UK government to research where palm oil ends up

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Palm oil Biodiversity Southeast asia

The UK government is launching a research project that will investigate exactly how and where palm oil is used.

Announced at a recent biodiversity symposium in London, the project will examine how palm oil is used by consumers in the UK, looking at the products it ends up in and how much of it is sustainably sourced.

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) which is co-ordinating the project, told that the aim was to find out where palm oil ends up.

“There have been bits and pieces of research on this in the past, but we want to know exactly where it is used. Ultimately we want to stop deforestation for palm oil plantations but in order to do this we need to know more about the problem," the spokesperson said.

No details of research methods could be given at present, as Defra is in the process of choosing a research contractor.

Commenting on the project, UK environment secretary Caroline Spelman said: “Consumers and industry have the power to save rainforests and wildlife in areas like South East Asia. But in the case of palm oil, we need to know more about our consumption in order to find solutions.”

Another recent project from Defra on palm oil is a partnership with the Chinese Chamber of Commerce that hopes to encourage sustainable sourcing of palm oil by Chinese companies.

Commitment from India, China and US criticized

The commitment to sustainable sourcing from India, China and the US, some of the world’s largest users of the ingredient, was criticized during the recent meeting.

Speaking at the symposium, parliamentary under secretary for natural environment and fisheries Richard Benyon said that considerable progress had been made on sustainable sourcing initiatives in Europe.

However, he insisted similar commitments from China, India and the US were “missing​”.

If the game was really going to change, Benyon said, the world's biggest users of palm oil had to commit to sourcing it more sustainably. To put this into context, the UK uses about 450,000 tonnes of palm oil a year, whereas India uses 650,000–750,000 tonnes a month.

"Only around 4 per cent of the global supply is currently certified ​[as sustainably produced],”said Benyon. “So more needs to be done, and done quicker.”

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