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Is your Halloween candy linked to rainforest destruction?

Oil palm plantations and rainforest in Malaysian Borneo. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Oil palm plantations and rainforest in Malaysian Borneo. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

A campaign by the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo hopes to raise awareness about the link between Halloween candy and deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. Employing the images of Critically Endangered orangutans, the zoo urges consumer to only buy candy containing eco-certified palm oil by the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Palm oil, which is an incredibly productive vegetable oil, has become ubiquitous in recent decades in many products: from cosmetics to convenience foods, as well as popular Halloween candies. While the industry has been a boom to the nations’ economies, its rapid expansion has been blamed in part for vast deforestation across Malaysia and Indonesia; in fact a recent paper for the 90 percent of palm oil plantations in the Malaysian state of Kalimantan came at the expense of forests.

Orangutans are unable to survive in the long-term in oil palm plantations as they lose their major food sources. In addition, sometimes they are hunted down as pests. This situation has led to increasingly overcrowded orangutan orphanages. However, the destruction of these forests, some of the most biodiverse in the region, not only imperils orangutans, but thousands of other species, some still unknown to science.

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has created a PDF file that is “meant to be a helpful guide for consumers that are concerned about orangutan conservation and deforestation due to non-sustainable palm oil production in Indonesia and Malaysia,” and urges consumers to only purchase candy by RSPO members, a list that includes Nestle, Kellogg’s, Hershey’s and Mars among others.

“If you do not find your favorite snack/company on this list,” the zoo writes, “take action by writing a letter and asking the company to join the RSPO and be committed to using certified sustainable palm oil.”

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90 percent of oil palm plantations came at expense of forest in Kalimantan

(10/08/2012) From 1990 to 2010 almost all palm oil expansion in Kalimantan came at the expense of forest cover, according to the most detailed look yet at the oil palm industry in the Indonesian state, published in Nature: Climate Change. Palm oil plantations now cover 31,640 square kilometers of the state, having expanded nearly 300 percent since 2000. The forest loss led to the emission of 0.41 gigatons of carbon, more than Indonesia’s total industrial emissions produced in a year. Furthermore the scientists warn that if all current leases were converted by 2020, over a third of Kalimantan’s lowland forests outside of protected areas would become plantations and nearly quadruple emissions.

Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil hits 10 year mark

(10/04/2012) The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is holding its tenth annual meeting later this month. The initiative, which aims to improve the social and environmental performance of palm oil production through a certification standard, has advanced considerably during that time, moving from an idea to a reality: RSPO-certified palm oil now accounts for 12 percent of global palm oil production. Yet the RSPO is not without controversy. Some palm oil companies say its criteria are too costly to adopt and are therefore discriminatory, while environmental critics argue its bar for “sustainable” palm oil is too low and the loopholes allow producers to claim membership even if they aren’t actually producing certified palm oil across all their holdings. Nonetheless the RSPO has support from many of the world’s largest palm oil producers, traders, and consumers as well as the biggest NGOs.

Aceh revokes permit for controversial oil palm plantation in Sumatra

(10/01/2012) Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah officially revoked the business permit for a company developing a controversial oil palm plantation in a peat swamp in Sumatra, concluding a case that had tested Indonesia’s commitment to a moratorium on new concessions in peatlands and rainforests.

Palm oil company in Cameroon drops bid for eco-certification of controversial plantation

(09/05/2012) Herakles Farm, a U.S.-based agricultural developer, will no longer seek eco-certification of its 70,000-hectare oil palm plantation in Cameroon, reports the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The move comes amid criticism from environmental groups that Herakles is converting high conservation value rainforest for the plantation.

Palm oil need not come at expense of the environment

(08/16/2012) Palm oil production need not come at the expense of the environment, says Greenpeace in a new campaign that highlights a smallholder approach used by a community in Riau Province on the island of Sumatra.

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