Are Girl Scout Cookies Damaging the Environment?

We’ve been told over and over again “If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, don’t eat the product.” One study, “If It’s Difficult to Pronounce, It Must Be Risky: Fluency, Familiarity, and Risk Perception” published in Psychological Science, even concluded that food ingredients with hard-to-pronounce names are perceived as scarier.

Palm oil is easy to pronounce and seems harmless enough. But while two best friends from Michigan were working on a project for their Girl Scouts troop they discovered something shocking about the cookie ingredient that rocketed them into action.

Meet the two young girls seeking a recipe for change:

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Five years ago Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen, now 15, learned how palm oil negatively effects the environment and the homes of orangutans. They’ve been on a mission to protect the primates ever since.

“The orangutans are endangered for three main reasons, the illegal pet trade, deforestation, and interestingly enough — palm oil,” Vorva explained. “The rainforest land is cleared so palm oil plantations can be planted.”

The young activists finally got a chance share their concern with Girl Scout officials on Tuesday and they hope this is the first of many meetings that will ultimately lead to the elimination of palm oil in Girl Scout cookies.
Thin Mints, an old favorite of the girls’, aren’t the only snack that contains the damaging ingredient.

According to Marysol Castro’s “Early Show” report, “Palm oil is found in half of all packaged food sold in U.S. supermarkets and experts say demand for it has created an environmental disaster, with deliberate fires and bulldozers clearing rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia for palm oil plantations, threatening wildlife.”

Why palm oil? It’s a matter of taste according to Amanda Hamaker, product sales manager of Girl Scouts of the USA.

“Our bakers don’t believe that there is a viable alternative to produce the taste, the quality, all of the attributes which our consumers and our members require and expect out of our cookies,” Hamaker explained to CBS.

In a statement to CBS News, Kris Charles, spokesperson for Little Brownie Bakers, one of the bakers of the Girl Scout cookies, said, “Although only six percent of all palm oil is sustainably grown today, we are helping to increase this percentage and reduce deforestation by purchasing greenpalm certificates that support growers transitioning to sustainable palm oil. Little Brownie Bakers looks forward to the day that the sufficient and feasible supply of sustainably grown palm oil is available.”

For more information on Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen’s fight against palm oil, visit Save the Orangutans.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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