Palm Oil boycott could make deforestation WORSE, so what’s the answer?

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Have you seen the heart-rending Iceland Christmas advert which was ‘banned’ earlier this month, prompting an outcry? Here it is:

 

The video was viewed 13 million times in the first four days after its release.

A petition to overturn the advert ban has received 978,430 signatures at time of writing. No, make that 978,431.  Yup, you can sit and watch it go up, minute by minute.

Clearcast, the organisation which did not clear the ad for broadcast (as opposed to banning it as such – but same result, not on our boxes this Xmas), has had to shut down its facebook page and take staff pictures off the website, after an outcry and ‘deluge of contact’ which it described as abusive and overwhelming.

Spotted and possibly lost: in local Iceland this week

Iceland has become a possibly surprising leader in retail sustainability of late, and has committed to going Palm Oil free in its own brand products before we reach 2019:

By the end of 2018, 100% of our own brand food will contain no palm oil. We are the first UK supermarket to commit to removing palm oil from all own brand food.

EIA’s leader board

Iceland is also leading on plastic reduction, scoring the top mark of 5.7 out of a possible 10, according to research by the Environmental Investigation Agency, which you can read more about here.

 

But is banning Palm Oil the answer? According to a recent report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, a Palm Oil Boycott would merely shift (rather than counter) losses to rainforests, and could actually increase deforestation.

 

Why?  You can read the full article about the problems with a boycott here in The Conversation, but in summary, palm oil producers are likely to shift to meet global demand for oil to producing other vegetable oils, most of which are less efficient in terms of yield per unit of land.

“[…] palm oil crops yield four to ten times more oil per unit of land, and require far less pesticide and fertiliser. […] if other crops such as soybean replaced a shortfall in palm oil, this would not only shift more production to the Amazon (a major soy-producing region), it would also require more land, leading to more deforestation. Indeed, soybean farming is already responsible for more than double the deforestation of palm oil.”

 

And then there’s livestock production, which has caused 5 times as much deforestation to date.

Ugh.  So where does that leave us, the consumer?

The researchers writing this article argue that certification and sustainable, wildlife-friendly palm oil is the way forward.  And in fact, the general blanket negitivity towards palm oil means that those already using certified palm oil (e.g. supermarkets M&S, Waitrose and Sainsburys in the UK) cannot really promote that they are doing so.

Definite food for thought!  Read the full article here.


3 things:

1) We have just written a letter to West Oxford supermarkets as a follow-up to our ‘How Green is your Supermarket?‘ event in 2016, to ask for an update on progress in tackling carbon emissions and future plans, with specific reference to meat and plastic packaging.  This will appear on the blog in the next week or two and we’ll keep you posted with regards to reponses.

2) In spring 2019, we’ll be launching a new business engagement project, seeking to work more closely with all those businesses this area is home to.  Again, watch this space – and get in touch if you’d like to get involved.

3) We’ve just launched a ‘5 things we can all start doing right now’ campaign, in response to the recent IPCC and WWF biodiversity reports.  More info coming soon – but food and biodiversity are a part of this, so palm oil is relevant!

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