Palm oil: the high cost of cultivating the cheap vegetable oil

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. MEPS vote on 4 April on a report by Czech GUE member Kateřina Konečná calling on the European Commission to take measures to ensure among others the phasing out of palm oil in biofuels by 2020 and a single certification scheme for palm oil entering the EU market.

Curbing Europe's appetite for palm oil

MEPs debate the report in plenary on Monday 3 April and vote on it the following day.

The report calls on the EU to strengthen environmental measures to prevent palm oil-related deforestation, and phase out by 2020 use of palm oil as a component of biodiesel. 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."

Although palm oil was barely employed some 30 years ago, it can now be found in a variety of products such as margarine, chocolate spread, crisps, but also in cosmetics, detergent and biofuel.

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.

Konečná said: “EU is the second biggest palm oil consumer in the world. Although it is trying to become the most important player regarding how to limit its consumption