Swiss cantons demand palm-oil ban
The canton parliament for Geneva in Switzerland has passed a resolution to exclude palm oil from free-trade discussions with Indonesia and Malaysia. Five other Swiss cantons have approved similar demands.
Geneva unanimously backed the resolution by independent parliamentarian Christina Meissner, who pointed to the severe environmental and social consequences of oil palm.
She claimed that palm-oil imports harmed Swiss production of rapeseed and sunflower oil. The impact of trans-fats on health in palm oil was also mentioned.
MEPs have been told they must ban palm-oil imports for biofuel and tighten oversight of supply chains if the European Union wants to fulfil its forest protection goals.
Switzerland is not an EU member.
A delegation representing indigenous forest communities visited the European Parliament amid a heated row with Indonesia and Malaysia.
MEPs voted in April to prohibit sales of biofuels made from vegetable oils by 2020 in order to meet its targets under the 2015 Paris climate accord. A related vote last month reinforced the measures. Whether any ban will be implemented is being considered by the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, and the European Council of member states.
Palm oil is used in numerous supermarket products and also blended with diesel to power engines, which is what the MEPs’ ban would prohibit.
Malaysian and Indonesian politicians, many of whom are closely linked to the affluent sector, accuse Europe of trade protectionism, neocolonialism and undermining poverty reduction. The Malaysian plantations minister called MEPs’ proposed ban “crop apartheid”.
Indigenous forecast communities, who are being driven from their land to create plantations, told European parliamentarians to tighten supply chain controls to protect their land, rights and environment.
Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of palm oil and Malaysia is in second place, together producing 85 per cent of the planet’s supplies.
Franky Samperante of indigenous peoples’ group Pusaka said Indonesia had granted concessions to more than 50 companies to open plantations on 1.2 million hectares. He said palm oil from these areas should be considered a “conflict product” and banned from the European market.
“There should be sanctions. If not, there is no point,” Samperante told parliamentarians.
The delegation’s demands were backed by the Forest People’s Programme, Global Witness, Greenpeace, WWF and the Environmental Investigation Agency.
Indonesia’s economy ministry said on Thursday that it would draft a regulation to strengthen the certification of sustainable palm oil to take some of the political heat out of the issue.
Musdhalifah, the deputy food and agriculture minister in Jakarta, said a regulation was needed to synchronise state agencies and ministries to address the contentious issue.
Swiss farmers apparently need protection from Southeast Asian palm oil. Picture credit: PXHere