Toronto Life - The Dish

The latest buzz on restaurants, chefs, bars, food shops and food events. Sign up for the Dish newsletter for weekly updates. Send tips to

Random Stuff


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 “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 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 []

  • Susan

    I was so happy to see this article! I’ve loved orangutans for a long time. I even adopted one at the Metro Toronto Zoo.I live in NY & the Bronx Zoo doesn’t have any orangutans.I first saw them in Toronto many years ago. I started reading about them. I found out they were close to extinction.One of the main reasons was because of the deforestation in Indonesia. Greedy plantation owners don’t give a damn about anything but money. It’s wonderful to see a couple of girls caring so much. Thank you girls

  • Husky

    The Girl Guides may not have a say in the recipe but they should certainly have a say in selecting their prefered suppliers. And if they don’t find something else to sell that does not kill people.
    Would like to think that such an organization considers health is more important than a vendor.

  • Marina

    I love these girls and their informed stance. We need to thank them for opening our eyes!

    Taken from a great website
    to help all understand that YOUR purchase in the grocery affects everyone. It’s not just about cookies:

    “Production of palm oil is highly lucrative and has grown rapidly over the last decade due to its versatility and high productivity. Demand projections for edible palm oil suggest that an additional 250,000 hectares per year will be required worldwide until 2050. In Indonesia and Malaysia, which produce over 90% of palm oil, about half of palm oil expansion is reported to occur at the expense of forests.”

    Certainly the Girl Guides can figure something out, especially if all the listed corporations on this website are donating their support to this well known cause.

  • Basil

    Dear Michelle, correct me if I’m wrong but as “the world’s preeminent organization dedicated solely to girls”, ranked the 8th “most popular charity/non-profit in America”, would you not have the clout to force your selected bakers to change their cookie recipe so that they are not using a product that destroys the environment and uses child labour to produce it? As of 1999, membership was at 3,630,000. If you buy only 1 box of cookies from these bakers for every member that adds up to a lot of revenue for these companies. Stop buying from them and that loss of revenue would likely get them to change their tune rather quickly.

  • Rex

    So, Michelle Obama is campaigning AGAINST ANTI-childhood obesity. Somebody needs to revisit this article with a little red pen . . .

  • ibiza hotel booking

    I like the helpful information you provide for your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and test again here regularly. I’m reasonably certain I will be informed many new stuff right right here! Good luck for the next!