A Greenpeace survey team walk through a fire devastated forest in the Riau region. Palm oil companies are clearing forest and peatlands with fires in preparation for oil palm plantations. (Image from Greenpeace website: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/photosvideos/photos/smoke-from-forest-fire2)
As if you didn't have enough reasons already to limit purchases of packaged products from the supermarket, here is another very good one.
Palm oil is used in a wide variety of packaged food and some other products (such as cosmetics) available in our supermarkets and stores: for example, Kit Kats and Pringles. In ingredients lists, it is often listed as just 'vegetable oil'. Global consumption of palm oil is predicted to more than double by 2030 and to triple by 2050. While over 70 per cent ends up in food, palm oil is also used in the biofuels industry.
Large areas of rainforest in Indonesia, largely in Sumatra, are being cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. We all know that forest clearing is a major contributor to global warming. In this instance, the effect is even greater because these forests are peat forests, and peat is an amazing carbon store. A UN Environment Programme report on peatlands, biodiversity and climate change, released at the recent Bali Climate Change Conference, states that "peat is the largest and most efficient land-based store of carbon, and the world's second largest carbon store after the oceans."
Land clearing for palm oil involves draining and burning the peat, releasing large amounts of greenhouse gas. Greenpeace estimates that while Indonesia's peatlands represent just 0.1 per cent of the Earth's land mass, their destruction for palm oil constitues a staggering 4 per cent of global emissions.
Companies such as Unilever, Cadburys and Nestles represent a significant proportion of the global palm oil trade. Despite participating in a voluntary scheme for sustainable use of palm oil, they still rely on palm oil suppliers who destroy rainforests and convert peatlands into plantations.
For more info on palm oil see:
As well as exercising your consumer power by limiting your purchases of packaged food from these companies, you could also make a donation to Greepeace who are doing excellent work on this issue, including campaigning and lobbying for a moratorium on forest and peatland clearing, as well as on-the-ground work bearing witness to the ongoing destruction in Indonesia.
I'm sorry to bear such un-Christmassy news, but I think this is something to be aware of.