04/05/2009 (Food Biz Daily) - Unregulated palm oil production is causing widespread deforestation in Southeast Asia, dislocating natives and threatening the survival of the orangutan.
The United Nations Environment Programme considers palm oil to be the primary cause of deforestation in Borneo and Sumatra. Conversion of hectares of forests into plantations makes the majority of wildlife disappear, including the orangutan, which is on the threshold of extinction. Since 1900, orangutan numbers have declined by 90%, with the rate increasing in recent decades.
Palm oil is present in soap products, chocolates, margarines and more. As per an investigation conducted by the newspaper The Independent , 43 of 100 best-selling brands in the UK were found or suspected to have palm oil, e.g., Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bars, KitKat, margarine brand Flora, Persil washing powder, Dove soap, and Comfort fabric conditioner.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil certifies only 4 percent of all palm oil production as sustainable.
Cadbury, Kellog’s, Nestle, Mars and Heinz said they are working with suppliers to switch to the sustainable version of the oil and the WWF (formerly, the World Wildlife Fund) urge manufacturers to buy the slightly costlier ( 10% to 35% higher ) sustainable oil.
Originating in West Africa, palm oil is now a $36.5 billion-a-year industry, with annual production touching 38 million tonnes.
Borneo and Sumatra — where rampant corruption sees armed security guards indulging in forest incursions — provide 85% of the worldwide supply.
At the present logging rates, the UN Environment Programme predicts a 98% wipe-out of Indonesia’s forests by 2020.