Environmentalism vs. health throwdown: two Girl Scouts launch petition against cookies made with palm oil

Environmentalism vs. health throwdown: two Girl Scouts launch petition against cookies made with palm oil

Girl Scout cookies: delicious but potentially habitat-destroying (Image: Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar)

This story has all the right ingredients for a made-for-TV movie: multinational food producers, the war on trans fats, a dash of environmentalism and two young heroines caught in the middle of it all. Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva, two Grade 10 Girl Scouts from Ann Arbor, Michigan, have launched a petition to the Girl Scouts of the USA to stop using palm oil in their signature cookies—and not because it’s high in saturated fat.

The campaign got underway after the girls learned that palm oil produced in Malaysia and Indonesia, two of the world’s largest purveyors of the stuff, is linked to child labour and deforestation of orangutan habitats. The catch? The Girl Scouts made the switch to palm oil only after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began requiring that unhealthy trans fats to be listed on nutritional fact labels (we checked with the Girl Guides of Canada, and their cookies also contain palm oil).

“Kids should not have to choose between selling cookies and getting to camp or…rainforest deforestation and orangutan extinction,” Vorva told AnnArbour.com. “There should be no human rights abuses occurring in Girl Scout cookies either.” The two Girl Scouts, who stopped selling cookies back in 2007, have partnered with the Rainforest Action Network, an organization that has long campaigned against palm oil.

Girl Scouts spokesperson Michelle Tomkins says that the organization’s hands are tied, as the two bakers the organization uses—one of them owned by Kellogg—have no plans to change the recipe. “We have little say if not no say in the recipes used by the bakers,” Tompkins told AnnArbour.com. For their part, Vorva and Tomtishen say they have no plans to stop their campaign any time soon. Who knows, perhaps Michelle Obama, the honorary president of Girl Scouts of the USA, will have to step in and mediate—although we’re not how that would work, considering the First Lady’s campaign against anti-childhood obesity.

Child labor, orangutans and Thin Mints: Two renegade Girl Scouts raise questions about palm oil used in popular cookies [AnnArbour.com]