On this day where France is against palm oil, we wanted to share with the inspiring journey of Laurence Duthu, a young grenobloise that created the association: Palm oil: NO! And launched a et lancé une petition to ban all palm oil derivatives in all of our daily products. Interview of a committed woman, positive and enthusiast, everything we like!
Laurence, can you present and explain your journey?
Why did you start this petition?
I’ve always lived in Grenoble and I’ve been passionate about nature, animals and especially primates ever since I was a child. When you are interested in primates and more precisely apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, orang-outans… and Humans), you end up one day or the other with the issues concerning industrial palm tree cultures to produce the famous palm oil. I don’t remember when I discovered this plague but as soon as I found out, it was an evidence to do the most to stop consuming products with palm oil and derivatives. Very difficult thing because it is hidden in eveything but nothing could stop me from keeping this promise I made to the orang-outans (and also to the other habitants of the forest): to boycott all of the products so this forest won’t disappear and them with it… It was more than 5 years ago. The more I saw the ravages caused but the industrial culture of palm trees for oil, the more I was revolted and wanted to do more than boycott the products with this oil and its derivatives. There are so many lies, lobbies, corruption behind this palm oil and even in France! Something I can keep silent about less and less. Plus, after the “Nutella tax”, Ferrero didn’t cease to claim loud and clear their intention ofnever abandonning palm oil in their products especially in Nutella. Haughty and full of contempt regarding the thousands of lives massacred every year. I didn’t need more to create this petition. Because no other structure existed in France to fight this oil, it came naturally to me to create my own. In february this year the first french association to industrial palm oil: “Palm oil: NO!” was born.
Among the major problems related to palm oil, according to you which ones do we have to be most worried about?
Three major problems result from the industrial culture of palm oil: environmental, social and sanitary, that are the pillars of any civilization. Without these basic principles mankind cannot live in a sane society, where nature is preserved, sanitary wellbeing guaranteed and human values respected. Millions of acres of primary and secondary forests are cut down every year for industrial cultures of palm trees from which palm oil is extracted, palm kernel oil and its derivatives (additives for example). From there follows animal and human tragedies. Orang-outans are killed by the hundred every year because they are considered as a burden when they enter the palm groves looking for food, their original forest having been destroyed for this culture… Mothers are massacred to steal their babies that are worth a lot of money. The future they will be offered will have bars, solitude, abuse in a zoo or an amusement parc or even in people’s homes (peasant, expats, …) Orang-outans are not the only victims of this disaster: tigers and rhinos from Sumatra, elephants, gibbons, Malaysian proboscis monkeys, sun bears et many others! The elephants are poisoned so they won’t destroy the cultures, gibbons suffer the same fate as orang-outans. The enormous CO2 emissions into the atmosphere are also an environmental issue related to this culture. When forests are cut to the ground, they are also burnt to facilitate the growth of the next culture which gives better results. While consuming itself soils reject enormous quantities of CO2, especially if its on pat soils. Indonesia is the third country that emits the most CO2. On a social level, small peasants are the first in line because they are expropriated from their land by multinational companies and other big land owners. In the same way, the living and working conditions in these alm groves are as precarious as dangerous: workers are daily axposed to pesticides like paraquat, strong neuro-toxic fabricated by Syngenta, member of the RSPO (defenders of “sustainable” palm oil). Lastly, sanitry-wise, the palm oil that is in manufactured products going from food to cosmetics without forgetting detergents and organic diesel. The palm oil in our food is not the one that little African or Indonesian peasants eat. “Ours” was refined, heated so much so that the nutritional qualities it originally has (the ones pro-palm oil never cease repeating) doesn’t exist any more. It nevertheless has a lot of harmful fat for the organism, in particular for the arteries. Knowing that this oleaginous has meddled with a lot of products, it is difficult to know the quantity daily absorbed. Certainly, but we mustn’t forget the other ravages caused by industrial palm oil… In a nutshell, industrial palm oil has only disadvantages:
-irreversible species extinction
-poor visibility for consumers (oils and fats of natural origine)
Which alternatives/improvements can we hope in the next few years?
Unfortunately nothing for the time being! The number one problem is the eternal and unrestrained search of profits. As long as it stays a monoculture, sustainable (certified RSPO or Greenpalm) or not, it won’t be virtuous. What is RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil)? The RSPO is the institution, widely questionned by ecological associations for its lack of thoroughness and control but also for its actors. The names of big agribusiness and petrochemical groups are part of it and their number one goal is always benefits. The health of our planet easily comes after or even to be exact, its the least of their worries. Do not tell me that Monsanto, Cargill, Sinar Mas are worried or concerned by animal, living peoples in these primary forests? If they are part of this institution, it is only to improve their image by communication actions… Actions I simply call “greenwashing”. These palm groves are treated with harmful pesticides (paraquat like I said previously that is a strong neurotoxic pesticide made by Syngenta member of the RSPO) for the environment and that will end up via palm oil in consumers’ plates. The products sold rarely mention if their palm oil is sustainably certified or not and at which level. Even certified, there are three levels of certification and nothing stops a farmer from having none certified parcels between the certified ones. How can we make sure if this farmer’s entire oil is really 100% sustainable? Plus, RSPO oil is not completely trustworthy since last year, for example, Indofood, member of RSPO, cut down an entire section of a primary forest for their palm grove (according to the Centre for Orangutan Protection). And it’s not the first to do so. Concerning organic palm oil, it is cultivated in Colombia and it is “sustainable” since is it RSPO certified and organic thanks to its way of being grown. But, behind are scandals, expropriations, monopolizing of land, deforestation and paramilitaries involved. Most of the Colombian production comes from the Daabon group, that more and more resembles a mafia rather than a a simple common business. The members of this large family have a foot in politics too which makes gaining land easier… For now, nothing indicates clearly palm oil in a product. From december 13 of this year, after the european regulation 1169/2011 of october 25, 2011, which is mainly to reinforce the right to information by consumers, labels will imperatively have to indicate the type of oil used. Careful! This law only concerns the agribusiness so cosmetics, detergents and others not concerning food, the details will stay the same. It is the same for derivatives (additives for example) where the law doesn’t suggest that they must now be more explicit. Now and for a long time coming, the only alternative is boycotting palm oil and its derivatives by industrials and consumers. For everything concerning food, one of the solutions is to turn towards fresh products, local and of season. Their is a slim chance to find this famous oleaginous while eating healthy and quality food.
Thank you very much Laurence for your commitment. We can follow your association Palm oil: No! On:
– the blog “Palm oil : NO!”
– Facebook page
– Facebook discussion
– Twitter @HuileDePalmeNon