Palm oil is extensively used in food, cosmetics and biofuels, however the unsustainable production of the cheap vegetable oil leads to deforestation, loss of nature habitats and greenhouse gas emissions. Czech GUE/NGL member Kateřina Konečná calls on the European Commission to take measure to promote the responsible cultivation of palm oil and phase out its use for biofuels. The environment committee votes on her report on 9 March.
The increasing popularity of palm oil
Although palm oil was barely employed some 30 years ago, its use has more than doubled since 2010 and according to estimates will again double by 2050. It can now be found in a variety of products such as margarine, chocolate spread, crisps, but also in cosmetics, detergent and biofuel. In 2014 alone 45% of all palm oil imported into Europe was used as transport fuel.
Konečná said that while the EU was one of the world's largest palm oil consumers, it was now also trying to become the most important player concerning limiting its consumption.
The downside of its cultivation
The production of palm oil leads to deforestation as jungle is removed to be replaced by palm plantations. Precious tropical ecosystems, which cover 7% of the Earth’s surface, are under increasing pressure from deforestation, resulting in for example forest fires, the drying up of rivers, soil erosion, loss of groundwater, pollution of waterways and destruction of rare natural habitats.
In addition the loss of natural habitats in the form of rainforests endangers the survival of a large number of species such as the Sumatran rhinoceros, the Sumatran tiger and the Bornean orang-utan.
Measures to take
In her report Konečná calls on the European Commission to strengthen environmental measures to prevent palm oil-related deforestation and phase out the use of palm oil as a component of biodiesel by 2020. Products should also be able to be certified for the socially responsible origin of their palm oil.
“I believe that the European Parliament should be very ambitious," she said. "There should not be any palm oil in biofuels."
The environment committee votes on the report on 9 March. It will then be up to all MEPs to vote on it during an upcoming plenary session.