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Palm Oil and the Rainforest


Can carbon credits from REDD compete with palm oil?

(03/30/2009) Reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) is increasingly seen as a compelling way to conserve tropical forests while simultaneously helping mitigate climate change, preserving biodiversity, and providing sustainable livelihoods for rural people. But to become a reality REDD still faces a number of challenges, not least of which is economic competition from other forms of land use. In Indonesia and Malaysia, the biggest competitor is likely oil palm, which is presently one of the most profitable forms of land use. Oil palm is also spreading to other tropical forest areas including the Brazilian Amazon.

Will palm oil drive deforestation in the Amazon?

(03/23/2009) Already a significant driver of tropical forest conversion across southeast Asia, oil palm expansion could emerge as threat to the Amazon rainforest due to a proposed change in Brazil's forest law, new infrastructure, and the influence of foreign companies in the region, according to researchers writing in the open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science. William F. Laurance, a senior scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama City, Panama, and Rhett A. Butler, founder of environmental science web site Mongabay.com, warn that oil palm expansion in the Brazilian Amazon is likely to occur at the expense of natural forest as a result of a proposed revision to the forest code which requires land owners to retain 80 percent forest on lands in the Amazon. The new law would allow up to 30 percent of this reserve to consist of oil palm.

Indonesia confirms that peatlands will be converted for plantations

(02/19/2009) Indonesia's Minister for the Environment has approved a decree that will allow the conversion of carbon-rich peatlands for oil palm plantations, reports The Jakarta Post.

Indonesia may allow conversion of peatlands for palm oil

(02/15/2009) The Indonesian government will allow developers to convert millions of hectares of land for oil palm plantations, reports The Jakarta Post. The decision threatens to undermine Indonesia's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from land use and fashion itself as a leader on the environment among tropical countries.

Palm oil may be single most immediate threat to the greatest number of species

(01/26/2009) Efforts to slow the rapid expansion of oil palm plantations at the expense of natural forests across Southeast Asia are being hindered by industry-sponsored disinformation campaigns, argue scientists writing in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution. The authors, Lian Pin Koh and David S. Wilcove, say that palm oil may constitute the "single most immediate threat to the greatest number of species" by driving the conversion of biologically rich ecosystems — including lowland rainforests and peatlands.

Degraded grasslands better option for palm oil production relative to rainforests, finds study

(12/03/2008) Producing biofuels from oil palm plantations established on degraded grasslands rather than tropical rainforests and peat lands would result in a net removal of carbon from the atmosphere rather than greenhouse gas emissions, report researchers writing in Conservation Biology. The results confirm that benefits to climate from biofuel production depend greatly on the type of land used for feedstocks.

Biodiversity of rainforests should not be compared with oil palm plantations says palm oil council chief

(11/11/2008) Scientists should compare the biodiversity oil palm plantations to other industrial monocultures, not the rainforests they replace, said Dr. Yusof Basiron, CEO of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), in a post on his blog. Basiron's comments are noteworthy because until now he has maintained that oil palm plantations are "planted forests" rather than an industrial crop.

EU's sustainable biofuels push angers Malaysia, Brazil

(11/07/2008) Eight developing countries threatened to file a World Trade Organization complaint against the E.U. for its proposed legislation to require imported biofuels to meet environmental standards, reports Reuters.

Oil palm expansion in Indonesian Borneo increased 400-fold from 1991-2007

(10/30/2008) Annual forest conversion to palm oil plantations increased 400-fold from 1,163 hectares in 1991 to 461,992 hectares in 2007 in Central Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo, reports a new report published by Forest Watch Indonesia, a local NGO.

Palm oil producers in Indonesia reject moratorium on forest destruction

(08/28/2008) Palm oil companies operating in Indonesia have rejected a proposed moratorium on clearing forests and peatlands for oil palm plantations, reports the Jakarta Post.

Half of oil palm expansion in Malaysia, Indonesia occurs at expense of forests

(05/20/2008) More than half of the oil palm expansion between 1990 and 2005 Malaysia and Indonesia occurred at expense of forests, reports a new analysis published in the journal conservation Letters. Analyzing data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Lian Pin Koh and David S. Wilcove of Princeton University found that 55-59 percent of oil palm expansion in Malaysia and at least 56 percent of that in Indonesia occurred at the expense of forests. Given that oil palm plantations are biologically impoverished relative to primary and secondary forests, the researchers recommend restricting future expansion to pre-existing cropland and degraded habitats.

Sustainability conference reveals a rift in the Malaysian Palm Oil Council

(05/01/2008) Last month's sustainability conference sponsored by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) revealed a rift between some planters and the industry marketing organization.

Why is palm oil replacing tropical rainforests?

(04/25/2006) In a word, economics, though deeper analysis of a proposal in Indonesia suggests that oil palm development might be a cover for something more lucrative: logging. Recently much has been made about the conversion of Asia's biodiverse rainforests for oil-palm cultivation. Environmental organizations have warned that by eating foods that use palm oil as an ingredient, Western consumers are directly fueling the destruction of orangutan habitat and sensitive ecosystems. So, why is it that oil-palm plantations now cover millions of hectares across Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand? Why has oil palm become the world's number one fruit crop, trouncing its nearest competitor, the humble banana? The answer lies in the crop's unparalleled productivity. Simply put, oil palm is the most productive oil seed in the world. A single hectare of oil palm may yield 5,000 kilograms of crude oil, or nearly 6,000 liters of crude.

Friends of the Earth's GREASY PALMS report

Land conversion for palm-oil plantations is a significant cause of deforestation in parts of Asia and Central America. Currently Malaysia produces 51% of the world's palm oil, making up 6% of the country's total exports and 10% of its gross domestic product. Friends of the Earth has recently launched a campaign to promote awareness of the impacts of pal-oil production.

MARCH 8, 2004 5:02 AM
CONTACT: Friends of the Earth
Newsroom: +44-20-7566 1649

Palmoil - Rainforest Destruction in Your Shopping Basket

LONDON - March 8 - Research released today reveals that the booming trade in palm oil, used in everyday products such as chocolate, margarine, shampoo and detergents is fuelling the destruction of rainforests in South East Asia, and leading to human rights abuses and devastating pollution.

In Europe, for instance, one in three food products on supermarket shelves are directly contributing to the destruction of the world's rainforests, the new report by Friends of the Earth shows. Palm oil accounts for 21 per cent of the global edible oil market, and it is the most commonly used vegetable oil after soy.

Large scale palm oil plantations are replacing the forests in Indonesia and Malaysia at an alarming rate, wiping out 80-100% of wildlife in the area, forcing local communities from their land and destroying their livelihoods. In Indonesia, the forests are disappearing at a rate of more than 2 million hectares a year - an area half the size of Belgium. Nearly a quarter of Indonesia's palm oil output goes to the European Union.

Palm oil is one of the world's most consumed oils, and 23 per cent of the palm oil produced in Indonesia is sold to Europe. Europe also buys the 87 per cent of Indonesia's exports of palm kernel meal, used in animal feed, and 61 per cent of Indonesia's exports of palm kernel oil, used in cosmetics.

Friends of the Earth is calling on the companies involved in palm oil production to take immediate steps to ensure they only use sustainably produced palm oil. They should ensure they are not involved in any forests being converted to create new palm oil plantations or using fire for clearing the land.

Friends of the Earth Director Tony Juniper said:"Consumers will be horrified to know that their weekly shop is destroying the rainforest, but it is all but impossible to avoid buying palm oil. Tigers, orang-utans and countless other species are being driven to extinction while governments stand idly by and allow companies to get away with it. This problem will not be solved until there are clear rules to ensure the products found in our shops are produced in a way that does not harm communities and the environment."

The demand for profit from this rapidly expanding trade is leading to human rights violations against indigenous communities, who are losing their land and being forced to work on the plantations, often for less than the minimum wage.

Palm oil exports from Indonesia alone have increased by 244 per cent in the past seven years, with toxic waste product from the process polluting rivers and poisoning workers.

The report looks at the role of companies in several countries, including the UK and Sweden, which are heavily involved in the trade as investors, retailers and in processing palm oil. In the UK, the environmental group is calling on the Government to force UK companies to address this issue, and introduce legislation to make them accountable for the damage they cause.

"The global trade in palm oil is destroying some of the world's most precious wildlife, but the UK Government and the companies involved seem to be turning a blind eye. It is time this greasy supply chain was brought under control and the companies were forced to take responsibility for the damage they cause," said Friends of the Earth Director Tony Juniper.

'Greasy palms - palm oil, the environment and big business' is published by Friends of the Earth on Monday 8th March 2004. A media pack and embargoed copies of the report are available electronically from the press office at Friends of the Earth EWNI in London via email: [email protected] or Tel: +44-20-7566 1649

It is available online (from 8th March) at: www.foe.co.uk/resource/reports/palm_oil_summary.pdf



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