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Palm Oil Banned by Major UK Supermarket

Food
Benjamin Drummond

The UK supermarket Iceland has announced it will remove palm oil from all its own brand products by the end of the year due to the belief there is no such thing as "sustainable" palm oil.


Increasing demand for palm oil is still having devastating effects on wildlife, habitats and people where it is grown, and sustainable palm oil schemes are failing to mitigate these impacts.

The supermarket is the first major UK supermarket to make such a move. Currently more than half of Iceland's products contain palm oil–130 products in total–ranging from biscuits to soap. Iceland has already stated it has managed to find alternative recipes for more than half of the products.

While other UK supermarket chains, including Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons and Waitrose, have pledged to only source sustainable palm oil certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in their own brand products, Iceland has gone one step further by totally removing it. It states that it cannot guarantee palm oil is not causing rainforest destruction and believes that there is no such thing as "sustainable" palm oil. Earlier this year, researchers documented that 100,000 orangutans have been in lost in 16 years, partly due to land conversion to oil palm plantations.

There has been increasing criticism of sustainable palm oil certification schemes, such as the RSPO and Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO). In February, we reported on how the Indonesian government has not taken the opportunity to fully strengthen the ISPO, meaning that the ISPO in its current new draft form will not further limit deforestation nor work toward enhancing and supporting human rights.

We have been instrumental in revealing critical failures in the RSPO that undermine its credibility, and has continued to call for serious reforms to the RSPO to ensure it conserves critical habitats, endangered species and the rights of indigenous peoples.

This announcement by Iceland recognizes that certified sustainable palm oil is not delivering and cannot be said to be deforestation-free. It highlights that a more regulatory approach may be needed, like due diligence regulations requiring importers to avoid palm oil produced through deforestation. The European Commission recently outlined that such measures were feasible and it is anticipated that it will take action to combat deforestation more.

However, until sustainable palm oil schemes improve their standards and credibility, it seems they may not be able to reassure retailers that "sustainable" palm oil does not cause forest destruction.

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Aerial view of Ruropolis, Para state, northen Brazil, on Sept. 6, 2019. Tthe world's biggest rainforest is under threat from wildfires and rampant deforestation. JOHANNES MYBURGH / AFP via Getty Images

By Kate Martyr

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest last month jumped to the highest level since records began in 2015, according to government data.

A total of 563 square kilometers (217.38 square miles) of the world's largest rainforest was destroyed in November, 103% more than in the same month last year, according to Brazil's space research agency.

From January to November this year an area almost the size of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico was destroyed — an 83% overall increase in destruction when compared with the same period last year.

The figures were released on Friday by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), and collected through the DETER database, which uses satellite images to monitor forest fires, forest destruction and other developments affecting the rainforest.

What's Behind the Rise?

Overall, deforestation in 2019 has jumped 30% compared to last year — 9,762 square kilometers (approximately 3769 square miles) have been destroyed, despite deforestation usually slowing during November and December.

Environmental groups, researchers and activists blamed the policies of Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro for the increase.

They say that Bolosonaro's calls for the Amazon to be developed and his weakening support for Ibama, the government's environmental agency, have led to loggers and ranchers feeling safer and braver in destroying the expansive rainforest.

His government hit back at these claims, pointing out that previous governments also cut budgets to environment agencies such as Ibama.

The report comes as Brazil came to loggerheads with the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) over climate goals during the UN climate conference in Madrid.

AOSIS blasted Brazil, among other nations, for "a lack of ambition that also undermines ours."

Last month, a group of Brazilian lawyers called for Bolsonaro to be investigated by the International Criminal Court over his environmental policies.

Reposted with permission from DW.

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