Greenpeace’s old mojo, zooming about in front of Japanese ships, was getting a bit tired; anyway, they’re constructive parties to the anti-whaling talks now, implicating Fonterra in rainforest clearance instead

Last month, Greenpeace barricaded Fonterra’s Auckland corporate headquarters. Today, it’s attacking them virally, with “the milk ad they don’t want you to see”.

The milk has some bits of a dead orangutan in it.

Eco-terrorism? Oh, probably … or a little bit illegal, anyway. Political, too: why is Greenpeace only targeting Fonterra, not the young mum in the supermarket buying baby soap? 

But you know what? It’s also a case to answer.

The target is Fonterra’s links with the palm oil industry. Fonterra, Greenpeace says, will spend NZ$230 million this year buying up a quarter of the world’s traded palm kernel, ex Indonesia. Import stats are up a thousand-fold, since 1999. And its unnecessary: in maize sileage, we have a sustainable domestic alternative.

Palm oil plantations are displacing rainforest. Rainforest clearance was documented by Greenpeace on a site being cleared by Sinar Mas, a palm oil producer: these are the pictures we're seeing, today.

Sinar Mas’ activities are infamous, documented by, you know, proper journalists, as are the effects of the deforestation: on wildlife, on Indonesia’s emissions profile (third highest in the world behind China and the US), on climate change consequences, and on displaced indigenous peoples.

Federated Farmers (and indeed, our government) says palm kernel (sold as ‘PKE’) is a waste product. Fed Farmers said "not one millimetre of forest is being cleared just to feed dairy cows". They would, disingenously, not be party to rainforests destroyed solely to generate feed: “If, for one moment, Federated Farmers thought tropical rainforests were being destroyed solely to generate feed, then we’d be in the streets hand-in-hand with Greenpeace".

The bottom line is that their money contributes to the profitability of that industry. [Update and correction: Palm kernel extract is not a valueless product, although the amount it contributes to the income stream of the palm oil industry may be disputed. Russel Norman, for the Greens, calculates it at "up to 15%". The government says its advice is "about 1.5%". It is not clear whether, in this Parliamentary exchange, the two were at cross purposes, talking about different things, or whether the numbers are in fact disputed.]

It's an allegation not only unpalatable to Fonterra, but tired old over-used ‘NZ Inc’, for two reasons.

We’re big on tree-planting in this country, right? Every dollar from the ETS goes to plant a tree, and so on. Here's what they don’t want you to know: every dollar earned by the dairy industry helps to slash and burn a few other trees, somewhere else.

Here's the other thing, the ultimate secret, that Fonterra doesn’t want the world to know: the one about how our so-called clean green dairy industry is all built on externalised costs.

Comments (45)

by scrubone on October 06, 2010
scrubone

"The bottom line is that their money contributes to the profitability of that industry."

Weseal words. It contributes yes. It drives it, not at all. If we stopped buying the stuff, it woud not save a single tree - not one.

by Claire Browning on October 06, 2010
Claire Browning

1. Depends how much it contributes.

2. If I know someone is going to kill you anyway, and will find the means to do it somehow, so I say 'oh crap, why don't I just give them the gun?' does that still make me a party?

3. "Weasel", presumably.

by Ben Curran on October 06, 2010
Ben Curran

If you think de-forestation is bad, then surely you should attempting to remove any support that your consumption currently offers. It's a bit weasely to say that it bad and then continue to use the products derived from it, even if stopping using those products doesn't stop the process as a whole.

Besides, it gives you the moral authority to go to the other users of products of de-forestation and say "look, we were involved in this, we realise it's bad, can we help in getting you to stop using the products as well".

And even if stopping using the waste products wouldn't save a single tree, purchasing them makes the process a whole lot more attractive to the people doing the de-forestation.

by Claire Browning on October 06, 2010
Claire Browning

Besides, it gives you the moral authority to go to the other users of products of de-forestation and say "look, we were involved in this, we realise it's bad, can we help in getting you to stop using the products as well".

Good point. I wonder what Cadbury, with its glass-and-a-half of dairy milk and newly forged anti-palm oil resolutions, is doing about that, as regards Fonterra.

by Mark Wilson on October 06, 2010
Mark Wilson

Scrubone how dare you suggest the left are hypocrites?

And you should be aware Ms Browning doesn't understand irony or sarcasm.

by Claire Browning on October 06, 2010
Claire Browning

Bring it on, Mark -- 'it' being your argument, if you have one.

by Mark Wilson on October 06, 2010
Mark Wilson

Claire any Google will confirm the occasions of Greenpeace's lies and half truths - Brent Spar etc.

The palm kernel debate is another instance - they have made claims that are not accurate and are now following up with the emotive and unfair milk ad.

As their earnings have dropped Greenpeace gets more vicious and unprincipled.

by Claire Browning on October 06, 2010
Claire Browning

And therefore I think you'll find, Mark, that the post addresses that risk.

I am not blind to Greenpeace's faults, sometimes it's a pain in the arse, much like yourself, but it also has its uses, and quite often, it has a point.

Which claims, specifically, in this instance, are not accurate?

As their earnings have dropped Greenpeace gets more vicious and unprincipled.

You mean like ... Cameron Slater?

by Claire Browning on October 06, 2010
Claire Browning

And this story has been around for over a year now, by the way -- just, as you say, less emotively. If there's a robust response, I have not heard it, so I'm looking forward to hearing yours.

In 2009, Bill English for the government said "The supplementary feed being imported into this country is a very low-value by-product of the industry", and "There seems to be some dispute about the proportion of value that is added"; he also said it is not the primary contributor, as opposed to supermarket purchases. Federated Farmers, quoted above, made the same lame point, about it not being the sole contributor.  Fonterra, on September 23, 2010 said they believe the palm products industry follows best practice in responsible sourcing. Ooh, look! Lots of big weasels.

by Andrew Geddis on October 06, 2010
Andrew Geddis

Claire,

"If there's a robust response, I have not heard it, so I'm looking forward to hearing yours."

I trust you aren't putting off anything important while you wait on this. Mark doesn't appear to do "robust". I suspect it's beyond his 15-year-old capabilities.

by Richard James McIntosh on October 06, 2010
Richard James McIntosh

Ouch!

I like that.

by Claire Browning on October 07, 2010
Claire Browning

Well ... I would have settled for anything even vaguely civil and sensible, but I'm not holding my breath for that, either.

I'm also looking forward to Greenpeace's sequel, where the glass of milk contains a dead calf foetus.

by Mark Wilson on October 07, 2010
Mark Wilson

Hi Claire...

Dear Mark,

You are welcome to begin your own blogsite, upon which you may write one sentence snarky remarks in the hope of eliciting some sort of attention. On that blogsite you will be king, you can dish out whatever you want and generally be the big man about the place. But you ain't on your blogsite. You're on ours. So our rules apply, and those rules are that comments designed simply to insult the writer or provoke angry responses are not acceptable. Hence, when you make such comments, they will get removed.

This may seem deeply unfair to you. But you know what? Tough. Now grow up a bit and go do something useful with your life.

by Claire Browning on October 07, 2010
Claire Browning

Mark, you opened the bidding. By all means, fire away with the gratuitous personal slights, and expect to get some back. Alternatively, I can cut you off -- Pundit's privilege. Up to you. Your other option is always of course to give us something substantive.

[PS. Andrew, I'm guessing, exercised the privilege.]

by Ben Curran on October 07, 2010
Ben Curran

I think pretty much everyone can agree that greenpeace are no angels. it doesn't automatically follow that they are wrong though.

Claire, you wondered at Cadbury's position in all this. Don't know at the local level, but internationally they appear to be trying to look like they are doing something, whilst doing as little as possible. They belong to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which, as best I can tell consists of a lot of the major palm oil users sitting around having meetings, constructing guidelines and not actually doing anything. A PR exercise basically.

I find it odd, not the best use of resources to attack the industry. No, I don't think Fontera's use of the waste product of a damaging industry can be condoned, but I would have thought that if GP had really wanted to do something about it, they would have targeted the customers of the companies that use the primary products resulting from the industry. Like Cadubury. Targeting the Mum at the supermarket who buys the soap, as you suggested.

 

by Claire Browning on October 07, 2010
Claire Browning

Still no response from Fonterra. Could it be, they have nothing to say?

This link includes more Greenpeace footage, and here is a clip off the news: "When we asked Fonterra's bosses what they thought about deforestation, they were stuck for words."

by Claire Browning on October 07, 2010
Claire Browning

Ben, hm ... been thinking about that, too.

I reckon it's tricky. Maybe it would be interesting to ask them, maybe I should try; meantime, here's my own stab at it. 

Roughly, they've got palm oil for biofuel, palm oil for the supermarket, palm kernel for Fonterra. The biofuel takes explaining (some biofuels good, some bad, yada yada), which is losing -- and not relevant to NZ anyway, since we don't use any of it. Except, as an aside, Fonterra does put whey into biofuel, which maybe competes in a very tiny domestic way with unsustainable sources ... ie, the palm oil industry ...

Supermarket customers ... well, I'm not sure how well that's going with pork ("oh yes, of course I'm very concerned about the pigs, but er ... I did just buy bacon"), and pork products are relatively simple. Palm oil's everywhere. Doesn't mean they shouldn't try, but would take a long time and probably lots of dosh (advertising, etc) for results to trickle down. Is that a good use of resources to attack the industry? Not sure.

Cynically, it seems to me they've been a bit lost for a long time, looking for this decade's eco-image (equivalent to save the whales, nuclear free), and getting more and more confrontational and/or tricksy, not always to great effect.

Taking on Fonterra, on palm kernel, probably feels like the right space for them. Greenpeace of the old days, out on the high seas, crusading against the big bad guy -- because they do get to board some ships, which they seem to quite like doing. And it gets them, and the palm oil industry, on the national radar, for very little trouble.

But cynicism aside, I still think they have a valid point about intensive dairy, and its methods.

Fonterra by its own admission trades on its clean green image; everybody trots out that cliche, but so did Fonterra, when it felt threatened by the cubicle dairy farms. It does not look good, when apparently a cliche is all it is, because they're flummoxed by even the most basic questions. Palm kernel's among the many ways the industry needs to start cleaning up its act. One, it looks bad. (Admittedly, it's mainly Greenpeace calling attention to it that will self-fulfil this prophesy.) Two, even after a year-plus notice, they don't seem to be able or willing to rebut the allegation that it is actually bad.

The post is a product of its circumstances, by the way, and the best I could do was try to start a conversation, not finish it. So thanks for helping ... :)

by Claire Browning on October 07, 2010
Claire Browning

It would also be interesting to know how marginal (or not) the palm oil industry is -- ie, the significance of even a small contribution to its bottom line. Any thoughts, anyone?

by Petone on October 07, 2010
Petone

Great site you have here

Mark has obviously broken Pundit Rules to play the ball not the er, man, and such posts should be removed. By the same logic, Andrew's and some of  Claire's should be removed also. It's a relief to see some substantive debate in NZ and Pundit needs to enforce its rules to keep it that way.

Righto, on-topic;
Scrubone and the Feds are wrong, and probably wilfully, in saying not one single tree or millimetre of forest is felled. Any addition to the bottom line of course results in additional reinvestment and thus further felling of rainforest to make way for more palms.  Doesn't matter whether it is a 5% or 10% addition to the bottom line, or a fraction of that. (Who's term is that anyway?  Suspiciously non-specific.  1/2?  1/4?  9/4?)

And as for the other topic, I don't think it is a given that Greenpeace are no angels.  Those that I know are very principled people, but they can't ensure everyone else is as principled, nor all facets of a complex and multi-cultural organisation. Any Greenpeace misbehaviour pales into insignifcance compared to that of opposition teams anyway.. sure they may board ships, but they don't blow them up.

by Claire Browning on October 08, 2010
Claire Browning

"A fraction of that" is me, paraphrasing in a hurry what Bill English said -- which was that he had different information than the Greens, and our import of palm kernel contributed more like 1.5%.

First time I've seen you here, Petone. Lovely to have you, and your points are well made.

I would just note though, that if you'd been around, working as hard as we all have to get proper debate going here on Pundit, with sometimes very little reward, you too might find it, yes, "a relief" to finally see the site spring to life a bit -- and life is not always quite polite. Mark is rarely polite, frequently gratuitously rude and, in this instance, inaccurate. I think he can take his lumps, and if he can't, he shouldn't be dishing it either.

by Ben Curran on October 08, 2010
Ben Curran

'll not argue that there's a fair number of principled people in Greenpeace. It might even be most of them. Given what they are trying to do though, i.e. bring attention to the failings of our societies that are damaging the world, I don't think it is possible for them to remain angelic. They're human, they will make mistakes and overstep the mark sometimes. It's a price they and we pay to have someone watching the backs of those damaging the world. It's a price I think worth paying, I'd much rather be in this world with greenpeace and other organizations like them operating than a world in which they didn't.

Stepping back for a moment though, yes, Greenpeace do seem to lack a cental set of themes these days. Or possibly the whole watchdog thing just seems more fractured. Point in case being the pork thing. That was run by a group called an animal rights group called SAFE, who I don't thing are affliated with Greenpeace (the whole bacon in the supermarkets thing annoys me, but lots of things about the way people shop do, sigh, a grumpy old man at 35).

Hmm... the current campaign might not have much of an affect on palm oil. Looked at another way, it is a good way to start going after Fonterra/farmers for the damage they do though. It would need to be followed up by linking the other types of damage farming causes to equaly unpalatable outcomes. Will be interesting to see. Only time will tell though.

by Mark Wilson on October 08, 2010
Mark Wilson

Hi Claire, That's is my point - the right can take their lumps but leftys like you and Andrew are happy to insult others but then hide behind censorship. After all, you both insulted me first ... [I think the record of the thread speaks for itself, Mark. Your latest insult has been redacted.]

.

by Claire Browning on October 08, 2010
Claire Browning

The current campaign might not have much of an affect on palm oil. Looked at another way, it is a good way to start going after Fonterra/farmers for the damage they do though ...

Ben -- I agree. This is probably just a simpler way of reiterating what I was fumbling after earlier: I think it ticks all the boxes from their point of view, and offers a sort of one-stop-shop for tackling the dairy and palm oil industries and, indirectly, climate change all at once. So, viewed in that light, not at all a dumb use of resources. And I'm guessing, Fonterra is much more susceptible to pressure (via their reputation, since that is their brand) than other perhaps more key industries like soap, confectionery, etc -- so if Greenpeace can get a win on it, that gives them a trophy, too.

Doesn't matter whether it is a 5% or 10% addition to the bottom line, or a fraction of that ...

Petone -- it doesn't matter, as a point of principle (ie, not condoning, at all, rainforest destruction). But I'm also interested in whether, in practice, Fonterra is propping the industry up.

by Claire Browning on October 08, 2010
Claire Browning

They're human, they will make mistakes and overstep the mark sometimes. It's a price they and we pay ...

Mm. I'm not sure it's mistakes, or even overstepping the mark (a little bit) deliberately that bothers me. After all, the milk ad is a case in point: it uses Fonterra's logo. I didn't expect it to still be live, 3 days later, which is why I was in a hurry. (Not that it was necessarily integral to the post, but that's what made it topical.)

I chucked the eco-terrorism thing in there, on the basis that it's on the spectrum (intimidating Fonterra employees; attempted sabotage of Fonterra's economic interests, therefore NZ's interests; piracy; and so on)  ... but I'm not really seriously putting them in that bracket.

Maybe today's Sea Shepherd news is more of a case in point: an instance of deliberate misleading, which is damaging in the end, to everyone's credibility. And endangering life. (And it helps the Antarctic environment how, to scuttle boats in it?)

It's not a Greenpeace example. But they lined up behind Sea Shepherd and Bethune pretty strongly. A mistake, cause they didn't know? Not so sure they're above that kind of malarky  ...

by Peter Arthur Kidd on October 09, 2010
Peter Arthur Kidd

Doesn't matter whether it is a 5% or 10% addition to the bottom line, or a fraction of that ... and our import of palm kernel contributed more like 1.5%.

Claire, As copied above shows: Why do you not state you do not have a clue and you are trying to argue your hypothesis without having any idea of the facts. Obtaining some accurate data at your expense instead of expecting Fonterra to waste its resources whenever someone exercises their tall poppy acts would be respected. Today's consumers average food spend is 18% of income .In the 1970's this was 48% of income. The difference is now spent on consumer items such as flat screen TV's and other toys. Farmers have had to become more efficient and intensive to accomodate consumers economic mesages. Perhaps you should talk to the consumers, using facts of course not just innuendo.

 

 

by Claire Browning on October 10, 2010
Claire Browning

Quite a long way ahead of you, actually, Peter: I posted about that, here on Pundit, 18 months ago. I was on your side: food is too cheap at point of purchase; that's a modern, industrial food phenomenon; and the result is a whole bunch of hidden externalised costs.

You seem to be arguing that the market speaks, and farmers must respond. Difficult, therefore, to understand your objection to Greenpeace facilitating informed market choices -- because I note that, like Fonterra, you do rather seem to acknowledge the truth of their position ...

by Ben Curran on October 10, 2010
Ben Curran

I've just had a quick re-read of the discussion so far. The way I'm reading it, Claire is pretty forthwright in saying she doesn't know the exact numbers. The primary fact available to us is that Fonterra is involved (to some unkown extent) and the given the image they are trying to portray on the world stage, it's not a good look. I've had a quick look around the web and the numbers aren't immeadiately obvious. So an opinion is expressed, with the caveat that exact numbers are unkown. That's not innuendo, just a opinion on a privately owned website.

On top of that, the bit were the caveat is expressed: Doesn't matter whether it is a 5% or 10%, could equally as well be expressed as  Doesn't matter whether it is a 1.5% or 5% or 10% The point being that the numbers don't matter. It's involvement that is the point.

And sure, farmers have had to become more efficient and changes their practices. Everyone has though, the world has changed, they're not special. And just with any major form of manufacturing, we should be worried when a company can only survive by contributing to something that is damaging the world around us.

 

by Peter Arthur Kidd on October 10, 2010
Peter Arthur Kidd

Hi Clare,

I thought "informed market choices" would be based on "information."  I define "innuendo" as being an opinion not backed up by facts.

What is the necessary information?  Well I suggest you need to know:  What is the return from Palm Oil? What is the value of the PKE waste at source? What would happen to the waste product if it were not used as an animal feed to produce food?

Ben has an issue with Fonterra being one of the companies involved . Firstly you have to establish that a real problem exists not just a perception of a problem. Public perception can be driver of activities or actions which have no basis in fact especially when the public are detached and clearly you have established your opinion is based on unknown data.

What would happen if PKE was not shipped to New Zealand? Now there's the real practical question.

by Ben Curran on October 11, 2010
Ben Curran

I've got a problem with farmers/fontera being involved yes. While the numbers to determine the extent of their involvement, I've not been able to find, they have admitted they're involved. The palm oil industry should give us cause to worry damage being caused and thus any involvement should be due cause for at least investigation.

I would submit to Peter that a forum such as this is a place to be made aware of potential problems and begin such investigations. What has come through for me in this discussion, is that

  • Fonterra/farmers are by their own admission, involved in a industry that causes significant damage to the environment.
  • I cannot determine the extent of the involvement, any help that can be offered in determining involvement levels would be gratefully accepted. 
  • I would like for NZ companies to not be involved, until such point in time as the (palm oil) industry moves to a more sustainable footing - something it doesn't appear to be doing despite the existence of industry bodies.
  • The rationale behind Greenpeace's actions are not immeadiately clear to me and I am wondering exactly what they are aiming for with this campaign.

I agree that "what would happen if PKE wasn't shipped to NZ" is a practical question. The answer is that we would have the moral authority as a country to stand up in the international community and push for the palm oil industry to move to a more sustainable footing. We covered that in the earlier comments though I believe.

by Claire Browning on October 11, 2010
Claire Browning

I don’t care how you define innuendo, Peter. I might expect a man so hot on the facts to check the dictionary.

That’s innuendo for you. There’s no other innuendo here. I’m not hinting at something improper. I’m saying straight up that (objectively) Fonterra has a problem, and (subjectively) I don’t like its involvement. That opinion is fact-based.

Here are the key facts. The palm oil industry, Sinar Mas in this instance, is clear-felling rainforest and draining peat bogs, to establish palm oil plantations. That catastrophically raises Indonesia’s emissions profile, plus other collateral damage. Well-established, by sources other than Greenpeace. NZ dairy industry buys and imports palm kernel, on a rising trend, a big chunk of that trade. Fonterra, Fed Farmers, and the government, have all at various times issued statements (or been conspicuous in their silence) without disputing any of this.

Here is a disputed fact: the amount that trade contributes, to the palm oil industry’s bottom line. Not disputed is the fact that it contributes something: the palm kernel is bought and paid for. 1.5% is the low end (government) guesstimate, 15% the Greens’ high one. I have, incidentally, asked both the Greens and government for info about how these were calculated.

But the point is, for present purposes, the size of the contribution doesn’t matter. Whether the contribution is large or small, your so-called ‘clean green’ industry is buying in to environmental pillage.

Another fact: after a whole year, for Fonterra et al to get their story straight, all we are hearing is the same whiny little excuses. Palm kernel is not the sole or even primary contributor to rainforest destruction. It’s a waste product that if it isn’t recycled into supplementary feed, it is burnt. That doesn’t sound too great for either climate change or the environment. And so on.

I’m not the sole or even primary contributor to Fonterra’s bottom line. Doesn’t mean I should buy your products: shopping elsewhere might give pause for thought, and anyway, it’s the principle, and the practice too, of not supporting, or being seen to support, what you do.

And that is a particularly cute line, about the burning — deserving of an equally cute response. It’s not the burning that’s the sole or even primary contributor, etc: so on your logic, we can forget about it, right? Bigger fish to fry; and it’s those bigger fish that in the end Greenpeace is after.

You complain that perceptions of this problem are not rational (Public perception can be driver of activities or actions which have no basis in fact especially when the public are detached …”). Follows that your offshore markets are not rational, either, and in fact you may come under threat from other vested competitive interests. It would be rational for Fonterra to respond to that risk. It has at least some power to control the palm kernel issue at source. This says RD1 is a wholly owned subsidiary. It has some other persuasive power.

You complain about people expecting Fonterra to waste its resources whenever someone exercises their tall poppy acts …. Since they’re the ones with the product to sell and the reputation to protect, well yes, I do expect them to do some work for it. And I think it’s fair to deduce that if we’re not getting chapter and verse, it’s because there isn’t any story actually.

Or perhaps you’ve a problem with the reportage. It’s all set out. People can make up their own minds.

This addresses all of your questions. Here are some other questions. Why not the domestic alternative, maize sileage? You’d need to know respective prices, and available quantities. What might that tell us, about how farmers are too highly geared to shave any off the bottom line, and too overstocked to get by without supplementary feed? Whose fault is that actually, your markets’ affordability expectations, or farmers’ own greed?

by Peter Arthur Kidd on October 11, 2010
Peter Arthur Kidd

Clare,

I farm at 500 metres altitude and Maize does not successfully grow here. It gets frosted.

To transport it at 30% dry matter ( 70% water) adds excessive cost and carbon footprint. PKE at 90% dry matter is 3x as efficient to transport.

Economics may well be turning in Maize silage favour in warmer climates despite other nutrition issues.

I assume as you have such high morals you do not use any fossil fuels in a vehicle, (walk or bicycle) wrap up in woollen blankets (no oil based synthetics) instead of heating your accomodation and causing Huntly to be used for generation.

Where do you want to stop in becoming ecologically pure. Most people want someone else to do it for them.

I have no problem with reportage as long as the public do have access to the facts which they can understand.

by Claire Browning on October 11, 2010
Claire Browning

I assume as you have such high morals you do not use any fossil fuels in a vehicle, (walk or bicycle) wrap up in woollen blankets (no oil based synthetics) instead of heating your accomodation and causing Huntly to be used for generation ...

I think we've already established on this thread that I "don't understand sarcasm" (or choose not to, when it suits ...) so that's a 'yes', on some of the above, and a 'no, but' on the others.

Where do you want to stop in becoming ecologically pure ...

Where it's unsustainable, as in, the environment can't support it. Simple.

by Peter Arthur Kidd on October 11, 2010
Peter Arthur Kidd

Simple NOT!!

How much is 'significant' change or degragation?

All humans cause change to the environment.  Sorry you interperet comments to create debate on individual responsibility as sarcasm. I believe that using a waste product to produce food is honourable.

 

by Claire Browning on October 11, 2010
Claire Browning

Simple NOT!!

I know. I was just being a bit smart. Sarcastic, even ...

But all waste products are not made equal, either, are they. I'll debate individual responsibility with you, on condition you consider the collective responsibility we all have, to try to put the brakes on the palm oil industry.

by Nick Young on October 13, 2010
Nick Young

Wow quite a conversation going on here - sorry I'm late!

* Disclaimer - I work for Greenpeace

@mark Greenpeace has not lied or presented half truths. if you wan to read our case it's all here with references and footnotes: http://bit.ly/bW8dvc

by Nick Young on October 13, 2010
Nick Young

@ben - I totally agree but large coprorations that trade on NZ's good name have even more responsibility to do the right thing.

Greenpeace is also working on shifting the big users of palm oil around the world http://bit.ly/a0yCeT

Unilever , Nestlé , and Kraft , have responded to public outcry over the destructive practices of the palm industry by suspending multi-million dollar contracts with the worst palm oil supplier Sinar Mas due to its environmental bad practice. The banking giant HSBC has sold its shares in Golden Agri-Resources - the palm oil arm of the Sinar Mas Group , and Burger King  recently announced that it is phasing Sinar Mas palm oil out of its supply chain in response to the company's audit.

Cadbury New Zealand publicly stated that it stopped using palm oil in their Dairy Milk products after a consumer campaign led to Auckland Zoo withdrawing the confectionary giant's products from its shops and restaurant because of concern over the damage palm oil production does to rainforests .

Fonterra could easily follow suit. New Zealand does not need palm kernel imports.

by Claire Browning on October 14, 2010
Claire Browning

Hi Nick. Thanks, and yes - shame that you weren't here earlier!

Greenpeace is also working on shifting the big users of palm oil around the world ...

Good.

To correct and clarify another matter, here is the transcript of the exchange between Russel Norman and Bill English, in Parliament. I misread it.

Russel Norman said that "palm kernel extract contributes up to 15% of the income stream of the palm oil industry". He was talking about the whole PKE income stream to the industry, not, as I originally implied above, saying that imports of palm kernel to New Zealand contribute that amount. Mr English then responded that the information the Prime Minister had been given was that it was about 1.5%.

The reason for the discrepancy remains unclear -- ie, whether they were at cross purposes, talking about different things, or whether the numbers are in fact disputed. I am continuing to try to pin it down. One possibility is that the PM's advice was, in fact, about New Zealand's contribution.

I have also corrected this in the post.

by Claire Browning on October 14, 2010
Claire Browning

I asked the Greens for clarification of their "up to 15%" figure. According to a Green spokesperson, that was obtained from Greenpeace.
 
Having been told by Bill English, in Parliament, that it was incorrect (when he responded that the PM had been advised it was "about 1.5%"), they attempted to verify the true figure by a written question to the Prime Minister. His reply follows (my emphasis):
 
Question: What was the source of his advice that the proportional value of palm kernel is "about 1.5 percent"; what was the nature of that advice and what evidence did that advice reference?
Portfolio: Prime Minister
Minister: Hon John Key
Date Lodged: 21/09/2009

Answer Text: I was advised by my office, who referred to public comments made by major primary sector organisations such as Fonterra and Federated Farmers.
Attachment: None
Date Received: 06/10/2009
 
I have, myself, requested similar information from Mr English, about the basis for his "about 1.5%" answer, which is being dealt with under the Official Information Act.

by Nick Young on October 14, 2010
Nick Young

I notice that here and on other blogs there is some question around tactics. Why doesn't Greenpeace target palm oil since palm oil is a bigger industry and more at the root of the problem? Why Fonterra and PKE?

It's all to do with climate change and taking responsibility.

Fonterra's involvement in the palm industry via its importation of palm kernel has a double whammy impact on the climate.

The first hit comes from deforestation, which has made Indonesia the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide on the planet, threatens the livelihood of local people and the habitat of orangutan and other endangered species. Currently the main driver of deforestation there is the expansion of the palm industry. The palm industry is expanding because there is such a demand for its product through palm oil and to a lesser degree palm kernel.

Fonterra, through it's wholly owned subsidiary RD1 buys palm kernel and brings it back to NZ to feed dairy cows because the intensive industrial dairying drive for productivity means that we can no longer grow enough feed to feed the growing number of cows. It's a fundamentally unsustainable model. Agriculture, and increasingly the dairying sector, is responsible for nearly half of NZ's entire greenhouse gas emissions.

Palm kernel is no longer a supplemental feed used in times of drought - it is becoming a primary feed. NZ imports almost 25% of the palm kernel produced in the world. A mere 6% of the total global production is certified sustainable. Palm kernel is cheaper in dollar terms than the traditionally used maize - but not in real costs. (Many NZ maize farmers who used to supply supplemental feed have stopped growing because they can't compete.)

So not only are we buying from an industry that is primarily responsible for the deforestation in Indonesia, we are using the product to fuel and grow an equally unsustainable industry back home. At both points we are impacting the climate and fueling a way of dairying that is increasing our emissions, putting enormous pressure on our land and water resources, and damaging our already fragile 'clean green' reputation.

(And as a side note, a search for "fonterra environmental policy" reveals an interesting result.)

by Claire Browning on October 15, 2010
Claire Browning

And as a side note, a search for "fonterra environmental policy" reveals an interesting result ...

Cheers, Nick (both senses!). Nicely played.

by Jeff Saunders on October 16, 2010
Jeff Saunders

I am wondering why I haven't seen more reaction to a piece in the Herald October 2, 2010, which reports on some research which, even though less serious perhaps than reducing the earth's forest cover, is still a worry! 

 “...The startling aspect of the research, which Benatar presented to the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand's June annual scientific meeting, is the presence of palmitelaidic acid, a trans fat derived from palm kernel.

The fact that it turns up in the analysis of blood samples taken from 390 patients with severe coronary disease is evidence that what we're feeding our cows wends its way through the food chain to us. We are what we eat.

Benatar's research shows the palm kernel-based trans fat does not originate from processed food.

"In New Zealand the palmitelaidic acid comes from our dairy foods which means what our cows are being fed is coming up through the food chain," she says. "The ruminant bacteria in the cows' stomachs are making it into trans fat and that's the trans fat we get."  "

by Claire Browning on October 20, 2010
Claire Browning

There is still no response that I can find from Fonterra, to this latest challenge by Greenpeace. [PS. Correction. The same statement is also up on their front page.]

However, here is an older [?], undated statement. It was in the archive, which [says that it contains] statements issued more than six months ago, that cover the past two years.

The statement says:

Fonterra shares concerns about the destruction of rainforests in South East Asia.

But, we fundamentally disagree that the import of PKE (palm kernel expeller) is a driver of deforestation ... [and goes on to explain why].

by Peter Arthur Kidd on October 20, 2010
Peter Arthur Kidd

Claire,

Perhaps you should go to the real Fonterra website and read it on the front page. Including the detail which goes under [and goes on to explain why]

by Claire Browning on October 21, 2010
Claire Browning

Peter,

If you've got something you're choking on there, perhaps you should spit it out. My comment, I believe, does link to the "real Fonterra website" (www.fonterra.com) and already says quite clearly that the statement "is also up on their front page".

I stand to be corrected, but I don't know why it is in the archive too, given how the archive's contents are described. I don't believe the statement was available before, but I may be wrong. I looked round, a few times, and didn't find it.

It is undated, and near the top. A cynic might speculate it had been dumped in recently, to look as if it had always been the position. As I say: that is speculation, and I may be wrong. Omitting to find it may have been my error. If so, I apologise.

It contains matters Greenpeace have responded to (eg, about Wilmar), on their own site, linked to by Nick Young. I haven't had time, as yet, to work through what 'he said' and 'she said', to try to suss it all out.

So, as ever, it's up here warts and all, for people to decide for themselves, or discuss on the thread, or whatever. That was only ever the purpose of the post.

by Claire Browning on December 09, 2010
Claire Browning

I have, myself, requested similar information from Mr English, about the basis for his "about 1.5%" answer, which is being dealt with under the Official Information Act.

Mr English responded, in a letter dated 9 November. The whole first page of the letter rehearses publicly available information, to which I had directed him myself: that is, the transcript of the exchange at Question Time in Parliament.

It then repeats, verbatim, the same advice given to me by the Greens, about the follow-up written question, that is already reproduced above. That is: "I was advised by my office, who referred to public comments made by major primary sector organisations such as Fonterra and Federated Farmers".

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