Does Palm Oil Cause Deforestation? Here's Why It's So Important. Today, the food giant still cannot document the source of almost a third of the palm oil it uses. The biodiesel transition program, the world’s most ambitious, will require 15 million hectares (37 million acres) of new oil palm plantations, according to Arifin Tasrif, the minister for energy and mines. The conversion to date, and future expansion, threatens biodiversity and increases greenhouse gas emissions. You may have also noticed some strong opinions on palm oil in the environmentalist community: some people refuse to eat any food or buy any cosmetics made with palm oil, while others will only buy "sustainable" palm oil, while others who are not bothered by palm oil at all. “This will create a deficit. If the palm oil industry is not an industry you'd like to support, there are a few tricks that may help you avoid palm oil (for the most part). Deforestation for palm oil has led countries to restrict imports of the edible oil, while labour concerns has seen the U.S. block some Malaysian palm oil products. As mentioned above, developers often torch and bulldoze areas of biodiverse rainforests to create palm oil plantations. Palm oil is the most widely traded vegetable oil on the planet, according to a study published on NCBI. But the replanting program has consistently fallen short of its targets. He also said deforestation fears were overblown, given that the palm oil used in biodiesel production must be certified sustainable, and that there’s a moratorium currently in place on issuing permits for new plantations. Although this is a lower projection than the ministry’s, it still represents an area two-thirds the size of Indonesia’s Java Island. They note that, despite Indonesia being the world’s biggest producer of palm oil, its plantations have lower yields than those in Malaysia, the No. Deforestation is one of the major sustainability challenges for the agri- and aquaculture sector. Contributing to only 2.3% of global deforestation, palm oil as a crop is not the biggest driver. Palm oil is primarily harvested from palm trees that grow in rainforests — and as explained by Rainforest Rescue, developers often bulldoze or set fire to land in rainforests to make room for more palm oil plantations. And sustainability audits will not reveal labor issues. Palm oil production is said to have been responsible for about 8% of the world's deforestation between 1990 and 2008. Read on for answers to some of the Internet's most-asked questions about palm oil, which should help you make an informed decision about whether it's something you want to continue consuming. The export tariffs are collected by the state palm oil fund, known by its Indonesian acronym BPDP-KS. Palm oil is used in everything from processed foods (such as ice cream, margarine, and cookies) to makeup to personal hygiene products (like shampoo and soap) to laundry detergent to biodiesel to animal feed, according to the WWF. According to the WWF, humans have clear-cut 17 percent of the Amazon rainforest over the past five decades. By 2000 they have been almost entirely cleared in Sulawesi , and predicted to disappear within few years in … An area of natural forest the size of 1,500 football fields has been cleared since January in an oil palm concession in Indonesia’s easternmost region of Papua by a company that ultimately supplies major traders and global brands. Now, huge swathes of oil palm trees dominate the tropical landscape of South-East Asia, especially Indonesia and Malaysia, which make up over 85% of the global supply of palm oil. “Can [we] say which land the current biodiesel get its palm oil from? Once these vehicles are being developed, what use will the biodiesel be?”. Some palm plantations were established in lands that were previously forested, but the real share of deforestation caused by palm oil plantations peaked in … He said it would ultimately be better for the government to scale back its ambitious biodiesel target to give itself time to improve productivity and sustainability in the industry. Palm oil and deforestation Palm plantations are reputed to be a major factor of deforestation. The program is currently at the B30 stage, which means the diesel sold at the pump contains a 30% blend of palm oil-derived biodiesel. At this rate, Ricky said, it would be more feasible for the government to abandon the replanting program and start establishing new plantations with the higher-yield trees — a move that would threaten the country’s remaining carbon-rich rainforests. 2 producer. The crash in oil prices earlier this year forced the government to allocate a $195 million stimulus for the biodiesel program from the state budget. It is impossible to know if some ingredients are palm oil-derived, other ingredients and products do not disclose their ingredients, and restaurants may cook with palm oil. Eco-Anxiety Is Inspiring People to Make Changes in Their Lives, What Is the Paris Agreement? Palm oil has become quite controversial over the past few years, as more and more people have learned about the industry, how it impacts the environment, and how it hurts primates. The balance of about $55 million will come from biodiesel producers through an increase in export tariffs, effective May 1 next year. Ricky also suggested the government broaden its focus to developing and scaling up other forms of renewable energy. The organization only certifies products that use palm oil that does not directly cause deforestation, fires, and child labor. That's likely because it is one of the cheapest oils available, and it produces a high yield. “We’re not against biodiesel, but we don’t agree with biodiesel that’s not sustainable, not transparent and not traceable,” Ricky said. “Soy and oil palm are major deforestation drivers, with over half a million hectares of rainforest, peatland and savannahs destroyed each year for the expansion of these crops,” writes Nutreco in a report outlining the new sourcing policy . Sigit said there was a smear campaign underway against palm oil in the European Union and the U.S., two of Indonesia’s biggest export markets. The organization adds that palm oil (including palm oil derivatives) can be found in nearly 50 percent of the packaged products in supermarkets. So do its elephants, Activists in Malaysia call on road planners to learn the lessons of history, Road-paving project threatens a wildlife-rich reserve in Indonesia’s Papua. Not so much, Brazil scientists map forest regrowth keeping Amazon from collapse: Study, Illegal mining sparks malaria outbreak in Indigenous territories in Brazil, Environmentalists seek to block Bahamas oil drilling bid near U.S. coast, Podcast: Indigenous land rights and the global push for land privatization, Multiplying Amazon river ports open new Brazil-to-China commodities routes, Peruvian Indigenous groups thwart oil drilling in their territory — for now, Indonesian fishers opposed to dredging project hit by ‘criminalization’ bid, Life as an Amazon activist: ‘I don’t want to be the next Dorothy Stang’, In Philippines’ Palawan, top cop linked to assault on environmental officer, Why I stand for my tribe’s forest: It gives us food, culture, and life (commentary), Reforesting a village in Indonesia, one batch of gourmet beans at a time, Restoring Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem, one small farm at a time, Indigenous Iban community defends rainforests, but awaits lands rights recognition, A Malagasy community wins global recognition for saving its lake, Scientists in Costa Rica are growing new corals to save reefs, Technology innovations look to change the cacao landscape in Colombia, In mangrove restoration, custom solutions beat one-size-fits-all approach, A forest in Sumatra disappears for farms and roads. That moratorium,  imposed by President Joko Widodo in September 2018, is due to expire in September 2021. “So in my opinion, it can be guaranteed that the palm oil produced to become fuel [is sustainable] because it has to go through the [certification] procedure,” Sigit said. In Indonesia and Malaysia, deforestation peaked decades ago and was already decreasing before palm oil started to take off. Deforestation for palm oil has led countries to restrict imports of the edible oil, while labour concerns has seen the US block some Malaysian palm oil products. That’s something the government must address to ensure truly sustainable palm oil production, he said. While high yielding crops are generally pretty sustainable, that is not true in the case of palm oil. He also noted that sustainability standards are routinely flouted within the palm oil industry in Indonesia due to a lack of transparency and traceability. Much of the palm oil expansion is on land that was previous cropland such as coffee or rubber, especially in Latin America, Sumatra and peninsular Malaysia. This process releases the greenhouse gas CO2 into the atmosphere, all the while destroying animal habitats. Emma Keller, palm oil expert at WWF-UK, said: “Consumers don’t want their food or other purchases to come with a side order of deforestation and destruction of wildlife. According to Orangutan Foundation International, palm oil is the No. NGOs also accuse its palm oil … 80 percent of that destruction is for cattle ranching (raising cows for meat and dairy), and the remaining 20 percent is to grow (and then cut down) trees to produce palm oil, paper products, wood, and more. As mentioned above, developers often torch and bulldoze areas of biodiverse rainforests to create palm oil plantations. The deforestation of a peat swamp forest for palm oil production in Indonesia. According to WWF, a few ingredients that are sometimes (but not always) derived from palm oil include: Do you avoid buying products containing palm oil? Traction Asia researchers attribute this gap to the government’s failure to account for the inefficiency of oil palm plantations when setting its biodiesel targets. So, new tactics have come into use. Avoiding palm oil entirely is extremely difficult. “That’s only to meet the need [for palm oil-derived biofuel] until 2025,” said Alin Halimatussadiah, the LPEM UI head. Dryness? Every day, Mongabay reporters bring you news from nature’s frontline. The government has long sought to boost plantations’ productivity through a replanting program, replacing aging oil palms with higher-yielding varieties. Arkian Suryadarma, a forest campaigner at Greenpeace Indonesia, said it’s highly likely the biodiesel program will lead to deforestation. Almost all oil palm grows in areas that were once tropical moist forests, some of them quite recently. Found in everything from shampoo to donuts, palm oil is now the most common vegetable oil in the world—and also one of the world's leading deforestation drivers. The government is rolling out the program in stages, blending progressively higher concentrations of palm oil-derived biodiesel into conventional diesel. “Even if we keep replanting [existing plantations], we need a total of 3.8 million hectares [9.4 million acres],” he said. Palm oil, aka palm kernel oil, is a type of vegetable oil, similar to canola oil, soybean oil, or grapeseed oil. Additionally, oil palm plays a crucial role in driving deforestation dynamics. Palm Oil Deforestation Like GMO corn and soy, palm oil is produced on a massive scale of an estimated 50 million tons a year (about 30% of all vegetable oil), and has oozed its way into almost everything we use. Roughly half of all household items in the US are products that contain palm oil, from shampoo and cleaning solutions to food. “The biodiesel program is clearly not a solution for the country’s fiscal state and will worsen the implementation of Indonesia’s climate commitment because it is oriented toward deforestation and new land clearing in forest areas. That’s why it’s very wrong if biodiesel is categorized as a renewable energy.”. This results in deforestation, destroying habitats of wild animals native to rainforests — namely, orangutans (as well as other primates, rhinos, elephants and tigers, according to the BBC). This year, the government was only able to replant 67,018 hectares (165,605 acres), or 37% of its target. In 2017, the government was only able to replant 14,790 hectares (36,550 acres) of old plantations, or 71% of its target. The money will go toward subsidizing biodiesel prices at the pump. He said the government expected palm oil exports to decline in the coming years, allowing for greater domestic supply of the commodity, including for the biodiesel program. Palm oil and deforestation. Since its establishment in 2015 until 2019, the fund collected 47.2 trillion rupiah ($3.3 billion) in revenue, and gave 71% of it back to biodiesel producers — and less than 5% to small farmers for the replanting program. Palm Oil Giant Wilmar Unfazed as Watchdogs Cry Foul over Papua Deforestation. The corporate drivers of deforestation not only have massive influence over how their suppliers produce palm oil, soy, cocoa, pulp, paper, timber and beef, but also over each other. Indonesia’s Palm Oil Association today questioned the CDP findings and said firms had adhered to domestic industry standards. Yes — as mentioned above, palm oil typically comes from oil palm trees, known as Elaeis guineensis trees. Palm oil is the most commonly consumed vegetable oil in the world and can be found in around half of the packaged goods in supermarkets globally, ranging from staples (such as bread and noodles) via cosmetics (shampoo and lipsticks) to luxuries (ice cream and dessert). Deforestation for palm oil has led countries to restrict imports of the edible oil, while labour concerns has seen the U.S. block some Malaysian palm oil products. on palm oil and deforestation of rainforests (2016/2222(INI)) The European Parliament, – having regard to the 2015-2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), – having regard to the Paris Agreement reached at the 21st Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), The total needed to keep the biodiesel program afloat is $250 million. Demand for palm oil has become increasingly controversial due to the commodity's role in driving deforestation, particularly in south-east Asia, including through devastating forest fires which in 2015 produced more carbon emissions that the entire daily emissions of the U.S. However, because primates are often directly hurt by the palm oil industry, many vegans and environmentalists do their best to avoid palm oil — even though that is sometimes impossible, considering how many ingredients sneakily contain palm oil. Do your own research on the RSPO (and other sustainable palm oil certification groups) before trusting their advice, since everyone has different comfort levels when it comes to supporting controversial industries. Just because a product doesn't include "palm oil" on the ingredients list doesn't mean it is palm oil free. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page. Deforestation for palm oil has led countries to restrict imports of the edible oil, while labour concerns has seen the US block some Malaysian palm oil products. When news of the Amazon rainforest fires shook the world in August 2019, many people were shocked to find out the main causes of the fires. Traction Asia’s Ricky said that while it’s true palm oil exports might decline or be capped, consumption of palm oil for food and consumer products is expected to keep growing, and thus the risk of a deficit is still there. We aim to achieve this by using a robust engagement and evaluation process for measuring the progress of the major First Importers of palm oil into international markets. “If all the focus is on biodiesel, then that’s a pity. But to do that, the total planted area of oil palms will have to be at least 22.7 million hectares (56 million acres), according to the new study by the University of Indonesia’s Institute for Economic and Social Research (LPEM UI). “If we don’t, there’s a likelihood for land conversion. According to the WWF, 300 football fields of rainforest are cleared hourly in Southeast Asia for palm oil. RSPO has developed a standard for sustainable #palmoil production, which includes:no #deforestationno fireno #childlabourWatch the video below and RT to demand #sustainablepalmoil pic.twitter.com/mh7K4IIezn. From January to October 2019, it again doubled the replanted area, to 68,427 hectares (169,086 acres), but hit just 38% of its target. The deforestation was first detected in March 2020 by U.S.-based campaign organization Mighty Earth, which found 221 hectares (546 acres) of forest cleared in the concession of PT Medcopapua Hijau Selaras (MPHS), a subsidiary of the Jakarta-based Capitol Group. It dated the clearing to between Jan. 11 and Feb. 24 this year. If that’s the case, then biodiesel will be much less friendly to the environment than diesel based on its emission that we count from the life-cycle analysis.”. While estimates vary, Indonesia lost about 289,000 acres of forest to palm oil production every year between 1995 and 2015, according to a 2017 study. As a pretty easy first step, you can abstain from buying products that explicitly contain palm oil; you can also choose to support companies that state their products are certified palm oil-free; and finally, because palm oil is difficult to 100 percent avoid, you can work to lower the impact of your diet and purchases in other ways — for example, buy vegan, cruelty-free, and locally-made food and products whenever possible. What was initially an oversupply will become a deficit.”. One of the primary organizations that certifies sustainable palm oil is the non-profit Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Our EIN or tax ID is 45-3714703. Not all Mars’ palm oil suppliers are yet deforestation-free throughout their entire operations, said Parkin, but they must be looking to achieve this within “a couple of years”. For decades, palm oil production has been a driver of deforestation in tropical rainforests in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. In 2018, it more than doubled the replanted area, to 33,842 hectares (83,625 acres), but this represented just 18% of its much higher target that year. There are also many reports of the palm oil industry exploiting laborers and using child labour. Speaking at a parliamentary hearing last month, he said that was how much new palm oil production would be needed to replace current oil consumption of a million barrels a day. Additionally, numerous common label ingredients are derived from palm oil, but it's hard to tell based on the name. Banner image: Forest cleared to make way for palm oil plantation in Indonesia. However, despite such widespread perceptions, palm plantations are responsible for only 3% of global deforestation. In fact, more than 80 percent of the world's palm oil grows in Malaysia and Indonesia (which are both located in Southeast Asia), according to Gro Intelligence. “The potential for renewable energy in Indonesia is not only from biodiesel, but also solar and wind,” Ricky said. “Unfortunately, the government only focuses on setting the target with no clear road map,” said Traction Asia research manager Ricky Amukti. Palm trees grow best in humid, tropical climates, and the trees grown and cut down for palm oil primarily grow in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa. Some brands claim their products are made with sustainably-harvested palm oil — but considering how flawed the industry is, is that really possible? “There’s no need to be shy” about reducing the target, Ricky said. Much of the expansion of palm oil harvesting occurs on land that was previously used for growing crops like coffee or rubber. Palm plantations are reputed to be a major factor in deforestation. In Indonesia, rising demand for palm oil and timber has led to the clearing of tropical forest land in Indonesian national parks.According to a 2007 report published by UNEP, at the rate of deforestation at that time, an estimated 98 percent of Indonesian forest would be destroyed by 2022 due to legal and illegal logging, forest fires and the development of palm oil plantations. Variations in global market prices of palm oil are closely linked to deforestation in areas which are geo-climatically best suited for growing oil palm and they amplify the importance of the political cycle. “The biodiesel program needs lands for new oil palm plantations which could lead to massive deforestation,” he said. Actor Harrison Ford travels to Indonesia to learn why demand for palm oil in everyday products at the grocery store is driving massive deforestation. Palm oil is extracted from the fruit of the oil palm tree, Elaeis guineensis, which thrives in humid climates. FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you value this objective and impact-driven journalism, please consider becoming a sustaining member. Mongabay Series: Indonesian Forests, Indonesian Palm Oil. Mongabay is a U.S.-based non-profit conservation and environmental science news platform. If this can be answered, I’m sure there’s not going to be a debate.”. That’s why RAN follows the supply chain to influence the big brands you see on grocery store shelves. Palm oil is technically vegan, since it is completely plant-based and does not come from the body of animals. It comes from the fleshy fruit of palm trees — specifically, oil palm trees, aka the Elaeis guineensis tree, according to the WWF. “Move one step back, and then fix the management, raw material and production. Palm oil is the most widely traded vegetable oil globally, with demand projected to increase substantially in the future. Palm oil is one of the most efficient and widely used vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees. In 2019, Nestlé recorded over 1,000 cases of deforestation daily. Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay. These oil crops were initially imported to South-East Asia over 100 years ago for ornamental reasons. Palm oil stakeholders, from sourcing organizations to environmental groups, have seen little progress in stemming deforestation, despite sustainability certifications in the palm oil market for more than a decade. It’s expected to reach the B50 stage, a 50:50 blend, by 2025. Beef may pose a greater deforestation risk than other commodities such as palm oil and timber thanks to “extremely poor” efforts to trace where cattle are reared, according to a new report. He also pointed to President Widodo’s recent courting of electric vehicle maker Tesla, in which he advertised Indonesia, with its rich deposits of nickel, as a potential global hub for the production of electric vehicles. A key reason the replanting program has fallen short is because its funding, raised through mandatory export tariffs slapped on palm oil companies, has largely gone toward subsidizing biodiesel production and sales, to make the fuel more competitive with conventional diesel. He also said deforestation fears were overblown, given that the palm oil used in biodiesel production must be certified sustainable, and that there’s a moratorium currently in place on issuing permits for new plantations. Because the palm oil industry has a stake in the RSPO, I take the organization's endorsements with a grain of salt. Here’s Everything You Need to Know, Yes, You Can Rescue a Hypoallergenic Dog — 6 Tips for Adopting, Not Shopping, Eco-Friendly Gifts to Keep Things Zero Waste This Holiday Season, What Is Organic Farming? As the WWF explains, there are two types of palm oil: crude palm oil, which comes from squeezing the fleshy fruit; and palm kernel oil, which comes from crushing the kernel (aka stone) in the center of the fruit. Especially since the government says it wants to develop electric vehicles. This biodiesel program was initially created to absorb excess crude palm oil production, but unfortunately it has become a boomerang as the [biodiesel blend] target kept being increased. #plantbased #GoVegan #vganghttps://t.co/8mFzTgv7Bk. 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