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The Green Life: Girl Scout Cookie Controversy Gets Heated

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May 12, 2011

Girl Scout Cookie Controversy Gets Heated


The cookie controversy continues as Michigan Girl Scouts Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva fight to get palm oil, a resource associated with deforestation and orangutan extinction in Southeast Asia, out of the popular and controversial Girl Scout cookies

In a recent social-media day of action, the girls and their supporters took to Facebook and Twitter to ask Girl Scouts CEO Kathy Cloninger to make Girl Scout cookies more rainforest friendly. In response, Girl Scouts USA executives deleted the flood of comments on their Facebook page and created an official comment chain, an act that many saw as censorship

Girl Scouts USA's statement that the bakers of Girl Scout cookies exclusively source palm oil from members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a group whose only requirement for membership is a $2,000 fee, was also met with criticism.

Said Ashley Schaeffer, a campaigner at the Rainforest Action Network: “It's misleading because to claim that someone is sourcing from an RSPO member means very little. No company has ever been kicked out of RSPO for clearing rainforests or for extending their plantation into orangutan habitat.”

Instead, Tomtishen and Vorva, along with RAN, Change.org, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, are asking that Girl Scouts USA commit to using only RSPO-certified palm oil in their cookies in time for the Girl Scouts' 100th anniversary next year. As opposed to membership, RSPO certification requires the verification of production processes by accredited auditors.

Amanda Hamaker, the manager for product sales at Girl Scouts USA said, “At this point, palm oil is the viable alternative to trans-fats to ensure taste and quality. That’s something we care a lot about and something our consumers expect. We believe that our association with the RSPO is an excellent step in the direction of sustainability."

Hamaker also said that Girl Scouts USA is currently in the process of reaching out to Tomtishen and Vorva to discuss their stance on palm oil. But the girls’ work doesn’t stop with the Girl Scouts.

“We’d like to use this campaign to encourage bigger companies like Kellogg and Cargill to adopt sustainability policies to ensure that the palm oil they’re using is done in a sustainable manner. Right now you can't track the palm oil from individual suppliers, so there's no way to make sure that it's really sustainable,” said Vorva.

--Shirley Mak


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