Going palm oil free
Is it possible to completely avoid palm oil?

The palm oil paradox

An article was published recently entitled “the palm oil paradox”

I’ve linked to it below – taken from the Sumatran Orangutan Society website. Though the original article comes from elsewhere, this gives you a chance to look at the excellent SOS site and find out more about their work if you are interested.


(Image from Reuters, published on http://features.csmonitor.com/economyrebuild/2009/08/24/palm-oil-paradox/#right)

In my opinion it sums up the situation perfectly. The outlook and tone is relatively positive and the reporting, I think, balanced, but these quotes are typical:

  • The push to “green” palm oil “is a work in progress,”
  • The RSPO certified its first “green” batches a year ago, and now accounts for 1.4 million tons, or 3 percent of the world supply of crude palm oil.
  • There are plenty of gaps in enforcement of the new standards, however. Sustainable plantations don’t produce much yet. The global appetite is so voracious that some brands mix “good” palm oil with “bad.”
  • Furthermore, while RSPO members pledge to embrace environmental criteria, such as zero burning and deforestation, few of them have agreed to go fully sustainable right away.
  • RSPO officials admit that the system is not ideal but say it’s important to get firms on board and then work on details.
  • “There’s no accountability or transparency,”

And so on …

Earlier this week I was very privileged to meet and talk to two of the leading lights in orangutan conservation – though it was a privilege to do so this blog is not about name-dropping, it’s about palm oil. Whereas I am an ordinary bloke with an ordinary job who sends a few e-mails, tweets a few links and writes a few occasional blog entries, these people are fighting a genuine fight to make a very real difference to the future of an endangered species genetically so close to our own. This very week colleagues on the ground in Indonesia are fighting fires which are almost impossible to access and are encroaching right up to rehabilitation centre boundaries.

Now I know that it’s easy not to notice ingredients, and understand the temptation to ignore what I see when I spot that my Sainsbury’s garlic bread contains butter using palm oil. I may know that Sainsbury’s is one of the first signatories to RSPO, realise that I have avoided palm oil where I can and sneak that into the basket with my conscience thinking it might be sustainable palm oil.

But the combination of the knowledge that palm oil is not sustainable yet, and it’s the orphans from palm oil driven deforestation that my friends and inspirations are devoted to saving right now. That’s why I encourage myself, and all of you, to avoid buying palm oil in products inasmuch as it’s possible to know you’re doing so.

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