The perils of palm oil

The big palm-oil trading companies like Unilever and Cargill have formed a Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil. But an official report from their last meeting said talk of sustainability in the industry was currently "a pipe dream".

No wonder that green-minded retailers like Wal-Mart and Tesco don’t have much to say about where the palm oil in their products originates (though Tesco has joined the Round Table above).

Can I suggest a place to start? McDonald’s says it will no longer serve meat made from animals fed with soya beans from recently deforested land. So how about a similar rule for palm oil in our biscuits? The industry could begin by announcing a ban on palm oil from Indonesia’s new super-plantation.

Otherwise we will have saved the whales, only to finish off the jungles.

Fred Pearce, senior environment reporter, New Scientist International

Fred’s previous footprints: Furniture stolen from the rainforest, An ethical paper mill isn’t pulp fiction, Cans lost in the landfill, A can-load of energy, Where prawns meet the mafia, How fair is fair-trade coffee?, The cost of gold, Old phones offer new hope in Africa, A dollar a day for wrecked lungs, Green beans and old computers, Cottoning on to FairTrade.

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