Liviya James

Video release: “Burning Paradise” One Year Later

Today, Mighty Earth and KFEM released a new video showing Korindo’s forest destruction for palm oil and highlighting the developments since the campaign launch. This video marks the one-year anniversary of the release of the Burning Paradise report and urges continued action to save the precious, ancient rainforests of Papua and North Maluku from Korindo’s destruction.  

In the past year, following the release of Burning Paradise and global media exposure of its deforestation, Korindo lost many of its largest customers, which determined that Korindo’s practices violated their No Deforestation policies. These include the global palm oil traders Wilmar, Musim Mas, ADM, and IOI, the pulp and paper giant APRIL, and dozens of major brands around the world such as Kellogg’s, Nestle, and Unilever, which demanded that Korindo remain excluded from their supply chains. Siemens Gamesa, Iberdrola, Nordex, and other companies that have purchased wind towers from Korindo have urged Korindo to clean up it act.  In addition, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a sustainability certification body for the forestry sector, announced that, following a complaint filed by Mighty, it is investigating whether Korindo violated FSC criteria.  In response to customer concerns, Korindo announced a moratorium on land development on its palm oil concessions and agreed to conducting sustainability assessments. However, this isn’t enough to ensure the forest remains protected.

A forest the size of New York City (75,000 hectares) remains in Korindo’s concession areas and is at immediate risk of destruction. Korindo still refuses to announce a strong group-wide No Deforestation policy, has already breached its moratorium, and has hired sustainability assessors whose assessments have been rejected by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil for being of “poor quality”.  Korindo has agreed to maintain its moratorium until its sustainability assessments have been approved by the industry’s quality review panels (the HCV Resource Network’s Assessor Licensing Scheme and the High Carbon Stock Approach’s Quality Review Panel), yet has paradoxically been angling in recent weeks to begin clearing forest again.  

Papua is a rainforest paradise--the third largest intact rainforest in the world--but Korindo is at the forefront of a move by large agribusiness to convert these thriving forests into vast monoculture industrial plantations.  Until recently, it was able to operate without much scrutiny due to the remoteness of the location and its inaccessibility for civil society and journalists. We hope this video provides a glimpse of what is at stake, and compels significant action around the world to save this rainforest paradise.   

Citizens around the world can join our effort by sharing the video, and signing the petition to Korindo.


Henry Waxman, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club and Others Urge EPA and Congress to Reduce Biofuel Mandates

To download the full recording of the tele-conference, click here.

Washington, DC—A growing coalition of environmental and anti-hunger groups, including former Congressman Henry Waxman, now chairman of Mighty Earth, urged the EPA today to reconsider and reduce mandates for conventional, food-based biofuels. Over 40,000 individuals also commented to EPA in support of reducing volume levels.

These comments come as the environmental benefits of biofuels are facing intense scrutiny. In 2011 and 2016, the National Research Council and the Government Accountability Office, respectively, concluded that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is unlikely or failing to meet its climate mitigation goals. Recent research has also found that 7 million acres of native habitat in the U.S. were converted in to crop production during the biofuel ramp-up in the years following the passage of the current RFS.

“We’re concerned that most biofuels are a cure worse than the disease,” said Congressman Waxman. “We’d like to have second-generation, ultra-low carbon fuels, but what we actually have is corn ethanol and soy and palm biodiesel. These food-based fuels offer no climate emissions advantages and contribute to the conversion of native habitats for agricultural production.”

Mighty Earth, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club and others are also asking Congress to reform the RFS. Desired reforms include reducing mandated levels of food-based biofuels, maintaining supports for second-generation biofuels, and committing funding to restore lost wildlife habitat.

“The corn ethanol mandate has had massive unintended consequences on our public health, wildlife, and drinking water – and it’s time for our elected officials to make long-overdue reforms to the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “Congress can put in place common-sense, bipartisan reforms that advance sustainable fuels the right way – solutions that work for family farmers while protecting our water, wildlife, and economy.”

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune added, "The increase in ethanol production has resulted in the destruction of local land and water resources all while producing the same amount of dirty emissions as fossil fuels. It's obvious that corn ethanol is not a solution to the climate crisis. Communities and families across the country deserve truly clean fuel options that won't wreak havoc on their health and communities. It's high time the EPA stop subsidizing the ethanol industry and eliminate the use of ethanol in our fuels once and for all."


Burger King animal feed sourced from deforested lands in Brazil and Bolivia

The Guardian | Aug. 21, 2017

Campaign group Mighty Earth says aerial drones, satellite imaging and field research show farmers carried out forest-burning for fast food giant’s soy suppliers

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Mystery Meat II

August 2017

The report identifies the companies responsible for the widespread manure and fertilizer pollution contaminating water from the Heartland to the Gulf. The vast quantities of corn and soy used to raise meat animals caused one of the largest Dead Zones on record in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Papuan Community Leaders Call For Protection of Indigenous Rights; Also Hit Back at Korindo Group’s Manipulation of Stakeholder Meeting

On August 9th, leaders from Papuan indigenous communities hosted a press conference in Merauke in honor of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and timed with the first Papuan Film Festival which focused on the theme of indigenous rights and environmental sustainability.  

Their press release describes the situation faced by many indigenous communities in Papua whose lands have been permitted for monoculture commodity agriculture:

“Currently, permits for large scale commercial investment in the natural resource industries, including mining, plantations and logging, as well as infrastructure, have been issued across the majority of the lands and forests which make up the homelands of the indigenous peoples of Papua.

This subject is depicted in some of the films in the Papuan Film Festival currently taking place in Merauke. In Merauke and Boven Digoel Regencies, the government has issued permits for plantations and industrial timber estates covering a vast area.

Policy and investment activity is only based on private capital-intensive investment, technology and modern organisation, a model which has been seen in practice to disregard the rights of indigenous Papuans, limit or eliminate entirely indigenous people's access to the land which provides their livelihoods, result in horizontal conflict or disharmony, violence and human rights violations, as well as widespread environmental destruction."

Hitting Back at Korindo Group’s Manipulation

The press conference was also a community effort to set the record straight regarding a recent stakeholder meeting on palm oil development in Papua, held in Jakarta, with the local governments and the palm oil company Korindo Group, that the indigenous leaders felt was manipulated to appear as if their views were represented:  

“The head of Nakias village, Mr Melkior Wayoken, suspected that manipulation had taken place to produce statements supporting the company, and that certain individuals had claimed to represent the indigenous community and village governments of Nakias, Tagaepe and Yalhak villages. According to Melkior, one individual was masquerading as the village head and signed a statement, and then used the village government stamp. ‘The statement was made without my knowledge, even though I am the village head, and then they joined the Bupatis of Merauke and Boven Digoel on their trip to the meeting in Jakarta. It was only afterwards that I heard they had signed a letter claiming to be the village government. I was shocked, and so I want to say that I, speaking to you now, am the real village head, and I clearly don't accept this. If they knew I was here then why didn't they call on me, as the leader of the village administration in the area the company is working? I've been elected by the people of Nakias village and they knew I was in Merauke, so why didn't they ask me?’, Melkior explained.”

Calling For Action

Y.L. Franky, the Director of Yayasan Pusaka in Jakarta, spoke at the press conference about the underlying problems facing indigenous people in Papua. According to Franky, the serious problems indigenous people have to face include the loss of their rights and sovereignty, a lack of participation in development to determine its direction, the loss of a sense of security and the limits on the right to free expression, and the loss of autonomy to develop productive economic enterprises.

The leaders called for the following actions:

  1. Local government must oversee investment activities to make sure they are legal, and do not violate the rights of indigenous people or destroy the environment.
  2. Local governments should issue policy and develop programmes which respect the rights of indigenous Papuans and protect the land which provides their livelihood.
  3. Local government should carry out an audit of all plantation companies present in the area, review any permits or contracts which violate indigenous people's basic rights or disadvantage indigenous people.
  4. We urge companies to respect the basic rights of indigenous Papuans, to avoid causing horizontal conflict within indigenous communities, not to use state security forces to protect their investment, to respect any community decisions not to surrender their lands and forests for business purposes, to protect important sites for the community and to provide adequate economic empowerment for the community and for company workers, without discrimination.

Here is an English translation of the full press release:

Press Release

Indigenous people from Nakias Tagaepe and Ihalik villages, Wambon Tekamerob Indigenous Community, SKP KAMe, Sawit Watch, Yayasan PUSAKA, Papuan Voices, Belantara Papua, SKPKC Fransiskan Papua, Garda Papua, Suara Papua, Tabloid Jubi, Yayasan Teratai Hati Papua (YHTP), Papuan Independent Students Forum, PMKRI Merauke Branch.

Hormati Hak Orang Asli Papua dan Lindungi Ruang Hidup Masyarakat Adat

Respect Indigenous Papuans' Rights and Protect the Spaces which Provide Indigenous Livelihoods.

Today we are commemorating the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. This date was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1994. The indigenous peoples' struggle at the international level has already resulted in the UN General Assembly adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the 13th September 2007. This historic event for indigenous peoples deserves serious attention, a sign of respect for those who are still fighting for the rights of indigenous peoples.

Currently, permits for large scale commercial investment in the natural resource industries, including mining, plantations and logging, as well as infrastructure, have been issued across the majority of the lands and forests which make up the homelands of the indigenous peoples of Papua.

This subject is depicted in some of the films in the Papuan Film Festival currently taking place in Merauke. In Merauke and Boven Digoel Regencies, the government has issued permits for plantations and industrial timber estates covering a vast area.

Policy and investment activity is only based on private capital-intensive investment, technology and modern organisation, a model which has been seen in practice to disregard the rights of indigenous Papuans, limit or eliminate entirely indigenous people's access to the land which provides their livelihoods, result in horizontal conflict or disharmony, violence and human rights violations, as well as widespread environmental destruction.

Recently a stakeholder meeting took place in Jakarta, attended by the governments of Merauke and Boven Digoel, the Korindo Group, and individuals who described themselves as representatives of indigenous communities in Merauke and Boven Digoel. A topic discussed in the meeting was that land could not be cleared for a community smallholding scheme, because NGOs had issued a moratorium.

The head of Nakias village, Mr Melkior Wayoken, suspected that manipulation had taken place to produce statements supporting the company, and that certain individuals had claimed to represent the indigenous community and village governments of Nakias, Tagaepe and Yalhak villages. According to Melkior, one individual was masquerading as the village head and signed a statement, and then used the village government stamp. "The statement was made without my knowledge, even though I am the village head, and then they joined the Bupatis of Merauke and Boven Digoel on their trip to the meeting in Jakarta. It was only afterwards that I heard  they had signed a letter claiming to be the village government. I was shocked, and so I want to say that I, speaking to you now, am the real village head, and I clearly don't accept this. If they knew I was here then why didn't they call on me, as the leader of the village administration in the area the company is working? I've been elected by the people of Nakias village and they knew I was in Merauke, so why didn't they ask me?", Melkior explained.

Father Anselmus Amo, MSC, the director of SKP KAMe (the Justice and Peace Secretariat of Merauke Catholic Archdiocese), stated his opinion, that a moratorium is not issued by an NGO. This is a misleading statement, and it is irresponsible to make such claims. A moratorium places obligations on a company to abide by regulations issued by government. Recently the Indonesian Government's moratorium on new permits in primary forests and peatlands was renewed, via a presidential directive. So what's all this about NGOs placing a moratorium on a company, Amo underlined.

Father Amo also said that one of the NGOs' complaints about the companies' activities was that they had used fire to clear land. This accusation was brought because companies had clearly been burning land, which is forbidden by central government. It is a great shame if local government appears to be closing its eyes to this matter. Disregard from local government has already become systematic, meaning that even when the Bupati speaks about developments which would be positive for local people, it is not  guaranteed whether his technical staff will follow them up. NGOs make accusations about companies because human rights violations and environmental destruction have taken place in their concessions. If companies cared about human rights and the environment, then there is no way that NGOs would make such complaints.

A similar point was made by Inda Fatinaware, Executive Director of Sawit Watch, who said that community should not be misled by talk of moratoriums. The moratorium issued by the government was to call a temporary halt to new permits in primary natural forest. There is no relation whatsoever to the issue of smallholder schemes. Companies have to provide smallholdings for local people, this is obligatory and clearly stated in the 2014 Plantation Law (UU39/2014). Therefore there is no reason why a company shouldn't develop such a smallholder scheme.  What's more, a company such as Korindo, which has already been operating in Merauke and Boven Digoel for many years, should already have provided smallholdings for the community. The question should be what has the company been doing all this time, and why hasn't it still not developed community smallholding schemes? Don't use the moratorium as an excuse not to develop smallholding schemes.

Y.L. Franky, the Director of Yayasan Pusaka in Jakarta, wanted to take this opportunity to draw attention to the underlying problems facing indigenous people. According to Franky, the serious problems indigenous people have to face include the loss of their rights and sovereignty, a lack of participation in development to determine its direction, the loss of a sense of security and the limits on the right to free expression, and the loss of autonomy to develop productive economic enterprises based on the knowledge of local indigenous people.

This situation has occurred because the state has neglected to respect and protect indigenous Papuan's rights, which makes it impossible to achieve a good standard of community welfare and to uphold the law, as laid down in the constitution and subsequent laws, such as the Special Autonomy Law (articles 42 and 43), Franky explained.

In consideration of this situation, we believe the following actions are necessary:

  1. Local government must oversee investment activities to make sure they are legal, and do not violate the rights of indigenous people or destroy the environment.
  2. Local governments should issue policy and develop programmes which respect the rights of indigenous Papuans and protect the land which provides their livelihood.
  3. Local government should carry out an audit of all plantation companies present in the area, review any permits or contracts which violate indigenous people's basic rights or disadvantage indigenous people.
  4. We urge companies to respect the basic rights of indigenous Papuans, to avoid causing horizontal conflict within indigenous communities, not to use state security forces to protect their investment, to respect any community decisions not to surrender their lands and forests for business purposes, to protect important sites for the community and to provide adequate economic empowerment for the community and for company workers, without discrimination.

Contact Person

  1.     Pastor Anselmus Amo MSC, SKP KAMe Director (081287778974)
  2.     Mario, Sawit Watch (085228066649)
  3.     Y.L. Franky, Yayasan Pusaka (081317286019)

Scientists find polluted sea 'dead zone' that is bigger than Wales

Independent | Aug. 4, 2017

The area of oxygen-starved sea is the largest ever found in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Activists in South Korea Rally Against Indonesian Rainforest Destruction by Korean Conglomerate POSCO Daewoo

Mighty Earth joined with The Korea Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM), Korea’s largest environmental NGO, at a rally in Gwanghwamun North Square in Seoul, South Korea on Monday, July 31st, to demand that the Korean conglomerate POSCO Daewoo stop destroying Indonesian rainforest on its palm oil plantation in Papua.

Over a dozen activists participated in a street performance, in which they linked arms to defend the forest against a masked man holding a chainsaw representing POSCO Daewoo.  The activists held a banner that read, in both Korean and English, “POSCO Daewoo, Stop Destroying Indonesian Rainforest,” against a giant backdrop of palm oil-driven deforestation in Papua, Indonesia taken from Mighty Earth’s field investigation into Korindo and POSCO Daewoo in June 2016.

The rally followed a meeting between Mighty, KFEM and representatives from POSCO Daewoo that took place the previous business day.  At the meeting, Mighty and KFEM asked POSCO Daewoo to immediately stop their deforestation of pristine rainforest. POSCO Daewoo failed to make any specific commitments and instead said it needed to “study” the matter further despite several years of stakeholders urging an end to its deforestation.  

“POSCO Daewoo is trying to buy itself time to finish its forest clearing,” said Deborah Lapidus, Campaign Director at Mighty Earth.  “At the rate they are clearing, there will be no forest left by the time the company is done studying--and that’s surely their strategy.” Already, POSCO Daewoo’s bulldozers have cleared over 26,500 hectares of forest–half the size of Seoul, South Korea–in its 34,195 hectare concession.  What’s more, the pace of clearing has been accelerating; the company cleared 2,400 ha in the first four months of this year alone and over 10,000 ha since September 2015. Unconscionably, the international consulting firm PWC has given POSCO Daewoo’s deforestation a green stamp of approval. 

The land POSCO Daewoo is clearing to make way for its palm oil plantation, called PT Bio Inti Agrindo (PT BIA), is home to indigenous communities, as well as threatened and endangered species including tree kangaroos and birds of paradise.  According to BIA’s original business plans, obtained by Mighty, the entire area was covered by virgin rainforests prior to clearing.  The company estimated that it would make US$162 million just from selling the high value timber it cleared in the process of setting up the plantation.  The ancient rainforests being bulldozed by POSCO Daewoo are also incredibly carbon rich and essential to curbing global climate change.   

“Unfortunately, two Korean companies have established sprawling palm oil operations in Papua and are clearing forests at a vast scale,” said Ms. Lapidus to an assembled crowd of newspaper photographers and participants at Monday’s rally. “You might recall when we were here last year to expose Korindo’s forest destruction.  Right next to Korindo’s plantations is an immense zone of destruction that is owned by POSCO Daewoo, one of Korea’s premier companies. Despite the enormous ecological value of these areas, POSCO decided that it was happy to destroy them to create a giant monoculture plantation.  We are not seeing many companies act in such an egregious manner anymore but POSCO’s bulldozers are still operating.”  

Rally participants called on POSCO Daewoo to declare an immediate moratorium on all new forest clearing, to commit to a No Deforestation and No Exploitation policy aligned with the industry standard High Carbon Stock Approach, and to invest in restoration to repair its past damage.  

“POSCO Daewoo has done an incredible amount of damage in a short amount of time. It is undermining other companies’ progress on forest conservation and damaging its own brand and reputation around the world across its diverse businesses,” commented Glenn Hurowitz, Mighty Earth’s CEO, at the rally.  “All this deforestation is bad for its business.”

Just as POSCO Daewoo’s mill has become operational in the first quarter of 2017, the world’s largest palm oil buyers have stated they will exclude POSCO Daewoo and BIA’s palm oil from their supply chains because it violates their own No Deforestation and No Exploitation commitments.  

Investors are also pulling away from POSCO Daewoo over its deforestation.  The Norwegian Pension Fund, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, with more than $1 trillion in assets, commissioned an in-depth study into POSCO Daewoo’s activities, and found that the company’s practices were so egregious that they withdrew their investments in August 2015.  Hermes Investment has encouraged POSCO Daewoo to work with stakeholders to rapidly address this issue.  And POSCO Daewoo risks losing financing from several of its financial backers, including HSBC and BNP Paribas, which have both have announced No Deforestation financing policies.

Speaking at the rally, Choony Kim, Vice Executive Director of KFEM said, "Almost 7,700 hectares of tropical forests still remain on the site of POSCO Daewoo. In order for POSCO Daewoo to clean past mistakes and to compete fairly in the global market, it is necessary to immediately declare a moratorium on new land development in the remaining tropical forests. Also, efforts should be made to restore damaged forests and ecosystems.”


Mystery Meat II

New Investigation Identifies Companies Responsible for Massive Dead Zone in Gulf of Mexico

Tyson Foods, America’s Largest Meat Company, Leads Those Found to be driving massive Manure and Fertilizer Pollution

Read the Report

Mapping data links top meat companies to regions experiencing worst pollution from meat

Washington, D.C. — A new report, released by Mighty Earth, identifies the companies responsible for the widespread manure and fertilizer pollution contaminating water from the Heartland to the Gulf. Much of this pollution comes from the vast quantities of corn and soy used to raise meat animals, and has caused one of the largest Dead Zones on record in the Gulf of Mexico this year.

To identify the companies responsible, the investigation maps the supply chains of the top meat and feed companies, and overlays it with data showing elevated nitrate concentrations in waterways that are experiencing high levels of fertilizer pollution. The report also mapped where these supply chains are driving destruction of natural grasslands, including native prairies, putting new regions at risk for fertilizer pollution.

America’s largest meat company, Tyson Foods, stood out for its expansive footprint in all the regions suffering the worst pollution impacts from industrial meat and feed production. Tyson produces one out of every five pounds of meat produced in the United States, and owns brands like Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Ball Park, and Sara Lee, in addition to selling to fast food retailers like McDonalds. The company is consistently ranked among the top polluters in America, although Tyson’s new CEO has declared that a focus on sustainability will be at the center of the company’s future plans. The report found:

    • Tyson is the only meat company with major processing facilities in each of the states listed by the USGS as contributing the highest levels of pollution to the Gulf;
    • Tyson and Smithfield have the heaviest concentration of meat facilities in those regions of the country with the highest levels of nitrate contamination;
Map of nitrate levels by watersheds, 2016 overlaid with Tyson and top feed supplier facilities (View Larger Map)
    • Tyson’s top feed suppliers are behind the bulk of grassland prairie clearance, which dramatically magnifies the impacts of fertilizer pollution, with Cargill and ADM clearly dominating the market for corn and soy with their network of grain elevators and feed silos in all the states with the highest losses.
Map of grassland conversion by county, 2016 overlaid with Tyson and top feed supplier facilities (View Larger Map)

 

“Americans should not have to choose between producing food and having healthy clean water”, says Mighty Earth campaign director Lucia von Reusner. “Big meat companies like Tyson have left a trail of pollution across the country, and have a responsibility to their customers and the public to clean it up.”

“As the public has gained awareness of the major impacts of industrial meat production, many consumers have been trying to find more sustainable options,” said von Reusner. “This report shows that our nation’s largest meat companies shape our food system on a massive scale, and can implement the solutions needed to make meat less polluting.”

A recent analysis from the Environmental Working Group of 2015 public water utility data found that 7 million Americans are exposed to unhealthy levels of nitrate contamination in their drinking water. The Tap Water Database “provides information on the most widespread and potentially harmful contaminants and their sources – including agriculture, a leading source of pollution in the U.S. that is largely exempt from federal laws designed to protect drinking water,” according to the Environmental Working Group.

Researchers recently announced that so much pollution has run into the Gulf of Mexico this year that is has created one of the largest dead zones on record. Fertilizer pollution flowing down the Mississippi River from the American heartland is the cause of this dead zone, by causing toxic algae blooms where marine life cannot survive. This fertilizer pollution comes mostly from industrial corn and soy fields. Last year the USGS reported that around 1.15 million metric tons of nitrogen pollution flowed into the Gulf of Mexico. As comparison, the BP oil spill was 670,800 metric tons, and is not an annually occurring event.

*The report was amended to clarify the proportion of U.S. soy that goes toward animal feed. The rest of the report remains unchanged.

Take action! Sign the petition below calling on Tyson’s CEO to clean up this pollution from meat.

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About Mighty Earth

Mighty Earth is a global environmental campaign organization that works to protect forests, conserve oceans, and address climate change. We work in Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa, and North America to drive large-scale action towards environmentally responsible agriculture that protects native ecosystems, wildlife, and water, and respects local community rights.  Mighty Earth’s global team has played a decisive role in persuading the world’s largest food and agriculture companies to dramatically improve their environmental and social policies and practices. More information on Mighty Earth can be found at http://www.mightyearth.org/.

 

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Dunkle Flecken in der Lieferkette

Handelsblatt | Aug. 1, 2017

Ein Report von Umweltorganisationen zeigt: Palmöl von illegal brandgerodeten Plantagen im Regenwald ist trotz etlicher Richtlinien der Branche nach Deutschland gelangt. Gekauft wurde es von zwei wichtigen Händlern.

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Tyson asked to require corn, soybean growers to provide 'pollution-free feed'

Des Moines Register | Aug. 1, 2017

Tyson should require corn and soybean growers in Iowa and elsewhere to provide "pollution-free feed" for the pigs, chickens and cattle that the Arkansas-based meat giant uses, an environmental group says in a new report.

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Meat industry blamed for largest-ever 'dead zone' in Gulf of Mexico

The Guardian | Aug. 1, 2017

A new report shows toxins from suppliers to companies like Tyson Foods are pouring into waterways, causing marine life to leave or die.

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Chocolate's Dark Secret: Behind the Scenes in Côte D'Ivoire

 An “Open Secret:” Illegal Ivorian Cocoa

Mighty Earth’s field investigation in Côte d’Ivoire reveals how cocoa is driving illegal deforestation in the nation’s protected areas. Our findings expose how environmental destruction is an “open secret” throughout the Ivorian cocoa supply chain, from growers through traders, chocolate companies and the Ivorian government.


In the early morning light, as we headed into Scio, we found a recently cleared plot of land, with just a handful of beautiful old trees left, towering along the perimeter and evoking the majestic forest that once flourished here. More than 80% of the country’s forests disappeared from 1960-2010, according to the EU and Ivorian Forestry Ministry.

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Ivorian protected areas we visited- like this one, Scio – had little original forest left. Cocoa farmers systematically encroach on parks, clear underbrush, plant cocoa, and light fires at the roots of ancient giants to kill them so that the denuded canopy no longer blocks sun for cocoa plantations. What’s left behind are giant skeleton trees in a sea of cocoa.

Cocoa production has endangered wildlife by taking over many of the rainforests of Côte d’Ivoire, a country once internationally known as a biodiversity gem in West Africa’s Guinean Forest Region and a nation of great biological richness, species diversity, and endemism. Former poachers that Mighty interviewed in one protected area said that they had virtually stopped poaching, since there were hardly any animals left to kill.

Red Colobus Monkey, Cote D'Ivoire, Scott McGraw

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Deforestation is happening in the largest remaining chimpanzee habitats in Côte d’Ivoire. A recent study on the impact of cocoa production for primate populations in protected areas found that 13 of 23 protected areas surveyed had lost their entire primate populations.

Several interviewees in the protected area of Goin Debe explained that the road in the forest used to be better during the logging boom days, as the loggers kept the road in good condition. Road maintenance declined because nearly all the trees were cleared, so there was hardly any logging left to do and the loggers stopped taking care of the roads.

Farmers burn large trees to make room for cocoa, leaving “skeleton” forests behind of just the trunks. However, when one of the few remaining hardwood trees is deemed large and valuable enough, and is close enough to a road that a truck can come and get it out, farmers will sometimes strike deals with loggers. These massive logs by the side of the road are waiting for a truck to remove them.

Predatory logging companies go into decimated protected forests and harvest the last few remaining large hardwoods. This truck is driving alongside the edge of Goin Debe forest reserve, which Mighty Earth visited and found to be almost entirely destroyed for cocoa.

Loggers bring scavenged timber to a facility in the nearby town of Duekoue, where the logs are cut into lumber and stacked alongside the road.

The problem of deforestation cocoa is a massive one for Côte d’Ivoire. Cocoa is believed to be the number one driver of deforestation in the country. Much of the cocoa exported out of Côte d’Ivoire comes from inside national parks and forest reserves.

We came across this Cargill sign at dawn, showing Rainforest Alliance and Utz Certification, at the edge of the Scio forest reserve in Western Cote d’Ivoire.  Ten minutes away, inside Scio, we found complete environmental devastation. Cocoa had replaced what was once a lush tropical rainforest.


While top chocolate companies and their executives and investors make sizable profits, they pay very low wages and rely on extensive child labor. 


Mighty Earth visited Mount Peko National Park – which means “mountain of hyenas” in the local Gueré language. Forest destruction there was largely driven by cocoa expansion, with 10,000 tonnes worth over $28 million produced annually from the park and an estimated 30,000 illegal inhabitants. The Ivorian government recently cracked down against cocoa-driven deforestation by expelling cocoa farmers, but groups like Human Rights Watch documented extortion and physical abuse by forest conservation authorities in forest evictions. Mighty Earth saw that after the recent crackdown, the park had once again filled back up with cocoa smallholders, like the men in this video.


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Mighty’s satellite mapping shows how deforestation, largely driven by cocoa production, has expanded across Western Cote d’Ivoire. In this map, you can see how cocoa production is expanding into protected areas, as the rest of the nation’s forest has largely been cleared already.


Agricultural production inside protected areas is illegal. Yet, cocoa cultivation and drying, which you see in this video, was happening in broad daylight, even meters from the main roads through the forests.

Cocoa production has grown so out of control that entire towns and villages have sprung up in protected areas. Marahoué Park and Mont Péko Park each contain an illegal population of around 30,000 people. Their presence is an open secret, with homes and even public schools, official health centers, and occasionally cell phone towers, in plain sight of government authorities who have turned a blind eye to or encouraged encroachment into protected areas for decades.

 

 

We met cocoa farmers who spoke of their suffering and explained the economic hardships they’ve faced since cocoa prices plummeted by over 30% this past year. Many told us that it has been the worst financial year for them in living memory.

 

Ian Jones Photography

After a meeting convened by Prince Charles, 34 of the world’s biggest chocolate companies committed to ending deforestation for chocolate. However, it remains to be seen if these companies will take true leadership in putting an end to this destruction. Africa’s forests cannot wait much longer for these commitments to turn into action.

 

 

 

The Ivorian government has made many commitments at the highest level around ending deforestation. Although promises on paper have yet to translate into a reality of forest protection, there is room for optimism that the Ivorian government would support robust industry action this year to save forests. Far beyond Côte d’Ivoire, from the Americas to Asia, there are other forests which can also be saved if the cocoa industry shifts now towards zero deforestation.

 

Diana Monkey, Cote D'Ivoire, Scott McGraw


Mighty Earth and Olam Joint Statement Following Visit to Gabon

London, July 24, 2017 – Conservation NGO Mighty Earth and Olam International have completed a 5 day series of meetings and visits in Gabon as part of their agreement, announced in February 2017, to move forward on models for responsible agricultural development in highly forested countries.

Mighty Earth’s CEO Glenn Hurowitz and Olam’s Global Head of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, Dr Christopher Stewart, participated in a series of intensive and constructive meetings with key decision-makers in the Gabon central and provincial governments, facilitated by Mighty’s local partner NGO Brainforest and by Olam Gabon, as well as a round-table of Gabonese NGOs belonging to the environmental and human rights civil society platform: “Gabon, Ma Terre, Mon Droit “ (Gabon, My Lands, My Rights).

Glenn Hurowitz, CEO of Mighty Earth, said, “Thank you to Olam for organising an eye-opening, worthwhile, and inclusive visit to Gabon. We appreciated the opportunity to join Brainforest, WWF, TFT and other groups to see Olam’s Mouila plantations, conservation activities, and discuss sustainable development with local communities and government officials. The visit was a valuable input into our ongoing discussions with Olam and many other stakeholders around the world to refine an enduring conservation standard for high forest cover countries. In Mouila, we saw evidence that while there remain important issues to resolve, Olam has created jobs, and is taking efforts to protect those conservation areas it has set aside, and also working to resolve important community concerns. However, the visit also raises serious questions about whether large-scale plantation agriculture is a good model for heavily forested landscapes and other biodiverse, carbon rich ecosystems. We look forward to exploring this question further with Olam, the High Carbon Stock Approach group, other companies operating in Africa and elsewhere, and a range of environmental and community groups, including the upcoming Forest Dialogue in Gabon.”

Christopher Stewart, Olam’s Global Head of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, said “I would like to thank Glenn Hurowitz for visiting our palm plantations in Gabon, and for his positive and helpful contributions to the fundamentally important debates about responsible agriculture. It was also a rare and extremely valuable opportunity for us and the conservation NGOs to participate together in high-level political discussions on Gabon’s long term economic and land use strategy. I do not underestimate the evolving market demands and expectations surrounding sustainable agriculture in developing tropical countries like Gabon or the local challenges that are created by the development of our plantations and the GRAINE project. We are already looking to a series of further technical and policy discussions with the multi-stakeholder group and I expect that a mutually reciprocated spirit of openness and respectful dialogue will help us to converge on solutions, that serve both the urgent developmental needs of Gabon and the imperative to conserve its globally critical forest landscapes and wildlife for future generations.”

The meetings with senior officials included the Minister of Agriculture, the Parliamentary Sustainable Development Commission, the Secretary-General of the National Parks Agency, the Head of the National Climate Council, the Minister in Charge of Presidential Affairs, and the Director General of the Environment. The Ministers, parliamentarians and Agency Heads welcomed Mighty’s visit to Gabon and Olam’s proactive effort to understand and respond to their concerns, encouraging the local NGOs to embrace the challenges raised by the revitalisation of Gabon’s agricultural sector, and enter into monitoring partnerships with Olam.

Over the course of 2 days of substantive discussions, they also laid out the history of land and natural resource use in Gabon, the urgent and inevitable need to diversify Gabon’s economy away from fossil fuels, the social dangers of dependency on oil, Gabon’s significant (and regionally unmatched) commitments to long-term conservation of its forests and reduction of its greenhouse gas emissions, and the primary importance of agriculture (both large and small-scale) in Gabon’s National Strategic Plan. The tone of these meetings was both constructive and cordial, despite many differences of opinion that still need to be resolved.

Olam Gabon, Mighty Earth and its local partner Brainforest convened a round table including additional members of the “Ma Terre Mon Droit” platform, WWF Gabon, FENSED, IDRC Africa and Croissance Saine-Environnement. The key environmental and social impacts of plantation agriculture were debated at length and NGOS expressed both strong support for the social development benefits of export crop plantations, and strong reservations about the biodiversity and climate impacts, and potential human rights impacts, of large scale plantation agriculture as a basis for the renewal of Gabon’s rural economy. NGOs demanded transparency and better participation in decision-making, as well as capacity building initiatives, strengthening partnerships for monitoring the plantation impacts and improving local livelihoods.

Olam’s Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability team agreed on these points and the need to continually improve its outreach processes, including communicating technical documentation in a way that is more accessible to all stakeholders. Olam also set out the many opportunities for NGO involvement that are in place, not least the systematic local and national consultation processes on social and environmental impacts, open-access publications on all its plantation operations, the joint elaboration with national NGOs of the Gabonese RSPO National Standard, and its national-scale GRAINE support programme for cooperative farming, in which most of the NGOs present had played a framing role.

A large NGO delegation including Mighty, The Forest Trust (TFT), and local NGOs Brainforest, WWF-Gabon, FENSED, and Muyissi Environnement also spent 2 days visiting Olam’s palm oil plantations and the landscape and communities of Ngounie Province, southern Gabon. They were given an overview of the plantation operations and progress to date by the General Manager of Olam Palm Gabon, and visited operations including the planting area, mechanically assisted harvesting teams, an innovative drip fertigation project, and the 90-tonne Mouila Mill, which was inaugurated in 2016. They also visited a small part of the 18,000 ha conservation set-aside within Lot 1, and learned about Olam’s environmental action plan since 2013 to restore the logged forests of the set-asides, including prevention and monitoring of illegal logging and hunting of protected species (both of which are a continuing threat to forests and wildlife in this area).

A highlight of the field visit was the exploration of Olam Palm Gabon’s Mouila Lot 3, where Olam has established a 14,000 ha savannah plantation compliant with the requirements RSPO’s New Plantings Procedures, on a strict zero-deforestation basis . This also includes the first High Conservation Value savannah ecosystem mosaic under active management in the RSPO system, and Olam’s pioneering research in this under-appreciated ecosystem (in partnership with Missouri Botanical Gardens) has already laid the groundwork for a new National Park in the area, under the leadership of the National Parks Agency.

The NGO delegation also held village meetings in 3 villages chosen and organised by Brainforest, which are among a total of 87 villages which have Free Prior and Informed Consent procedures and Social Contracts with Olam. The villagers expressed themselves without reservation on both positive and negative social impacts of the plantation developments: on the one hand they largely welcomed the employment opportunities and investment in social infrastructure provided by Olam, whilst expressing their strong need for better access to essential services including schooling, healthcare, clean water provision, electrification, building materials and opportunities for promotion within the Olam structure.

A recurring theme was the concern on the impact of plantations on natural streams and lakes, which are a key source of water – villages in this region suffer from annual water shortages in the dry season as seasonal streams and artesian wells dry up. The NGO delegation urged Olam to act on these concerns and provide better solutions for water provision, more transparency in its water quality monitoring process, and rehabilitation in the case of accidental damage to natural water bodies. However, they were satisfied to observe that Olam’s social team has strong connections to the villages and has previously addressed and documented both the grievances expressed and the solutions proposed. Olam agreed immediately to investigate renewed concerns expressed in the village of Ferra relative to the Rembo river, a key dry-season drinking water source, which villagers feared might be impacted by a nursery upstream from their village.


For more information on the investigation into Olam’s plantations and the issues related to industrial agriculture at large, check out this article by Mighty Earth’s Glenn Hurowitz.

 

 


France announces new five-year climate plan that puts end to “imported deforestation” of products like palm oil and soy

Last week, Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot laid out France’s new “climate plan” which includes greater efforts to protect the world’s tropical rainforests in the Amazon, West Africa, and Southeast Asia. Hulot noted that the climate plan intends to put an end to “imported deforestation.”

The French government's commitment to end the importation of products like palm and soy linked to deforestation is hopeful. Especially now with this action, France is leading the way in supporting zero-deforestation commodity production. "This is a new step toward a full implementation of the Paris agreement,” said Sebastien Mabile, Lawyer at the Paris Bar leading Mighty's campaign against deforestation in France. “It's a major change for the food industry supply chain."

Mighty is encouraged by the recent news, which sends a clear message that rainforest destruction is not acceptable.

“Companies have shown that it is possible to produce agricultural products without deforesting,” said Etelle Higonnet, Legal and Campaign Director at Mighty. “The Brazilian Soy Moratorium reduced deforestation caused by soy from nearly 30% of new soy expansion in the Brazilian Amazon to less than 1% in just three years.  Now, it is important these solutions are implemented in other parts of Latin America and in places like South East Asia and West and Central Africa, to ensure economic development is truly sustainable and equitable, and that benefits local communities and protects the world’s remaining tropical forests.”

France’s new plan, intended to meet the ambitious targets of the Paris climate accord and make the country carbon neutral by 2050, also includes stopping the sale of diesel and petrol vehicles by 2040 and coal produced electricity by 2022. The announcement comes months after France adopted “le Devoir De Vigilance” law in February 2017. The new law establishes obligations toward large companies to prevent serious violations of human rights and environmental damages, with the aim of restoring respect for human and ecological rights by multinational corporations.


Mighty Earth Calls Out EPA on Dirty Biofuels Proposal

A proposal released last week by the EPA includes troubling news for tropical forests and other ecosystems threatened by encroaching industrial agriculture. The proposal mandates record production levels for biodiesel and corn ethanol. These biofuels, once thought to be ‘green’, are now known to drive the conversion of forests, grasslands and other native ecosystems into crop production, and to rival if not exceed fossil fuels for climate emissions.

Take action and send a comment to the EPA here.

“Biofuels like corn ethanol and soy biodiesel are a cure worse than the disease,” said Mighty Earth Chairperson Henry Waxman. “Supporting environmentally unfriendly biofuels worsens our climate crisis and drives deforestation and habitat loss at home and abroad.”

Only a small fraction of biodiesel is made from waste or recycled sources, like used cooking oil. Most biodiesel used in the U.S. is produced using soy oil, and much of the biodiesel on the global market is palm oil based.

As the U.S. and other governments ratchet up demand for these types of biofuels, agri-businesses meet production by carving new farms out of virgin forests in places like Brazil, Bolivia and Indonesia, as the New York Times, YaleEnvironment360 and our own reports have documented. The forests of Latin America and Southeast Asia are hotspots of biodiversity and critical habitat for threatened species like the tree kangaroo, orangutan, jaguar and giant anteater.

When land conversion is fully considered, soy and palm biodiesel don’t provide any climate benefits, and those of corn ethanol are negligible. In fact, a recent analysis based on a European Union report found that soy and palm biodiesel are worse for the climate than fossil diesel.

Growing corn for ethanol has similar problems, and its effects are seen here in the U.S. The dramatic increase in corn production and has contributed to the conversion of more than 7 million acres of native ecosystems into agricultural land since 2008, according a National Wildlife Federation report based on a University of Wisconsin analysis.

Under the law that governs production of biofuels, the Renewable Fuel Standard, biodiesel production has skyrocketed, from under 10 million gallons in 2001 to 2.0 billion gallons in 2017. Corn ethanol has also seen enormous growth under this misguided government policy.

Mighty Earth urges the EPA to reconsider its biofuels proposal, and reduce mandated levels of biofuels linked to land conversion and climate emissions.

Take action and send a comment to the EPA here.


UPDATE: UNESCO urges Poland to stop logging the ancient Białowieża forest

The UNESCO-protected Białowieża forest, on the border of Poland and Belarus, is one of the last remaining parts of a vast ancient forest that once spread across Europe. In March 2016, the Polish Government decided to increase intensive logging in the region threefold, despite concerns from environmentalists and scientists regarding the impact on protected areas. Between January and May 2017 over 30,000 trees have been cut down in the old-growth forest by the Polish Government’s State-owned logging company.

This past June, Mighty stood in solidarity with protestors around the world to support the protection of the Białowieża forest, days before

Protestors gathered outside the 41st Session of the World Heritage Committee in Kraków, Poland on July 4th. CREDIT: Ireneusz Graff, Pracownia na rzecz Wszystkich Istot

Only days into the session, the World Heritage Committee said in a statement that UNESCO “strongly urges (Poland) to immediately halt all logging and wood extraction in old-growth forests.”

In response to UNESCO, the Polish government denied they made the decision to open up the forest to logging. Environmentalists and scientist continue protests as logging continues. “We've won an important battle but it is not over yet,” said Diana Maciaga, Climate Coordinator for Pracownia, a Polish NGO that has been fighting to save the forest.  “Still, this is a symbolic, moral victory and it is huge!”

Click here for more photos of protestors in Kraków.


Samsung partnership with Korindo ignites another fire scandal

Banner Photo Credit: Business Korea
Smoke rising from burning wood rows on a palm oil plantation owned by Korindo, Samsung’s joint venture partner ©Ardiles Rante/Greenpeace; 26 March 2013

Samsung’s phones are not the only thing in their business catching on fire.  Samsung IT subsidiary, Samsung SDS, announced on June 19 that it has entered into a partnership with the notorious forest destroyer, Korindo Group, to form a joint venture in the logistics sector in Indonesia.

As we documented in our Burning Paradise report, Korean-Indonesian agribusiness Korindo has cleared 30,000 hectares of rainforest and had nearly 900 fire hotspots on its palm oil concessions in Papua and North Maluku, Indonesia since 2013. We also found that Korindo has taken land from indigenous communities without their consent. Yet, just as Korindo has been losing more and more major global customers over its bad track record and is now being investigated by the Forest Stewardship Council, Samsung decided to proudly announce a new partnership with the company.

Samsung is no stranger to these types of allegations itself.  A report released in December 2016 by a group of Korean human rights lawyers called Korean Transnational Corporations Watch (KTNC Watch) documents deplorable human rights violations that they observed on their field investigation to Samsung palm oil plantations in Riau province of Sumatra, Indonesia.  The Samsung plantation companies are called PT Inecda and PT Gandaerah, and are part of a joint venture with the Indonesian Ganda Group.  Ganda Group has a well documented history of human rights abuses, including coming under scrutiny in 2013 for forcibly evicting villagers from their homes and destroying them.

The report describes how the indigenous communities who have lived on this land for centuries have seen it snatched by Samsung’s plantations, with important ancestral and cultural sites taken over by the plantation. The company has diverted the rivers to irrigate the palm oil plantation, leaving the rest of the surrounding area with a severe water shortage. In addition, the pesticides and other toxic chemicals used on the plantation are polluting the waterways.  Local communities can no longer get the clean water they need to drink, clean, or wash. The plantations are also resulting in a major loss of biodiversity, which threatens the food and livelihood of the indigenous communities. Samsung has been found offering bribes to discourage efforts to claim communal rights to the land, paying certain community members to spy on their neighbors and report back.

A former well site near the plantation dormitories, now abandoned because the water dried up.
Photo Credit: Advocates for Public Interest Law

The report also documents extensive human rights violations of workers on Samsung’s plantations. There are frequent instances of child labor identified on the plantations and many workers report bringing their children or spouses to work to help them meet the high daily quotas set by Samsung. Workers are expected to handle toxic chemicals and work in a setting with inadequate safety conditions. There are no formal contracts, very low wages, high daily quotas, and long hours. Workers that live on the plantations are also subject to very poor, unhealthy living conditions.

An elementary school child is taking a break on top of heavy equipment while working with his father at the PT Ghandaera plantation, picking, bagging, and moving grains of palm oil fruits (November 12, 2016). Photo Credit: Advocates for Public Interest Law

 

Worker’s housing inside the Samsung plantation. Photo Credit: Advocates for Public Interest Law

Given the unsavory operations of both Korindo and Samsung in Indonesia, it is no surprise that these companies would see eye to eye on how to conduct business in the country.  But just as this new partnership brings new opportunities for growth to both companies, it also brings new opportunities for Samsung’s millions of consumers around the globe to take action to end both companies’ abuses in Indonesia.

Samsung can’t afford another PR nightmare right now, as it’s working to build back its reputation following the recall of 2.5 million phones and as its Vice Chairman is on trial for massive corruption scandals in South Korea. The last thing Samsung needs is to be caught up in a scandal over forest destruction and species extinction. If enough Samsung customers take action, we can convince them to drop the partnership with Korindo, sending a clear message to Korindo that forest destruction is bad for business.


Mighty Earth stands in solidarity with the historic fight to save the primeval Białowieża Forest

Between January and May 2017 over 30,000 trees have been cut down in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of Europe’s largest remaining old-growth forests, by the Polish Government’s State-owned logging company

On Monday, June 26th, Mighty Earth organized a photo-petition outside the Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C. in response to large-scale logging in the Białowieża, an old-growth forest on Poland’s eastern border with Belarus.

The UNESCO-protected Białowieża forest is home to many threatened and diverse species including wolves, woodpeckers and a herd of 800 European bison.  Białowieża is one of the last remaining parts of a vast ancient forest that once spread across Europe. “We wanted to let the Polish Government know that the world is watching. When we learned that this unique and ancient forest was on its way to becoming a ‘world heritage site in danger,’ we decided to organize in front of the Polish Embassy,” said Mighty Campaign Director Deborah Lapidus.

Mighty calls on the Polish government to protect of one of the last and largest remaining parts of the primeval forest ecosystem in Europe, in solidarity with Pracownia, a Polish environmental organization, Greenpeace Poland, and the hundreds of activists who are putting their bodies on the line and risking arrest to stand in the way of the bulldozers and protect this ancient forest for future generations.

The loggers are going deeper into the forest every day, but resistance in Poland, across Europe, and around the world is growing.  Join the fight now.  Sign the petition to stop the destruction of one of Europe’s last old-growth forests.

For more information, and to get involved, visit http://save-bialowieza.net/


Burger King Commits to Stop Destroying Rainforests…in 13 Years

Burger King released new environmental commitments today following a joint campaign by Mighty Earth, Union of Concerned Scientists, Rainforest Foundation Norway, and SumOfUs. BK set a goal of eliminating deforestation and protecting local communities connected to raw materials like beef, chicken, animal feed (typically soy), palm oil, as well as paper and other packaging by 2030. In addition to Burger King, this policy also applies to Tim Hortons and Popeyes, which are all part of the Restaurant Brands International conglomerate.

 

When it comes to protecting forests, Burger King means fast food and slow action. They’re giving irresponsible agribusiness companies like Cargill and Bunge 13 years to stop destroying rainforests, instead of telling them that they need to stop now. Over the past 13 years, 271 million acres of rainforest has been destroyed around the world to make room for products including Whoppers, Crispy Chicken Jr.’s, and Bacon Kings. Burger King is sending a message that it’s okay for Cargill and Bunge to keep revving up the bulldozers.

 

Mighty Earth and Rainforest Foundation Norway released the “Mystery Meat" report about how Burger King keeps the origins of its meat secret. Through remote sensing, supply chain investigation, drone videos and field visits to 29 plantations across 3,000 kilometers of jaguar and sloth habitat in Brazil and Bolivia, the report chronicled Burger King and its suppliers’ massive contribution to rainforest destruction.

 

In the wake of the report, more than a dozen companies including McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Unilever, Nestle, Carrefour and Walmart have stated their support for an immediate end to deforestation for soy, the major feed for livestock.

 

While the 2030 deadline applies to beef and animal feed used to raise the livestock that go into its chicken, bacon, and beef, Burger King also has a significant environmental impact through the palm oil it uses. Unfortunately, the company is not revealing its suppliers, but instead subsidizing the industry-backed Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which allows destruction of secondary forests and carbon-rich peatlands. Mighty Earth called on Burger King to accelerate its action and focus on driving suppliers to immediately eliminate deforestation and human rights abuse.


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