A Vegetable Oil that Demands Blood
For the past few years or months the word ‘palm oil’ is generating a lot of bad press. And it deserves it. Because there is no other commodity in our world that’s literally used in a great number of consumer goods and which inadvertently earns consumers complicity in commit horrific crimes against environment, people, and animals. Many of the shoppers may not even have heard the word ‘palm oil’ because it’s mostly hidden under ‘vegetable oil’. Like corn, the palm oil is in every type of consumer product.
The palm oil is there inadvertently in our packaged foods, cosmetics, ice cream, chocolates, cookies, chips, noodles, baby formulas, canned soups etc. This omnipresent vegetable oil could only be produced in the same area as tropical rainforests, surrounding the countries Malaysia and Indonesia. A Multi-billion dollar industry that produces world’s 80 percent of palm oil has based its operations on these countries. The government of such countries has given uncontrolled clearing of land for conventional palm oil plantations.
It simply means that the basic laws which protect environment, people, and endangered species are nullified in the face of such prosperous business. According to the various facts, nearly 30 square miles of forests around Malaysia and Indonesia are destroyed daily (picture at least 300 football field of forest getting cleared daily). This kind of massive deforestation and the resulting CO2 emissions from the palm oil industry are causing a major humanitarian and environmental crisis. The forest-fires to clear the land are bringing a hazardous air quality, and the indigenous are being pushed off their land.
Sumatra forests of Indonesia is the home for 465 species of bird, 194 species of mammals, 217 species of reptiles, 270 species of freshwater fish, and 10,000 species of plant. Borneo forests, which is shared by countries like Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia is one of the most bio-diverse places on Earth. It is even richer than Sumatra providing habitat for around 15,000 species of plant and 560 species of animals. The rapid expansion of palm oil plantations is destroying these species’ natural habitat. Of all the species the most affected are the Orangutan. It is one of the smartest species in our planet which can perform tasks that are well beyond the reach of Chimpanzee’s mind.
Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) is one of world’s largest orangutan rescue organization. For the past few years, this organization has reported some of the horrific killings of orangutan. People have found dead orangutans with more than 20 shot gun pellets. Amidst all these monstrous annihilation, the Indonesia government has announced its plans for converting more than 40 million acres of rain forests into palm oil plantation before the year 2020. UN’s environment program’s report indicate that at this rate, 95 percent of Sumatra and Borneo forest would be destroyed by the year 2022.
Corporates have also formed new advertisement strategies by using this devastation. By using pal oil free labels they are avoiding harassment (from activists) and effectively promoting brands , but still the plundering of forests haven’t come to a halt. The widely proposed solution for this crisis is the certifying body for palm oil known as ‘Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’ (RSPO). Formed in 2004, the RSPO brings together stakeholders, environmentalists, producers, and end-user manufacturers. It is working on to make sustainable palm oil that respects environment and native land rights. But, this organizations efficiency is being increasingly questioned as the deforestation is still in alarming figures. Companies are paying membership or certification fees to the organization for ‘certified sustainable’ labels, but are illegally destroying rainforests to establish plantations, which are not at all licensed.
The destruction of rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia seems to be yet another vicious example of how thoughtless government and profit-minded companies puts present over the future. We all have to bear the consequences for treating nature as a disposable commodity.