Are Rainforests Finally Getting a Break? A Week (or 2) in Palm Oil News

Apr 19, 2011 by     No Comments    Posted under: featured, Uncategorized

Credit : Michael Thirnbeck, Flickr (Mangiwau ) – Oil palm plantations cutting into tropical forests – aka home for orangutans, and thousands of other species.

There’s been a flurry of activity this week surrounding palm oil sourcing and production, and for once its (mostly) good news!  Check out the week’s palm oil news roundup, courtesy of Forest Justice.

The Good

Avon, the major cosmetics manufacturer, has announced a new Palm Oil Promise program.  Avon is working with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil to purchase sustainable palm oil certificates, in addition to supporting efforts to ensure that palm oil doesn’t come at the expense of primary rainforests or peatlands (another important habitat in Southeast Asia). Although most palm oil is used in food, the cosmetics industry has long relied on the use of unsustainable palm oil, so this is definitely a step in the right direction.

What else has palm oil in it? Click here!

The Bad

Following up on our last post: Mongabay reported this week that the palm oil lobby (groups that advocate on behalf of the industrial palm oil sector) is in an uproar over the World Bank’s new policy regarding palm oil financing, which aims to support small-scale palm oil producers rather than large corporate plantations.  Industry representatives suggested the new World Bank plan will only increase poverty in Africa and Southeast Asia.  According to the World Bank, however, the new plan is meant to ensure that the appropriate social and environmental safeguards are in place so that the palm oil industry respects worker’s rights and minimizes damage to the environment.

It still remains to be seen how the new World Bank plan will impact forest conservation on the ground, but if the big palm oil lobbies are this upset it might just mean good news for rain forests!

The Ugly

Credit : liam.jon_d / Flickr CC – Australian Senator Nick Xenophon lobbies for labels with Palm Oil in them to be clearly labeled as such!

It was announced this week that the Malaysian Palm Oil Council is furious over a bill presented in the Australian Senate by Independent Senator Nick Xenophon.  Xenophon’s bill would force products containing palm oil to feature a label so consumers would be aware of its presence in their food and also if the palm oil was sourced sustainably. (Could we have labeling like this in the US?)  According to the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, the bill could threaten the livelihoods of over half a million workers on palm oil plantations, though how this statistic was determined is unclear.  Although Xenophon introduced the bill in 2009, it is still being debated in a senate committee.

Are we seeing a shift in the palm oil industry?

If this week is any indication, it seems like the palm oil industry is really on the defensive against plans which would allow consumers to find out if their products include (or don’t include) sustainably produced palm oil. But as a consumer, don’t you have the right to know what ingredients are in the foods you eat? The more consumers are aware of the disastrous impacts palm oil production can have on tropical rainforests and species who live there (like orangutans), the more momentum we can create to ensure palm oil is produced sustainably and isn’t responsible for further destruction of rainforests.

Let’s keep the momentum going! Join Forest Justice’s Palm Break 2011 either here or on Facebook and learn more about where you palm oil comes from and how you can ensure it is being produced sustainably.

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