11 November 2008

Greenpeace: First sustainable palm oil shipment not sustainable

The Earth Times, 11 Nov 2008 09:36:18 GMT

Amsterdam - The first shipload of palm oil certified as "sustainable oil" and due to arrive in Rotterdam on Tuesday, does not meet the criteria set for an environmentally friendly product, Greenpeace told Dutch media on Tuesday. Greenpeace, the international environmental campaigner, said that United Plantations, the company producing the sustainable palm oil, is cutting down trees from vulnerable peat forests in Kalimantan, Indonesia.

United Plantations would also not meet other conditions for sustainable oil production either, Greenpeace said.

United Plantations is the first company to receive the certificate of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a certificate initiated by companies and non-governmental organizations in 2003.

Companies that subscribe to RSPO-standards, promise to help reduce deforestation, preserve biodiversity, and respect the livelihoods of rural communities in palm oil-producing countries.

By the end of 2008, certified plantations are projected to produce 1.5 million tonnes of RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil on an annual basis, about 4 percent of current global palm oil production.

But Greenpeace says United Plantations, which sells oil to Nestle and Unilever and has plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia, is cutting down trees in the territory of the Orangutan primate.

Greenpeace says United Plantations does not comply with local Indonesian laws that protect the environment. United Plantations would also be entangled in land conflicts with the local population.

Suzanne Kroeger from Greenpeace Netherlands said "the Dutch are one of those countries to welcome the RSPO-certification.

The Dutch are the biggest importers of palm oil in Europe and aim to increase their capacity - among others for the use of bio-fuel.

The Dutch rely entirely upon the RSPO certificate for the approval of sustainable palm oil.

But now that we know that the very first company that received this certificate is not working in a sustainable way, we should be more critical about RSPO."

Kroeger also said that if peat forests in Indonesia continue to be cut down at the current speed, "these rain forests will disappear within the next fifteen years."

On Monday Jan Kees Vis, RSPO president and Sustainable Agriculture Director at Unilever NV, had called the arrival of the palm oil in Rotterdam "a small but significant step towards having all the world's palm oil produced in a socially and environmentally sustainable way."

He received support from Johan van de Gronden, chief executive officer of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Netherlands, also a member of the RSPO.

"Now, palm oil produced according to the criteria of the roundtable will offer companies and consumers a sustainable alternative," Van de Gronden said.

Palm oil is the world's most important category of vegetable oil. In 2007, palm plantations yielded more than 38 million tonnes of oil, making it one of the world's biggest commodity products.

In Europe, palm oil is now used as an ingredient in a large variety of consumer products, including margarine, ice cream, chocolate, detergents, soap and biscuits.

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