Greenpeace has launched a fresh attack on the dairy industry with the release of a report that claims imported cow-feed is responsible for huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.
The Greenpeace report on Palm Kernel Expeller - or PKE - claims just one year's worth of imports could have produced almost nine million tonnes of carbon emissions.
Greenpeace spokesman Nathan Argent says the calculation is a worst-case scenario based on the clearance of forest for palm kernel production, with peat land in Malaysia and Indonesia being the most climate-unfriendly.
He says it is time the Government took steps to curb the dairy industry's growing use of PKE imports.
According to Statistics New Zealand, palm kernel imports hit a record 1.4 million tonnes in the last financial year.
Greenpeace campaigners are using the report to slam Fonterra.
"This report, which demonstrates the high carbon cost of [palm kernel], means there is nowhere left for Fonterra to hide," said Simon Boxer, Greenpeace climate campaigner. "The game is up."
But Federated Farmers says the report is deeply flawed.
"Their report wrongly treats PKE as a 'coproduct' of palm oil, rather than it being a byproduct," Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson Willy Leferink said.
"It's like saying orange peel is a coproduct of orange juice so must carry the same carbon footprint as orange juice."
"I think accountants call this type of error double counting."
Leferink said the report has an "anti-trade" dimension to it and could be seen as "economic vandalism".
Chief executive of Greenpeace, Bunny McDiamird, told TV ONE's Breakfast if Fonterra is so sure about their carbon footprint they should release information on it.
"This report shows that palm kernel itself has a very very high carbon footprint. Palm kernel comes from the palm industry which is one of the main drivers of deforestation. "
She said the amount that New Zealand imports represents one third of the global trade in palm kernel.
"It's driving an unsustainable dairy model in our farming industry in New Zealand."
She said it is also driving up the price of milk products.
But chief executive of the Federated Farmers Conor English has refuted her comments claiming they are protesting against the wrong industry.
"The relevant point here is that as a percentage of value the PKE is 2% so the other 98% of the value of the product goes to cleaning products, cosmetic, food, beverages, he told TV ONE's Breakfast.
"So if Greenpeace were genuinely concerned about those forests they would be campaigning and picketing outside places like our supermarkets and outside places like The Body Shop because that is the value that is driving that behaviour in those countries and if they want to stop more palm oil being planted that's where they should be focussing their efforts."
"What we do here in New Zealand in terms of a bit of supplementary feed its less than 2% of what the cow eats it's totally and utterly irrelevant to this whole issue so they are just wasting their effort."
But McDiamird says it is not just a bit of supplementary feed and it is a huge driver of climate change.
She said it is a huge part of the industry and Fonterra imports around 98% of the palm kernel coming in.
But, English said they do look at different types of feed for
the cows and that the dairy industry's emissions have actually gone
down in recent years.
- With Newstalk ZB