Magazine article Ecos

Out of Sight, out of Mind

Magazine article Ecos

Out of Sight, out of Mind

Article excerpt

There has been sporadic media coverage of the environmental problems associated with the South-East Asian palm oil industry due to increasing international demand for vegetable oils. If ever there was a sustainable development challenge to consider as a case study, this is it.

International consumer markets and financiers extend the palm oil industry's chain of custody past the offices of developing country legislators, and timber merchants, to the doors of the remote plantation companies that are employing poor local labour and handling rapid production expansions. Across this highly profitable network of influence hangs a heavy responsibility for habitat and wildlife destruction. The industry's impacts tend to be out of sight, and therefore conveniently out of mind.

But profitable industries also bring opportunity for regional social development and change, provided destructive influences can be brought under control. But can they? Pages 21-23 profile the impact of the palm oil industry in South-East Asia and the recent international Roundtable initiative aimed at engaging the industry's players in commitments to sustainable production.

This includes supermarkets and the manufacturers that supply them. The article considers Australia's role in the demand increase and highlights that palm oil, particularly in food, could be separately flagged beside other 'vegetable oils'--especially given its high saturated fat content and therefore health implications. …

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