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The Independent Letters
Monday, 4 May 2009
Ravages of the palm oil industry
I have visited Indonesian Borneo and seen from the air how much land is given over to palm oil production ("How British shoppers are razing these rainforests", 1 May). During my stay, I wanted to see some orangutans but this proved impossible, apart from a sorry specimen in a so-called zoo. In fact, I was told most of the indigenous people had never seen one.
I am pleased you have identified which companies are using palm oil in their products and I will boycott these. There is a need for palm oil to be clearly identified as a listed ingredient on all products, not hidden under the "vegetable oil" label.
The great work of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Centre needs a high profile. Many of the people in towns and cities are not aware of what is going on in their own country.
Tourists would pay good money to go to Indonesian Borneo just to see orangutans in their natural habitat. Please name and shame all the companies using palm oil from unsustainable sources.
Your article highlighting the ecological damage being done by palm-oil culture, used just seven words to gloss over the fact that "controversially, it is used as a biofuel" .
In Wales, the giant coal-fired Aberthaw power station has experimentally co-fired palm oil, and the oil is also increasingly used to manufacture bio-diesel fuel. In 2005m Aberthaw burnt 2,602 tonnes of palm oil for which it received Renewable Obligation subsidy. This is tiny by comparison with its total fuel-use, but it makes a bottle of supermarket cooking oil look a bit silly.
This is yet another failure of politicians to understand the ecological adage that everything influences everything else and that bio-fuels are distinctly not green.
Dr JOHN ETHERINGTON
I am sitting here looking at the list of ingredients in my bar of chocolate. They are cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, reduced fat cocoa powder, soya lecithin and vanilla. Palm oil, indeed any vegetable oil, is not one of them, and since the chocolate tastes fine it is clear that vegetable oil is not a necessary ingredient.
The best solution for confectionary manufacturers struggling to find "ethical" palm oil is simply to stop using it, and I'd like to ask them for a convincing explanation of why they are not prepared to do that.