Last week, RAN’s new agribusiness campaign put ADM chief executive officer Patricia A. Woertz on notice. In a two page letter we let her know that RAN has fundamental concerns about her company’s role in the expansion of soy and palm oil plantations throughout South America, Southeast Asia, the Pacific and Africa.
The letter is our “shot across the bow” before we publicly launch our campaign exposing the role of U.S. agribusiness companies in the expansion of destructive palm oil and soy plantations around the globe. Palm oil and soy plantations destroy critical habitat, contribute to climate change, and are linked to egregious human rights violations.
Illinois-based ADM is one of the world’s largest agricultural processors and grain traders. Since its formation in 1923, ADM has been known as a food and ingredients company but in the last couple of years, the company has shifted its priority away from ingredient processing and towards biofuels production. With an ever-increasing global demand for biofuels, ADM is seeking to cash in. Woertz, who comes to ADM from Chevron, has set her sights on palm oil and soy as crops with great promise to supply the biofuels boom.
The rapid expansion of these crops along with global demand is cause for great concern. As we wrote to Woertz:
“Soy and palm oil plantations are expanding at an alarming rate into some of the last primary forests in the world – including tropical forests in Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Uganda, Ghana, Argentina, Paraguay, and the Brazilian Amazon – as well as in the Cerrado grasslands of central Brazil. These ecosystems represent some of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. Plantations threaten the habitat of more than 130,000 plants and animals in the Amazon and Cerrado ecosystems. They threaten the survival of such keystone species as the Amazon river dolphin, giant river otters and jaguars in the Amazon, as well as orangutans, Sumatran tigers and Asian elephants in Indonesia, and countless other species in tropical ecosystems around the world. Industrial agricultural plantations also threaten the survival of hundreds of Indigenous cultures, including some with little or no contact with the outside world.”
The letter also raised concerns about the conversion of forests into palm and soy plantations and how this is contributing to climate change.
“The burning of rainforests and their subsequent conversion into plantations has led Indonesia and Brazil to become the world’s third and fourth largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. We need U.S. companies to lead the world in helping to solve this problem, not to make it worse.”
Referring to Woertz’s previous oily jobs, the letter says:
“The world has changed dramatically since you started at Gulf Oil thirty years ago; in fact, the public’s commitment to environmental values has strengthened dramatically even since you became CEO of ADM last year. Public support for corporations that take responsible action is growing, so ADM has much to gain by implementing rigorous environmental and human rights standards. At the same time, the global movement for social justice is growing, such that your company could lose its social license to operate unless it adapts to a changing world.”
The letter closes by calling for ADM to address specific demands that our campaign has compiled through consultations with NGO’s, activists and affected communities in the regions that ADM is operating in:
“It is imperative that ADM take basic steps such as disavowing the use of slave labor, respecting the rights and wishes of Indigenous people and local communities, and making a commitment not to contribute to further deforestation of high conservation-value ecosystems.”
RAN’s agribusiness campaign will be publicly launched in October 2007. Stay tuned for the latest updates.