Friday June 3, 3:03 PM - Palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysiaare threatening rainforests and could contribute to the extinction oforangutans and tigers there, a U.S. consumer advocacy group chargedFriday.
The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest, orCSPI, in a report on the industry also raised health concerns about usingpalm oil and called for manufacturers of biscuits and other snacks to useas little as possible and obtain it from environmentally sustainablesources.
"We applaud food manufacturers for moving away from trans-fat-ladenpartially hydrogenated oils, and happily, many companies are switching tosuch heart-healthy oils as soybean, corn, or canola," said CSPI'sExecutive Director Michael F. Jacobson.
Jacobson co-authored the report, "Cruel Oil: How Palm Oil Harms Health,Rainforest, & Wildlife," with ecologist Ellie Brown.
"Consumers and food processors should realize, though, that palm oil stillpromotes heart disease and that producing palm oil has a devastatingimpact on rainforest and endangered wildlife," Jacobson said in astatement.
Most palm oil is produced in Malaysia or Indonesia, according to thereport, and production in Indonesia has grown more than 30-fold since themid-1960s. In Malaysia, 11 percent of the total land area is devoted topalm oil, the report said.
"Companies sometimes profit from selling logs from the rainforest and thenburn the area to make way for oil palms," the report said. "The associatedroad-building, soil erosion, air and water pollution, and chemicalcontamination also have contributed to the loss of wildlife habitat andthe displacement of indigenous peoples."
Illegal logging is common in Indonesia, which has extensive rain forestson the islands of Sumatra, Borneo and Papua. Some environmental groupsclaim that nearly 90 percent of the timber cut in Indonesia is illegallyharvested and that forests the size of Switzerland are lost each year.