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Jan 192010
Rainforest Action Network unfurls protest banner at General Mills (Photo: Mercury Miller, RAN)

Rainforest Action Network unfurls protest banner at General Mills (Photo: Mercury Miller, RAN)

From Green Right Now Reports

The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) launched the first fusillade today in a campaign to expose General Mills’ extensive use of palm oil in dozens of packaged products.

More than 40 activists with a href=”” target=”_blank”>Rainforest Action Network, Walker Church and other community organizations unfurled a 30 x 70 ft. banner in the snow outside the company’s Minneapolis headquarters. It read:  “Warning: General Mills Destroys Rainforests”.

RAN wants the food giant to commit to sourcing its palm oil in a “socially and environmentally responsible manner.”

The production of palm oil has risen dramatically in recent years as global food companies have added the oil, the cheapest available on the world market, to thousands of food items. Palm oil and its derivatives also are found in body products and bio-fuels.

As a result of this “palm oil rush” fueled by consumer demand for cheap and pre-prepared products, palm oil plantations are pushing into the tropical forests of Indonesia, Malaysia and New Guinea. The loss of the rainforests is not only claiming indigenous lands, it is contributing greatly to global deforestation and climate change. (See RAN for more on the Problem with Palm Oil.)

Packaged food is at the heart of this loss of rainforests. At General Mills, more than 100 brands contain palm oil or palm oil derivatives, including such well known items as Stovetop Hamburger Helper and Toaster Strudel, according to RAN.

Even some of GM’s healthiest products, such as Rice Chex, contain palm-oil derivatives.

“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. “As an industry leader and a trusted brand, General Mills could have a huge impact in changing the food industry for good.”

General Mills has issued policies that that address sustainability. In its latest Social Responsibility report it notes that it has reduced sugar in some cereals, has fortified Yoplait yogurt with vitamins and operates a U.S. plant on electricity generated by burning oat hulls, as well as one in France that uses methane gas.

But as long as General Mills uses “irresponsibly sourced palm oil”, consumers will have to worry that their purchases are contributing to the destruction of rainforests, said Ashley Schaeffer of the Rainforest Network.

RAN reports that globally, the “degradation and destruction of tropical rainforests” is responsible for 15 percent of all annual greenhouse gas emissions.

It wants General