On their banner, the Rainforest Action Network singled out agribusiness giants Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge and Cargill for 'destroying tropical rainforests and trampling human rights' in South America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
The area was cordoned off for two hours while the Chicago Fire Department used ladder trucks to get the protesters down and to remove the banner. There were no injuries.
The demonstrators, four men and a woman from the San Francisco based Rainforest Action Network, RAN, were each charged with criminal trespassing, reckless conduct and criminal damage to property.Archer Daniels Midland, ADM, Bunge and Cargill buy and sell commodity crops at the Board of Trade, including soybeans, which, along with oil palms, are planted on newly cleared rainforest land.
Growing demand for these crops has caused a spike in deforestation, RAN says, particularly in Indonesia and Brazil. With the world's two largest rainforests, these countries have become the world's third and fourth largest greenhouse gas emitters after China and the United States.
'Rainforests are our last and best defense against catastrophic climate change,' said Leila Salazar-Lopez, director of RAN's new Rainforest Agribusiness Campaign.
'ADM, Bunge and Cargill have a responsibility to stop converting the world's remaining rainforests into factory farms and to immediately address the grave human rights abuses associated with their operations,' she said.
RAN accuses the U.S. agribusinesses of 'egregious human rights violations on and around industrial soy and palm oil plantations, including displacement of Indigenous and local communities, poor working conditions and, in some cases, slave labor.'
'Agribusinesses like to say they're making the world a better place,' said Salazar-Lopez. 'But they're really just making a buck by pretending to solve climate change while they actually make it worse.'
Archer Daniels Midland responded to RAN's accusations by saying, 'Our rejection and denunciation of slave labor and other inhumane working conditions is unequivocal.'
In a letter to Michael Brune, executive director for Rainforest Action Network, ADM officials write, 'We extend that commitment in Brazil through clauses in our contracts with suppliers and customers requiring that products come from or will be used on property the use of which complies with Brazilian environmental, ground use, and labor legislation, particularly legislation related to the prohibition of child labor, forced labor and degraded working conditions.'
Victoria Podesta, ADM vice president of corporate communications and Dennis Fisher, director of ADM's Office of Compliance and Ethics, write that the company will sign Brazil's National Pact for the Eradication of Slave Labor.
The ADM officers pledged to 'make public a clear statement against forced labor and other inhumane working conditions throughout the world and detail our policies and practices in support of this position.'
They write that the company 'believes in the responsible and sustainable development of agriculture and bioenergy throughout the world' but has realized through conversations with Brune that 'we have not as clearly stated that it must only happen in sustainable, responsible ways.'
'ADM does not directly own or operate commercial farms or plantations,' the letter states. 'Therefore, we are not in a position to address directly some actions you ask for: adopt a 'no burn' policy for forests, make a public commitment to stop new soy and palm oil expansion into environmentally sensitive ecosystems, and verify free, prior and informed consent before any soy or palm development takes place on the lands of local and indigenous communities.'
The company already supports a soy moratorium in the Amazon Biome.
Bunge and Cargill have not responded directly to RAN's demands.
RAN says that it and other environmental advocates question the value of large-scale commercial biofuels, or agrofuels, as a green alternative to fossil fuels.