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The slippery business of palm oil

Palm oil is used in a third of all groceries. But can it ever be produced without causing environmental devastation as some big companies are promising?

Source:  Copyright 2008, Guardian
Date:  November 6, 2008
Byline:  Fred Pearce
Original URL: Status ONLINE


The plutocrats of palm oil are in trouble. The makers of Wall's ice cream and Dove soap and Flora margarine are worried you'll get the idea that these products are being produced at the expense of the rainforests of southeast Asia. Because they are. And, so far, efforts to rebrand palm-oil plantations as oases of sustainability have proved about as convincing as those old ads that insisted you couldn't tell the difference between butter and margarine.

In late November, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) will hold its sixth annual meeting in on the Indonesian island of Bali. Food manufacturers, commodity traders and plantation owners will applaud the "first trickle" of palm oil certified as wildlife and climate-friendly and definitely not grown on recently deforested land.

Sadly, this will underline how, after six years of trying to identify sustainable sources of palm oil, the RSPO has to admit that 99% of the ubiquitous edible oil – found in a ...

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