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Nov 09, 2007 04:30 AM
Surging palm-oil demand from the food and biofuel industries threatens to ignite a "climate bomb" as developing countries strip forests and swamps to make way for plantations, Greenpeace said yesterday.

Indonesia, the biggest producer of the oil, releases 1.8 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases or 4 per cent of the world total a year by burning its peatlands to grow palms, said John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace U.K.

Nestle SA and Unilever PLC are among those "turning a blind eye" to the destruction by using cheap oil in their products, Greenpeace said. Commodity traders "blend palm oil from deforestation and conversion of peatlands into an undifferentiated supply for the global market, leaving little trace of their sources."

Greenpeace "exaggerates Nestle's role," a spokesperson said, while Unilever said it is "looking for a sustainable solution."

1 Comment

  1. Alex Fischer AUTHOR

    Another related and more comprehensive article: 

    Big food companies accused of risking climate catastrophe

    John Vidal, environment editor

    The GuardianThursday November 8 2007


    The rush to palm oil and biofuels threatens to release 14 billion tonnes of carbon from Indonesia's peatlands
    Many of the largest food and fuel companies risk climate change disaster by driving the demand for palm oil and biofuels grown on the world's greatest peat deposits, a report will say today.

    Unilever, Cargill, Nestlé, Kraft, Procter & Gamble, as well as all leading UK supermarkets, are large users of Indonesian palm oil, much of which comes from the province of Riau in Sumatra, where an estimated 14.6bn tonnes of carbon - equivalent to nearly one year's entire global carbon emissions - is locked up in the world's deepest peat beds.

    More than 1.4m hectares of virgin forest in Riau has already been converted to plantations to provide cooking oil, but a further 3m hectares is planned to be turned to biofuels, says the Greenpeace report

    Carbon is released when virgin forests are felled and the swampy peatlands are drained to provide plantation land. The peat decomposes and is broken down by bacteria and the land becomes vulnerable to fires which often smoulder and release greenhouse gases for decades.