Friends of the Earth highlights palm oil eco threat

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Palm oil Indonesia Malaysia

Lobby group Friends of the Earth is publishing a report that throws
palm oil, a base ingredient in a variety of cosmetic and toiletry
products, into the eco-threatening spotlight, claiming its
production is threatening the future of Orang-utan.

In a campaign billed as the 'Oil for Ape Scandal', the group claims that without urgent intervention to the rapid growth of the palm oil industry in Asia could lead to the extinction of the great ape within the next twelve years.

As well as a variety of food products, palm oil and its derivatives is found in a broad spectrum of cosmetic and toiletry products, including soaps, lipsticks, skin care and hair care products. This means that approximately one in ten products sold in British supermarkets is estimated to contain some sort of palm oil

According to Matrade, the Malaysian government-backed trading organisation, cosmetics manufacturers use palm oil-based oleochemicals and fatty acids to produce soaps with more attractive colour, and better foaming and perfume retention abilities.

Palm oil-based fatty acids and glycerine are also used in cosmetic moisturisers, fragrances and toothpaste for their softening and moisturising qualities. Like-wise, Liasari is a home-grown brand synonymous with palm oil-based products such as toiletries and cosmetics.

With the habitat of the Orang-utan mainly confined to Indonesia and Malaysia, it is the rapid expansion of the palm oil industry in these countries, that Friends of the Earth is targeting.

The report claims that almost 90 percent of the orang-utan's habitat in Indonesia and Malaysia has now been destroyed. Some experts estimate that 5,000 orang-utan perish as a result every year. And the report finds that it is oil-palm plantations that have now become the primary cause of the orang-utans' decline, wiping out its rainforest home in Borneo and Sumatra.

Friends of the Earth claims its research finds that 84 per cent of UK companies are doing nothing to ensure that their palm oil is sourced from eco-friendly plantations.

Following this revelation the group is now calling on the UK government to introduce a legal bill that will make company directors responsible for minimizing environmental impact in their business.

Friends of the Earth also points out that two weeks ago the United Nations published the Kinshasa Declaration, an action plan backed by the UK Government to protect crucial forest areas and save the world's great apes from extinction. It says that the Indonesian Government signed on to this agreement but so far Malaysia has failed to do so.

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