KUALA LUMPUR, (Sunday Times) - Despite various public relationsexercises on the good side of palm oil, a big adverse campaign is beingheld in the United Kingdom. "Save orang utans from extinction when younext shop " put an end to the cruelty of palm oil."
This is the message of the campaign, going out to thousands of consumers,that links their purchase of products containing palm oil to forestdestruction and threats to orang utan survival in the wild.
A report explaining the campaign’s aims tells consumers that palm oil isfound in thousands of popular products from ice-cream to detergents.
It says that their purchases have fuelled the growth in demand for palmoil. As a result, forests and orang utan habitats in Indonesia andMalaysia have been destroyed to accommodate the expansion of plantations,the campaigners claimed.
The campaign was launched by non-governmental organisations BorneoOrangutan Survival Foundation UK and Nature Alert yesterday. Their reportis being distributed to consumers, businesses, politicians and the mediathere.
It will likely be in distribution in the Netherlands, Germany andIndonesia soon, says Sean Whyte, the chief executive of Nature Alert and aco-author of the report.
Copies should reach the desks of editors and oil palm companies inMalaysia in the next few days, he said.
The report comes with gruesome pictures of burnt, captured and torturedorang utans that he says were taken in areas cleared for oil palmplantations in Kalimantan.
Campaigners have called on consumers to demand oil palm fromnon-destructive sources - where no forest burning has occurred, where onlydegraded land is used for planting, where no high-conservation-valueforest has been cleared, where local communities are respected and noorang utan has been killed.
They have asked UK residents to write to large supermarket chains likeTesco.
Their aim is to eventually force supermarkets to label the exact type ofvegetable oil in products they sell, show that it is from a sustainableplantation and be able to prove this if challenged.
"We are not trying to put people out of business. We are simply askingthat they do business without destroying the environment," Whyte told theNew Straits Times today.
In an immediate response, Malaysian Palm Oil Association chief executiveAzizi Meor Ngah said Malaysia had done much to ensure that palm oil wasproduced without destruction to the environment and these efforts hassadly gone unrecognised.
He said Malaysian oil palm companies would, in the next two years, adopttwo sets of standards that would prove their willingness to be transparentabout the palm oil production process.
These, he said, would enable buyers to trace the origins of the palm oilin a product from the finished material to shipping, handling, refineriesand to the estate where it was harvested.
"If there is a problem, why aren’t the campaigners more specific aboutexactly what it is and where it is happening. Their agenda is verymisleading," he said.
A statement from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a global multi-stakeholder organisation working on the standards, said its principals andcriteria for sustainable palm oil production would soon be made public.
The organisation which was formed precisely to address issues such asthose raised by the campaigners will be discussing the principles at ameeting in Singapore next month.
"We hope our members, especially producers will adopt the principles. Itwould make a clear statement regarding where they stand on the matter,"said its secretary-general, Andrew Ng.