Greenpeace: Fonterror campaign

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.