just making a buck by pretending to solve climate change while they actually make it worse."

Archer Daniels Midland responded to RAN's accusations by saying, "Our rejection and denunciation of slave labor and other inhumane working conditions is unequivocal."

In a letter to Michael Brune, executive director for Rainforest Action Network, ADM officials write, "We extend that commitment in Brazil through clauses in our contracts with suppliers and customers requiring that products come from or will be used on property the use of which complies with Brazilian environmental, ground use, and labor legislation, particularly legislation related to the prohibition of child labor, forced labor and degraded working conditions."

Victoria Podesta, ADM vice president of corporate communications and Dennis Fisher, director of ADM's Office of Compliance and Ethics, write that the company will sign Brazil's National Pact for the Eradication of Slave Labor.

The ADM officers pledged to "make public a clear statement against forced labor and other inhumane working conditions throughout the world and detail our policies and practices in support of this position."

They write that the company "believes in the responsible and sustainable development of agriculture and bioenergy throughout the world" but has realized through conversations with Brune that "we have not as clearly stated that it must only happen in sustainable, responsible ways."

"ADM does not directly own or operate commercial farms or plantations," the letter states. "Therefore, we are not in a position to address directly some actions you ask for: adopt a "no burn" policy for forests, make a public commitment to stop new soy and palm oil expansion into environmentally sensitive ecosystems, and verify free, prior and informed consent before any soy or palm development takes place on the lands of local and indigenous communities."

The company already supports a soy moratorium in the Amazon Biome.

Bunge and Cargill have not responded directly to RAN's demands.

RAN says that it and other environmental advocates question the value of large-scale commercial biofuels, or agrofuels, as a green alternative to fossil fuels.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.

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