Palm oil is in massive demand as a vegetable oil ingredient of many food items. To meet this demand, tropical forests across parts of Asia, and increasingly Africa, are being systematically destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations.
The most striking example can be found in Indonesia, which will have lost 98% of its natural rainforest by 2022 at current rates of loss, principally to logging and conversion to palm oil plantations. Between them, Indonesia and Malaysia supply around 80% of the world’s palm oil.
The loss of tropical forests has disastrous consequences for critically endangered species such as orang-utans, elephants, tigers and rhinos. Local communities that rely on the forest also suffer, and the loss of the forests contributes to global problems like carbon emissions and global warming.
Orangutans are the only Great Ape living in Asia, with populations in Indonesia and Malaysia. They live their lives in the forest, and its loss is threatening their very survival. Many experts believe that without concerted action to preserve the remaining forests, orangutans could be extinct in the wild in a few short years.
Palm oil is found in around half of all top-selling grocery brands in supermarkets and other outlets across Europe. Currently, there is no requirement in the EU for food manufacturers to label palm oil or palm kernel oil on packaging. Palm oil is usually labelled as ‘vegetable oil’ and consumers are therefore unable to make informed decisions about the products they purchase on health grounds (palm oil has a high saturated fat content), or on the basis of environmental and social welfare concerns.
A new EU directive, called the Provision of Food Information to Consumers, is currently being debated in the European Parliament. Amendment number 387 calls for the labelling of palm oil on food packaging to be mandatory.
At the moment, it seems that UK Secretary of State for Environment Caroline Spelman might not support amendment 387, favouring a voluntary labelling scheme. Voluntary labelling will allow food producers to continue hiding the palm oil content of products, restricting the information available to consumers and making it harder for people to make informed choices.
If passed into law, this amendment would give consumers much clearer information, so they can make informed choices about the products they purchase.
Care for the Wild International has joined with other animal welfare, conservation and environemntal organisations in asking the Secretary of State to support Amendment 387. In doing so, she will not only be helping give consumers better choice, but will also be helping to fulfil her own Government’s commitments to increase the sustainability of food production, and to protect biodiversity.
Take action! Click here to send a letter to your MPasking them to put pressure on Caroline Spelman to call for mandatory labelling of palm oil.