IN recent months, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have mounted a major campaign against palm oil in markets of industrialised economies, threatening to campaign against brand name consumer businesses unless they vow to cease using the product.
The European Union has imposed trade restrictions on imports of biofuels (particularly palm oil).
The orang utan is being promoted as an animal which palm oil is threatening. The aim is to restrict production of palm oil. The heavily distorted campaign has its dark side.
Palm oil is a very effective industry for creating jobs and raising living standards. Restricting production will restrict a key strategy available to countries in the tropical areas to reduce poverty.
The environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) pushing this campaign historically have disregarded the impact of their campaigns on the poor. Here is another case.
A new World Growth report, Palm oil – the sustainable oil has just been released to restore balance in public discussion of palm oil. As African Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai recently stated, the best way to end deforestation is to end poverty.
Research has shown that between 60% and 70% of land clearing is undertaken by the poor and poverty stricken seeking shelter, fire wood or land for subsistence farming. Nations such as Malaysia have dedicated more than 55% of land as permanent forest reserve. Indonesia has set aside 25% of land in reserve.
Environmental NGOs have also claimed that increased demand and supply for palm oil will necessarily lead to increased land clearing. This is simply not true.
Advances are occurring all the time to improve the yield and productivity of palm oil plantations. Further, many new plantations in Malaysia are being planted on degraded land, which actually improves the quality of the land and actually absorbs carbon from the atmosphere. Other plantations are occurring on land formerly planted with less efficient crops.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Centre for International Forestry Research in Indonesia have both stated that the primary cause of the loss of habitat of the orang utan is human settlement and large scale forestry plantations.
However, the palm oil industry, in collaboration with some environmental NGOs, is funding orang utan conservation programmes and wildlife habitat corridors.
Palm oil is one of few plantations which produces enough produce from a small amount of land that it can return an income to a small land holder. In Indonesia, almost half of all palm plantations are owned by small land-holders.
Palm oil has been recognised by the World Bank as one of the best means to reduce poverty and raise the standard of living of a nation. There are some issues being faced by a small number of indigenous people. While these cases do raise a considerable amount of publicity, these tensions are always faced as a nation develops and grows
Palm oil generates nearly 10 times the energy it consumes. Soybeans generate only three times the amount and rapeseed 2.5 times.
The oil palm needs only 0.26ha of land to produce one tonne of oil. Soybean, sunflower and rapeseed respectively require 2.22ha, 2ha and 1.52ha. This makes palm oil the most efficient and sustainable vegetable oil grown.
The palm oil industry, in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), has also initiated the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil to create certification systems for sustainably-produced oil.
In addition, there are many local laws in producing nations which govern the environmental and other legal requirements for palm oil plantations. Lifecycle analysis of carbon footprints of various oilseeds shows greenhouse gas emissions from palm oil are significantly lower than rapeseed and soybean.
The research surrounding the absorption capacity of palm oil and carbon dioxide released as a result of a new plantation either on forest or peat land is currently in its very early days. There is not sufficient research to draw any conclusions on the impact of palm oil crops on greenhouse gas emissions.
Palm oil is being attacked because it is successful. It is the fastest growing, cheapest, highest quality and most sustainable vegetable oil in production.
Analyses by the US department of agriculture shows annual production from Indonesia and Malaysia, (today they account for nearly 90% of world production) has risen over the last decade from 15,000 tonnes to 34,000 tonnes.
Palm oil is shaking up global vegetable oil markets. Several years ago the US oilseed industry promoted scurrilous, false claims that palm oil caused heart disease.
Palm oil is arguably the healthiest of all vegetable oils. For example, it has no trans fats.
Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth oppose all plantation and commercial crops because they are monoculture.
They have chosen palm oil as symbolic campaign symbol. – World Growth