European Parliament resolution on palm oil, stop biodiesel, need reliable certification

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The European Parliament resolution on palm oil of April 4, 2017 (1) aims to halt its use as biodiesel by 2020 at the latest. And introduce a reliable and comprehensive certification to attest to the actual impact of tropical fat on the environment and human societies.

The ‘violation of basic human rights’ associated with ‘the bulk of the world’s palm oil production’ is the central theme of the document, which was in fact voted by a large majority. (2) Where both land robbery, so-called land grabbing, (3) and exploitation of child labor are denounced.

The devastating impact on the environment of tropical monoculture is also roundly condemned. All the more so when peatland forests are destroyed to make way for oil palm plantations. Prohibitive greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion, irreparable damage to biodiversity.
‘This is Parliament’s first resolution on the issue, and it is now up to the Commission to decide how to act. ‘We cannot ignore the problem of deforestation, which threatens the COP21 global climate change agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals’ (Kateřina Konečná, Member of the European Parliament)

The use as biodiesel of tropical fat is to be phased out, by 2020 at the latest. Given that 46 percent of palm oil imported into the EU today has such a fate, this choice will drastically reduce demand for it.

The same could not be achieved on food, cosmetics and household products. But you know, in Strasbourg as in Brussels, the interests of industrial giants unfortunately tend to dominate over those of citizens. And Big Food lobbyists have been able to protect their respective businesses from the ideal goals of the resolution.

European Parliament resolution on sustainable palm oil: reliable certification needed

In any case, the certification of ‘sustainable palm’ must respond to a unified and reliable scheme. (4) As a report by the European Commission itself shows, the very concept of sustainability is incompatible with the current reality of production. And certifications, which already express little, have been disproven on numerous occasions. (5) After all, only 2% of the operators handling this fat are able to trace it back to the plantations of origin! (6)

Europe and its member states should then ensure that investors based there fully comply with international standards to ensure respect for local communities. Such as the principle of free and informed consent of local communities to the transfer of their land (ILO Convention 169). The‘UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)-OECD Guidance for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains’, and especially the ‘FAO voluntary guidelines on land tenure’. (7)

The goal of stopping land grabbing, enslavement of workers including children, deforestation (8) and habitat degradation remains as crucial as it is distant. Stronger interventions would be needed, including at the United Nations and the various international fora dedicated to human rights and the environment. The modulation of import duties in the EU-as voted by the Strasbourg Parliament-in relation to the impact of production is another step forward.

The real revolution remains the one operated by consumAtors. Who, despite widespread misinformation spread by the palmocrats, have said Enough! And retail chains, like industrial operators, have been able to adapt to their choices.

Change is in our hands, and it depends on the exclusion of products (food, cosmetics, shampoo and shower gel, household products) from shopping carts. As demand changes decisively, supply will inevitably have to adjust. (9)

Notes

(1) The text of the European Parliament resolution on palm oil is at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P8-TA-2017-0098+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN

(2) Rapporteur MEP Kateřina Konečná, Political Group ‘GUE/NGL – European United Left – Nordic Green Left – European Parliamentary Group: Another Europe is Possible!’ 640 votes for, 18 against, 28 abstentions

(3) It is news these days that 360 families were violently driven off their lands in Indonesia’s Java island to deforest and plant oil palm trees http://www.farmlandgrab.org/post/view/27037-peasants-l-in-mekar-jaya-the-hometown-of-agrarian-reform-in-indonesia-razed-down-by-a-plantation-firm

(4) In this sense, the Parliament requires the use of the High Carbon Stock (HCS) approach, aimed at identifying areas where the impact of the entire production cycle can be contained (Recommendations, item 30)

(5) Even in recent weeks, when Nestlé had to issue a ‘public apology’ following the allegation of devastation of protected ecosystems, in Sumatra , Indonesia, by its giant supplier Wilmar. Both certified members of RSPO, ça va sans dir

(6) EP resolution, Recommendations, item 27.

(7) See above, Recommendation 55.

(8) Seventy-three percent of global deforestation is driven by agricultural projects, and 40 percent of all deforestation involves oil palm (doc. cited, general considerations, para. 4)
(9) Tropical fat still accounts for 40 percent of international trade in vegetable oils, and Europe is the second largest global importer (see point 13 above)

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.