This Valentine’s Day, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) is urging us all to find a better way to show our love than with store-bought candies that contain palm oil. Activists will be placing stickers that say “There’s nothing romantic about #ConflictPalmOil” on Valentine’s candies at stores in 250 U.S. cities to raise awareness about how palm oil production is hurting us, animals and the environment.
The message is part of the organization’s campaign urging major food companies and some of the biggest chocolate brands — including Hershey’s, Mars, Nestle and Mondelez (formerly Kraft) — to stop using what has been dubbed Conflict Palm Oil. The ultimate goal here is to get companies to go above and beyond the questionable certification scheme set up under the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which is supposed to ensure that palm oil is sustainably produced, but doesn’t.
“None of America’s big chocolate companies can verifiably ensure that their candies and chocolates do not contain palm oil connected to child labor, land grabs and rainforest destruction,” said Gemma Tillack, senior agribusiness campaigner for RAN, in a statement. “We’re putting Hershey’s on notice that it’s time to kiss Conflict Palm Oil good-bye.”
Unfortunately, palm oil is found in a multitude of products found on our store shelves and its use continues to grow. According to RAN, approximately 85 percent of palm oil is grown in the tropical countries of Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea on industrial plantations. The continued production of palm oil in these countries is having severe impacts on wildlife, the environment and local communities.
Palm oil production destroys critical habitat for endangered orangutans and other species — including Sumatran tigers and elephants, Malayan sun bears and rhinos — threatens water supplies, and makes communities more vulnerable to natural disasters, in addition to perpetuating child labor and forced labor. The continued cutting, burning and draining of rainforests and peatlands also hugely contributes to carbon pollution.
Hopefully, letting big companies know that continuing to use Conflict Palm Oil is unacceptable will get them to change their policies and create supply chains that are transparent and traceable and don’t involve further destruction of critical rainforests and peatlands. Quite a few of the companies that make holiday candy aren’t sourcing traceable palm oil and have no time table set up to start doing so.
If you want to skip out on palm oil entirely this year, there’s a a free app created by the El Paso Zoo called the Palm Oil Guide and Scanner that lets you scan barcodes to find out if palm oil is in a product, in addition to helping find alternatives.
For more information about the trouble with palm oil and how to help, visit ConflictPalmOil.org.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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