First some facts on the disastrous effects of palm oil:
- Tropical hardwood forests are being cleared for palm oil plantations - despite thousands of square kilometres of land standing unplanted in Indonesia
- It takes them half an hour to chop down a 400 year old tree
- Protected areas have been encroached upon due to lax enforcement of environmental legislation
- Customary lands have been taken by oil palm plantations without any form of consultation or compensation, leading to social conflict between the plantations and local residents
- In some cases, plantations import labour or illegal immigrants, with concerns about the employment conditions and social impacts of these practices
- Fire is used to clear vegetation for palm oil development in Indonesia, where in recent years drought and man-made clearances have led to massive uncontrolled forest fires covering parts of Southeast Asia in a haze and leading to an international crisis with Malaysia
- Impoverished small farmers and large plantation owners illegally burn and clear forests and peat lands to develop the land rather than reap the environmental benefits it could offer
- More carbon is released during the life cycle of a palm oil plant to use as a biofuel, than is emitted by the same volume of fossil fuels
- Like so many neo-colonial trading systems, palm oil does not lead to the development of a country and does not bring wealth to the poor, it takes it away
- Orangutans spend more than 95 percent of their time in forest trees - they travel, nest and forage for food in trees. They are killed by clearance fires and farmers to make way for plantations. They are on the brink of extinction
- The Sumatran elephant is being squeezed out of ever-diminishing forests and into conflict with local people. Impoverished farmers are killing elephants as the starved elephants make their way through plantations seeking food. They too are on the brink of extinction
- The Round Table of Sustainable Palm allows companies to use oil from uncertified plantations, in two of the four certification methods
Palm Oil is used extensively in the food, cosmetic & biofuel industries and may be labelled under the guise of Vegetable Oil
The Round Table of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
RSPO is a not-for-profit, market-led association that represents stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry - oil palm producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservation NGOs and social or developmental NGOs - to develop and implement global standards for ‘sustainable’ palm oil
- Palm oil sold under the guise of sustainability is actually sourced from palm plantations which may not even have passed the weak certification criteria. Two of the four certification methods operating under the RSPO remit allow food companies to use oil from uncertified plantations in food products that are allowed to be mixed or 'offset' from plantations that tick the right boxes elsewhere.
David Gilbert, a Research Fellow at RAN, attended the 2009 RSPO annual meeting in Kuala Lumpur, showed some of the intense dissatisfaction with the RSPO process.
"The RSPO is the world’s largest annual meeting of oil palm industry, environmentalists, human rights advocates and most importantly, community members. Today, I watched as a community member from Borneo stood up in front of oil palm producers, NGOs, and technocrats, identified himself as a victim of oil palm expansion and tore apart the falsity that some of the world’s richest businessmen desperately want us to believe; the falsity that oil palm helps the world’s poor: Oil palm does not lead to the development of a country. Wealth, contained in the natural resources of the our forests and controlled by us, is flattened and burned and then collected by the world’s rich, from Companies like Sinar Mas, Cargill, IOI, and Duta Palma. Oil palm does not bring wealth to the poor, it takes it away. Oil palm development, like so many neo-colonial trading systems, makes the poor poorer and the rich richer."
“Since the set up of RSPO in 2004, forest destruction has continued. Many RSPO members are taking no steps to avoid the worst practices associated with the industry, such as large-scale forest clearance and taking land from local people without their consent. On top of this, the RSPO actually risks creating the illusion of sustainable palm oil, justifying the expansion of the palm oil industry."
An Unhealthy Oil
Many processed foods contain palm oil as an ingredient.
Research states that palm oil is not a healthy substitute for trans fats. Much of the palm oil that is consumed as food is to some degree oxidised rather than in the fresh state and this oxidation appears to be responsible for the health risk associated with consuming palm oil.
According to the World Health Organisation, there is evidence that consumption of palmitic acid increases risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
Be Aware - Choose to NOT use Palm Oil & ‘Sustainable’ Palm Oil wherever you can