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Palm Oil Campaign Gaining Support

Palm Oil Campaign Gaining Support

April 7, 2014

The Auckland Zoo played host to a workshop run by Unmask Palm Oil, an Auckland-based consumer rights campaign, on Saturday morning.

45 people attended the workshop, which was held to inform the public about the adverse social and environmental effects of palm oil production and to explain how Unmask Palm Oil is actively lobbying for legislative change. Under current food standards, companies can label palm oil generically as ‘vegetable oil’ on their products. The Unmask Palm Oil campaign is lobbying to bring Australasian standards in line with U.S and EU standards which require palm oil to be clearly labelled.

At the workshop Ben Dowdle, the coordinator of Unmask Palm Oil, introduced the campaign to the attendees and then, thanks to Auckland Zoo, the group had the chance to meet some of the animals which are being threatened by the production of palm oil.

Palm oil is an ingredient present in a significant amount of processed foods, cosmetics, soaps and shampoos. Production of the oil is chiefly based in Indonesia and Malaysia where the rampant growth of the unsustainable industry is causing lasting social and environmental harm.

Virgin rainforest is continuously being cleared to make way for new palm oil plantations. This deforestation is done in a slash-and-burn manner which threatens endangered species, forces locals off their land and causes severe air pollution like the haze that hovered over much of South East Asia in mid-2013.

“We advocate for consumers to either buy Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) or another suitable alternative to conventional palm oil,” says Dowdle. “However, in the absence of labelling consumers find this very difficult and they are relatively powerless to push companies to clean up their act.”

The campaign is hard at work ahead of a vote in May 2015 by the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation. The Forum is made up of 10 ministers from across Australia and New Zealand who will determine whether mandatory labelling goes out to public consultation.


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