Cargill called on to ditch deforestation

Southwest residents attend July 29 protest

A July 29 protest outside the Edina home of Cargill’s CEO highlighted the company’s role in the conversion of South America’s natural habitat into farmland. Photo by Nate Gotlieb

Southwest Minneapolis residents who protested Cargill’s environmental practices outside of the home of the company’s CEO on July 29 said they were motivated by a desire to reduce climate change before it’s too late.

Wayzata-based Cargill, a global commodities trader and agribusiness giant, has been criticized by environmental groups for reneging on a pledge to stop buying soybeans grown on deforested land in South America by 2020.

It has said that deforestation in its soybean supply chain is a complex issue and it now pledges to no longer buy or sell products from deforested lands by 2030.

South American deforestation has been a leading driver of climate change in recent years, according to scientists.

“They have a lot of power and they pledged to use it for good and then they back peddled,” said Kingfield resident Kevin Whelan, who led the protest outside of David MacLennan’s Edina home.

The 30-plus protesters were organized by the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit Mighty Earth as part of a “day of action” in which it called on businesses to cut contracts with Cargill.

East Harriet resident Jean Ross, who was protesting in front of MacLennan’s house for the second time, held a white banner that said “Carguilty.”

She said the world doesn’t have 10 years to wait for Cargill to cut deforested land from its supply chains.

Uptown resident Clara Bordwell, who is vegan, said the world’s biggest food companies should consider alternatives to raising cattle and livestock.

“Once the rainforest is gone, we’re going to have massive problems,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that it’s going to have to come to that, I think.”

South America has become a major source of the world’s soy in the last few decades.

While Cargill does not purchase soy from deforested lands in the Amazon under the terms of a 2006 agreement, it does from other parts of South America. Notably, that includes the Cerrado savannah that stretches across central Brazil.

Cargill says that a vast majority of its South American soy — around 96% — does not come from land that has recently been deforested, but Mighty Earth says that the figure is misleading.

In a blistering 2019 report, Mighty Earth accused Cargill of “financial malfeasance” and alleged that it has been complicit in deforestation and is among the companies that bears significant responsibility for the global environmental crisis.

“Now it is time for the company that purports to be a leader in that industry to finally act like it,” wrote Henry Waxman, a leader of the organization.

In a statement, a Cargill spokesperson said the company has established a $30 million fund to help develop solutions to protect forests from deforestation. She also noted company efforts to restore Great Plains grasslands, restore billions of gallons of drinking water and reduce its carbon footprint.