Palm oil destroys rainforests and biodiversity!

23 February 2012

Every day, since decades, the tropical forests of the planet are being destroyed at an impressive rate: the total area of these ecosystems went from 16 million sq km to 7 million sq km. This destruction causes the extinction of a lot of species, most of  them still unknown to science. According to E. O. Wilson some ten thousands species become extinct every year for the rainforest destruction at the current rate (100.000 sq km/year)!
In the last decade a decisive contribution to forest destruction  arrived from the palm oil industry. In particular in South-East Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea) the palm oil business is causing the systematic destruction of the tropical forests, with very heavy losses of biodiversity. But also Central and South America are oriented in this direction. During recent scientific expedition of our Association in Southern Mexico our members observed the methodical destruction of enormous areas of tropical forest, replaced by plantations of palm oil trees!
Also Brazil has begun an extensive exploitation of Amazon territory to produce palm oil!
The cultivation of palm oil, however, is only the last ring of the chain. The illegal commerce of forest animals, the exploitation of the exotic woods and the cellulose pulp are the other business strategies related to the destruction of the tropical forests.
Coming back to palm oil, it is one of the worst vegetable oils used by food industry, but it has a sole good quality: a very cheap production cost. Just for this reason, it is the most used by the food industries, even if the World Health Organization recognized that the consumption of palm oil increases the risk of heart disease, due to its high level of saturated fats.
A lot of food industries all over the world, Italy included, use palm oil in their products, often omitting it from the ingredients, or rather declaring in the label generic indications, as: “vegetable oil”, “vegetable fats”, “non-hydrogenated vegetable oil”.
The growing sensibility of consumers towards the problem has recently induced some multinational companies to devise an expedient to avoid the problem: certifying palm oil as sustainable!
“Certified” palm oil would come from countries generically considered as most compliant with the International Conventions on human rights, environmental conservation and biodiversity. It is a pity that these countries (Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Brazil, etc.) in the last decade suffered very heavy losses of biodiversity, due to destruction of their rainforests.
Really, also the lands cultivated with “certified” palm oil have been recently stolen from rainforest. Therefore, the certification of environmental sustainability for products coming from these cultivations appears in itself “unsustainable”. On the contrary, the perspective to make “certifiable” the production, once the forest has been destroyed, can represent a further incentive to deforestation.
World Biodiversity Association in the next months will be engaged in a campaign of sensitization of consumers on the themes of sustainability. In the context of the Project “Conservation by Education” we are defining a new Project named S.O.S. (Sustainability Oriented School) with the objective to awaken students and population about sustainable consumptions, to exclude from the use products that make us accomplice of the destruction of the last tropical forests of the world.