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Nov 17, 2011

EU warned: biofuels will drive biodiversity loss

by PhilLee — last modified Nov 17, 2011 10:55 AM
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Increasing the use of biofuels in Europe will have devastating impacts on wildlife a new scientific assessment has shown.

Land being used for biofuels in Bilene District, Mozambique

Land being used for biofuels in Mozambique. Credit: Daniel Ribeiro

The report by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) estimates that 85 percent of biodiversity will be damaged across 17,000 square kilometres of natural habitats that risks being converted to farmland as a result of EU biofuel targets. None of this will be protected under current EU legislation for biofuels.


After continual controversy and delay, EU chiefs are on the verge of deciding how to deal with the greenhouse gas emissions associated with ‘indirect land use change’ from expanding biofuels. EU officials will tomorrow (Friday November 18) present their assessment of scientific studies, which have consistently shown that the negative impacts on global land use and the climate could reverse any benefits of biofuels. [2] Friends of the Earth Europe is calling for an urgent rethink of EU biofuel policy and an end to subsidies.


The EU has committed to halting biodiversity loss by 2020 – yet without reform, it’s biofuels policy will seriously undermine this commitment.


Commenting on the research, Robbie Blake, biofuels campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said:


“Biofuels, once thought of as a solution, are pushing up food prices around the world, they’re making climate change worse, and it is now clear they could wipe out wildlife.

“Continuing to expand biofuels for Europe’s cars is going to have a devastating impact on the biodiversity which is the very basis of our existence and is already disappearing at an alarming rate.

“The pressure is on the European Commission to decide once and for all how to stop the damage caused by biofuels. It must face up to the facts that biofuels are a disaster for the climate, communities and wildlife.”

The JRC research indicates that habitats in Brazil, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS – the former USSR countries) will be hardest hit: “The extensive use of bioenergy crops will increase the rate in loss of biodiversity,” the JRC concludes.

One such area, Brazil’s Cerrado – the most biodiverse savanna in the world – is already under pressure from expanding agriculture, with 54 species “red-listed” as endangered, including the Brazilian Big-eyed Bat, Giant Anteater, Pampas Cat and Maned Wolf.

further information

Read the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre report
Find out more about Friends of the Earth Europe's agrofuels campaign

Jul 05, 2011

Belgium advertising watchdog bans 'sustainable palm oil' advert as misleading

by PhilLee — last modified Jul 05, 2011 10:29 AM

Brussels, July 5, 2011 - A ruling by the Belgium advertising watchdog has banned an advert by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) because it makes false claims that the production of palm oil is ‘sustainable’.

The decision by the Jury d'Ethique Publicitaire (JEP) follows two earlier rulings in the UK on previous MPOC advertising campaigns. This is a major upset to the palm oil industry which is attempting to convince policy makers to allow palm oil as a biofuel in the EU.


Following a complaint by Friends of the Earth Europe, the Belgian watchdog has ruled that palm oil does have impacts on the environment and therefore the claim that it is sustainable is in breach of its environmental advertising code [1]. The advert should be changed or withdrawn.


Friends of the Earth Europe corporate campaigner, Paul de Clerck, said:


“The JEP is right to ban this misleading advert by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council. It is a lie to advertise palm oil as sustainably produced – palm oil destroys forests and peat soils, forces local communities off their land and leads to increased carbon emissions. The decision raises serious questions about the credibility of the Malaysian palm oil industry. It is the third time they have been ordered to stop misleading the European public but they continue to ignore these rulings and spread false information. The European Union must take note and stop the use of palm oil as a biofuel.”


MPOC represents the Malaysian palm oil industry. It is promoting palm oil as a sustainable product to the European Commission and European Parliament and national governments in Europe. Part of its lobby  strategy is to publish adverts in top European newspapers and on websites. This is now the third time that MPOC’s claim that palm oil is sustainable has been considered to be misleading by European advertising 

watchdogs [2].


MPOC is currently in the process of establishing a European Palm Oil Council to promote palm oil towards the EU.


Further information

To find out more about this complaint visit the Friends of the Earth Europe website

Apr 07, 2011

Complaint filed against misleading Malaysian Palm Oil Council advert

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 07, 2011 10:20 AM

Friends of the Earth International have filed a complaint to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) about an internet banner advert of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) with the words "Sustainable. Food Security. Societal Advancement. This is Palm Oil."

palm plantationThe advert was displayed on the Guardian Environment Blog website at least on the March 28, 2011, probably longer. We believe it constitutes a breach of the British code of advertising, sales promotion and direct marketing.

Already on January 9, 2008 and on August 27, 2009 the ASA found that a TV advert and a print advert respectively by MPOC with equivalent claims about the sustainability of palm oil breached rules and should not reappear.

MPOC have chosen to disrespect the ASA’s ruling and have continued to produce misleading adverts about the sustainability of palm oil.

Friends of the Earth is worried that future adverts of MPOC will continue to ignore the Code and asks the ASA to utilise the full range of penalties at its disposal in response.

In particular Friends of the Earth suggests that:

  • MPOC publish an advert of the same size that explains that their previous advert was misleading.
  • The ASA advises UK media not to publish any adverts of MPOC for a substantial period, as they consistently mislead.


Relevant articles of the Code


3.1 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove all claims, whether direct or implied, that are capable of objective substantiation.

3.2 If there is a significant division of informed opinion about any claims made in a marketing communication they should not be portrayed as generally agreed.


7.1 No marketing communication should mislead, or be likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise.


49.2 Claims such as ‘environmentally friendly’ or ‘wholly biodegradable’ should not be used without qualification unless marketers can provide convincing evidence that their product will cause no environmental damage when taking into account the full life cycle of the product. Qualified claims and comparisons such as ‘greener’ or ‘friendlier’ may be acceptable if marketers can substantiate that their product provides an overall improvement in environmental terms either against their competitors’ or their own previous products.

49.3 Where there is a significant division of scientific opinion or where evidence is inconclusive this should be reflected in any statements made in the marketing communication. Marketers should not suggest that their claims command universal acceptance if that is not the case.

Areas of complaint

1. The banner advert says ”Sustainable. Food Security. Societal Advancement. This is Palm Oil.”

This is contravention of principle 49.2 as the use of the term “Sustainable” in this context implies that palm oil is a particularly environmentally friendly product, while the marketer cannot provide convincing evidence that palm oil will cause no environmental damage when taking into account the full life cycle of the product. 

The use of the term "sustainable" in this context is also in breach of
-    principle 3.1 as the claim that palm oil is always sustainable cannot be substantiated.
-    principle 3.2 as MPOC portrays their claims in a way that suggests they generally accepted, despite that there is significant division of informed opinion about the environmental and social impacts of palm oil.
-    principle 7.1 as MPOC misleads the reader by making inaccurate claims in contradiction to generally accepted evidence for major negative environmental impacts of palm oil plantations.
-    principle 49.2 the claim  that palm oil is “sustainable” is similar to “environmental friendly” and the marketer cannot provide convincing evidence that palm oil will cause no environmental damage when taking account the full life cycle.  
-    principle 49.3 as the ad suggest that the claim that palm oil is sustainable command universal acceptance while this is not the case.

Mar 15, 2010

Europe’s demand for palm oil driving deforestation and land-grabbing

by PhilLee — last modified Mar 15, 2010 02:40 PM

One of the leading suppliers of "green" palm oil to Europe is illegally encroaching upon Indonesian forest and peat land, according to a report published by Friends of the Earth Europe. The report exposes the illegal activities of the Malaysian showcase company IOI Group and shows that the increasing demand in Europe for palm oil in food and biofuels is leading to deforestation, breaches of environmental law and land conflicts in Asia.

lol-agro-reportThe revelations come as the European Commission re-considers its attempt to redefine palm oil plantations as "forests" in their draft guidance to EU countries aiming to prevent unsustainable biofuels, and discussions surrounding the use of industry-led certification schemes to meet EU standards continue.


Read the report here

Adrian Bebb, food and agriculture campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Illegal deforestation, land-grabbing and the breach of environmental laws are the reality behind Europe’s palm oil use. Europe’s biofuel target and palm-oil obsession are driving this destruction, and companies like the IOI Group, that promote themselves as green and responsible, are putting profit before both people and the planet, sacrificing forests for Europe’s food and fuel."

According to the United Nations the rapid increase in palm oil plantation acreage is now the primary cause of permanent rainforest loss in Indonesia.

The Friends of the Earth investigation exposes the actions of the Malaysian-based IOI Group, the largest palm oil company in the world and one of the driving forces behind 'green' certification schemes for palm oil. The research reveals that IOI is responsible for illegal deforestation, the encroachment upon protected peat lands, and land-grabbing at the expense of local rice farmers in the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan.

IOI Group is a leading member of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), one of the most active lobby groups pushing for palm oil to be used as a biofuel in the EU, and co-founder of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The majority of palm oil comes to Europe via the Netherlands where IOI operate a number of facilities. The food-multinational Unilever and the Finnish biofuel producer Neste Oil are among the buyers of IOI's palm oil.

"By attempting to redefine industrial palm oil plantations as forests, forests will become fair game for conversion into damaging biofuel plantations. The resulting green house gas emissions from deforestation mean that EU biofuel targets end up fuelling climate change rather than curbing it. All efforts should be made to prevent the use of palm oil in biofuels" Adrian Bebb concluded.


further information


Nov 19, 2009

FoEI submit grievance against roundtable on sustainable palm oil

by PhilLee — last modified Nov 19, 2009 12:48 PM

Friends of the Earth International have submitted a grievance against members of the roundtable on sustainable palm oil (RSPO) who sit on the board of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council and have repeatedly broken RSPO's code of conduct.

The grievance has been made against the Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA), who are a co-founder and member of RSPO as well as an institutional representative in the Board of Trustees of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC). The grievance furthermore extends to RSPO members whose CEOs or Board Members are also represented in the MPOC Board of Trustees.


RSPO members have committed themselves to be bound by a Code of Conduct which states:

"Members will not make any misleading or unsubstantiated claims about the production, procurement or use of sustainable palm oil."

MPOC is not a member of RSPO but key RSPO members have been and continue to be heavily represented in the MPOC Board of Trustees.


MPOC has never publicised information about the mandates of its Board of Trustee members. In view of the generally accepted roles and responsibilities of such Board of Trustee members it is fair to assume that such directors are responsible to help shape the organisation’s policies, carry responsibility for its practices at large and help implement the organisation’s policies.

Furthermore, the 2007 MPOC Annual Report highlights how MPOC’s Board of Trustee members have contributed to MPOC’s marketing efforts world-wide.

The members of the Board of Trustees are therefore assumed to be responsible for MPOC’s external communications. This is highly relevant, because in the last 2 years, MPOC has twice seen its advertisements banned from British media for breaches of the Advertising Standards Authority.


We will report back on the outcome


further reading

Read the grievance here

Oct 22, 2009

Featured video: Killing Fields

by Krista Stryker — last modified Oct 22, 2009 11:30 AM

As part of the project Feeding and Fueling Europe, "Killing Fields: the Battle to Feed Factory Farms" seeks to illustrate the hidden chain of destruction from the factory farms in Europe to the forests of South America.

Killing FieldsThe documentary looks at the huge soy plantations in South America that are wiping out the local wildlife, negatively contributing to climate change and forcing thousands of indigenous people from their land. Soy plantations have been growing in recent years due to the huge demand for the crop in Europe to feed factory farmed pigs, chickens and cows.


Killing Fields reveals the true cost of growing soy in South America, suggesting that both South America and Europe are being harmed in the unsustainable practice of factory farming.


Watch the film here

Sep 24, 2009

featured video: fix the food chain

by Krista Stryker — last modified Sep 24, 2009 01:05 PM

Learn about the environmental impacts of the meat and dairy industry in a film highlighting Friends of the Earth's Food Chain Campaign.

European biofuel use driving disaster in Indonesia

by Krista Stryker — last modified Sep 24, 2009 01:05 PM

Borneo's forests, wildlife and people are at an elevated risk due to Europe's increasing use of biofuels.

European biofuel destructionNew research released by Friends of the Earth shows for the first time the extent of damage being caused by the European Union’s increasing use of biofuels.

The research focuses on the massive expansion of palm oil in the Indonesian district of Ketapang and reports on the deforestation, illegal operations and social conflicts caused by the growing demand for palm oil in Europe.

The report follows last week’s announcement by the World Bank to cease funding palm oil projects.



The research conducted in Ketapang, a large district in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, investigates how demand for palm oil for energy is leading to an expansion of palm oil crops, and whether so-called sustainability schemes prevent illegal operations, deforestation, climate emissions and social conflicts. It concludes that:

  • In the last three years, the government of Ketapang handed out licenses to grow palm plantations on 40% of the district’s land surface, bypassing laws intended to protect forests, the environment and people.


  • 39 of the 54 licenses overlap with 400,000 hectares of protected forests, including parts of a national park with orang-utan habitat. Permits to grow palm plantations now cover 1.4 million hectares.


  • 43% of the land being acquired is by companies that are members of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), and the same violations are being committed by members as by non-members.


  • The rights of local communities are often ignored. 20 land conflicts had been reported by the end of 2008, and this figure is set to rise as the expansion of plantations increases.


European biofuel destruction in IndonesiaGeert Ritsema, head of globalization and environment at Friends of the Earth Netherlands, said: "The rising demand for palm oil is leading directly to illegal deforestation and social conflicts in Indonesia. If this continues the forests in Borneo will be wiped out, together with the wildlife and people they support, whilst contributing massively to climate change."

Ritsema continued: "Biofuels are a false solution to climate change. Instead of relying on feedstock imports that create enormous environmental and social problems in other countries, the European Union must act responsibly and address climate change at home with less energy-demanding vehicles and improvements in public transport."


Read the report here

Sep 10, 2009

'Sustainable palm oil' advert false says watchdog

by PhilLee — last modified Sep 10, 2009 10:47 AM
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After a complain from Friends of the Earth International the UK advertising watchdog has ruled that claiming palm oil is "sustainably produced" is false advertising.

Logging deforestation for palm oil production. The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruling followed a Friends of the Earth Europe/International complaint against an advert by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council.

MPOC's statement that palm oil is the 'only product able to sustainably and efficiently meet a larger portion of the world's increasing demand for oil crop-based consumer good, foodstuffs and biofuels' was found misleading.

Also the statement that palm oil contributes to alleviation of poverty was misleading, as 'there was not a consensus of the economic impact of palm oil on local communities'.

The ASA further stated that the certification scheme of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil was 'still the subject of debate'. Therefore, making a claim that palm oil could be wholly sustainable, which cannot be substantiated, was deemed to be misleading.

Our corporate campaigner Paul de Clerck said:


'We are pleased that the ASA has ruled that palm oil cannot be qualified as sustainable. The Malaysian palm oil industry continues to lie about the negative environmental and social impacts of palm oil. The vast scale of palm oil production means that it cannot be sustainable - it destroys forests, increases carbon emissions, and forces local communities in developing countries off their land'.


Photo credit: Helen Buckland. Logging deforestation for palm oil production.

Jun 04, 2009

Jatropha: Exposing the New Threats to Africa's Agriculture

by Krista Stryker — last modified Jun 04, 2009 02:00 PM
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Friends of the Earth Ghana held an event on May 28, 2009, condemning the procurement of African lands by foreign companies for the production of the 'wonder crop' Jatropha.

jatrophaAt the recent Jatropha World Summit in Ghana government ministers and big business promoted the large scale export and production of the crop in the capital's La Palm Beach Hotel. Meanwhile in rather less salubrious surroundings a one day side event shone a critical light on the so called miracle crop.


The side event held by Friends of the Earth Ghana was called 'Jatropha: Exposing the New Threats to Africa's Agriculture' and focused on debunking the myth of Jatropha as a miracle crop as well as condemning the idea that Africa has large chunks of wasteland waiting for someone to put them to use.

Jatropha is being pushed as one of the new miracle crops for African small farmers to produce fuel and dig themselves out of poverty. The reality is that agrofuel developments are firmly controlled by Northern companies which are taking over land at an incredible pace, and are bringing about serious socio-economic and environmental impacts on our communities, food security, forests and water resources.


The side event was attended by representatives of Friends of the Earth groups from Ghana, Nigeria and Togo, as well as consumer groups, Ghanaian NGOs and the media.  Participants discussed their frustration at the acquisition of African land by foreign companies and raised the question of who decides what is marginal land and what is not. 

Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, told the participants that he hoped the summit would cause business tycoons and government officials meeting in Accra to stop and think about their actions. 

"Africa is being so severely challenged and is routinely characterised as the sick continent of the world," he says, "it is a challenge to the peoples of Africa to rise up and resist any move that will severely impact our ability to meet our food needs, further add problems to the land tenure difficulties and further project the continent as a land that is good only for exploitation." 

"The time has come for Africa to focus on renewable energy and strive for energy sovereignty," Nnimmo says.


  • Read Friends of the Earth's report on Jatropha in Swaziland

Feb 05, 2009

featured video: the agrofuels myth

by JannekeBruil — last modified Feb 05, 2009 04:35 PM
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Can agrofuels ever be a sustainable solution for the current energy and climate crises? This video brings you the voices of communities and campaigners around the world.

Jul 22, 2008

malaysian palm oil - green gold or green wash?

by UrskaMerc — last modified Jul 22, 2008 01:55 AM
Logging deforestation for palm oil production.

a commentary on the sustainability claims of malaysia's palm oil lobby, with a special focus on the state of sarawak

Friends of the Earth International, October 2008

Read the press release

Download the full report [PDF]


Mar 31, 2008

Halting misleading palm oil ads

by UrskaMerc — last modified Mar 31, 2008 12:30 PM

When the Malaysian Palm Oil Council put out a television advertisement making claims about its "sustainable" palm oil in 2007, Friends of the Earth International reported the council to the UK advertising watchdog and won. Now in 2009 Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland are taking the Council to task again.

foei victory in bid to halt misleading palm oil adsPalm oil plantations in Malaysia and the wider region are responsible for massive forest destruction, carbon dioxide emissions, and broad environmental and social ills.


In an edition of the Economist in April 2009 the Malaysian Palm Oil Council referred to their product as "the green answer".


They claimed that "what makes palm oil so attractive is that its production puts minimal strain on the environment.”


Additionally they stated that: “Palm oil is the only product available to sustainably and efficiently meet a large proportion of the world‟s increasing demand for oil crop-based consumer goods, foodstuff and biofuels”


Friends of the Earth totally refutes the claims and we believe they are in contravention of UK advertising regulations as there is insufficient evidence to back these up and many more. As a result Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland have filed a complaint to the UK Advertising Standards Association (ASA).


Read the complaint here [PDF]


Update: On September 10, 2009 the ASA ruled in our favour.


Background to the 2007 complaint

In 2007 an advertisement appeared on UK television from the Malaysian Palm Oil Council. The images and text of the television ad portrayed Malaysian palm oil as green and environmentally friendly, using statements such as "a gift from nature, a gift for life" and "helping the planet breathe", as well as images of oil palm trees and tropical rainforests. In particular, the final sentence "sustainably produced since 1917" is clearly misleading - the consumer is likely to take from the term that palm oil is produced without harming the environment in any way. The footage in the advertisement, by hinting that palm oil production does not harm trees or contribute to deforestation, also misleads the consumer into believing palm oil is "sustainably produced".

Making its official complaint to the UK Advertising Standards Agency, FoEI stated that it strenuously opposes the palm oil council’s reference to so-called "sustainable" palm oil. On January 9, 2008, FoEI’s complaint was fully upheld, as the UK ad watchdog agreed there was no evidence to support the Council's claim that palm oil is sustainably produced. The watchdog further deemed the adverts to be misleading, and stated they should not be broadcast again.

More information:


photo credit: myrthe verweij



Nov 28, 2007

declaration on agrofuels

by DebraBroughton — last modified Nov 28, 2007 01:10 PM
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Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) believes that agrofuels are a false solution to the current energy and climate crisis and campaigns against their development, production and trade.


Agrofuels (often called biofuels) are liquid fuels, notably biodiesel and bioethanol. So-called first generation agrofuels are derived from food crops such as cereals, soybean, rapeseed oil, sugar cane and palm oil. Second generation, which are currently under development, are aimed at using agricultural residues, trees (willow, eucalyptus) and straw, and may involve industrial technologies such as genetically modified microorganisms, crops and trees. Both generations set out to provide fuel on an industrial and large scale for electricity production and transportation.


Friends of the Earth International is deeply concerned that the rapid development and production of agrofuels will increase already serious social and environmental problems including the risk of worsening climate change. In particular there is a real danger that agrofuels will:

  1. increase poverty and hunger - particularly in the South - as food prices increase and land is used to grow fuel rather than food which destroys family farmers¹ livelihoods, turns prime agricultural land over to servicing the energy commodity market and reduces food production.
  2. violate human rights, including indigenous peoples¹ land rights, as local communities are expelled, often violently, from their forest and agricultural lands to make way for corporate-run monoculture plantations.
  3. damage biodiversity and eco-systems as agriculture is intensified to meet the new demand, for example through the increase in monocultures and genetically modified crops. Furthermore, agriculture is forced to expand into sensitive and biodiversity rich areas such as forests, savannas, fallow and marginal land.
  4. increase pressure on valuable natural resources such as water and productive agricultural land.
  5. contribute to climate change as carbon sinks are destroyed through forests being felled or peatlands drained and through excessive use of fertilizer and energy consumption for production and distribution.
  6. exacerbate an already unsustainable trade in agricultural products that depends largely on the exploitation of countries of the global South to meet the needs of the richer North.
  7. distract governments from taking real measures to tackle the climate and energy crisis.

Friends of the Earth International believes that the certification of agrofuels will provide no guarantee of sustainability nor address all of the above concerns. We are extremely concerned by the politically driven demand for agrofuels, especially in light of the mounting evidence of social and environmental problems, and the belief that certification will solve these.


On this basis Friends of the Earth International is calling for a halt to the development, production and trade of agrofuels and that all targets and other incentives, including subsidies, carbon trading and public and private finance related to the development and production of agrofuels should be abolished.


Real solutions


Greenhouse gas emissions need to be dramatically reduced in order to prevent the most dangerous consequences of climate change. FOEI is calling for stringent targets and timetables, the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies and the promotion of effective solutions.


Friends of the Earth International promotes:

  1. peoples' energy sovereignty (i.e. the ability of peoples and communities to decide over their energy sources and energy consumption patterns that will lead them to sustainable societies);
  2. sustainable transportation; and
  3. genuine solutions to climate change such as safe clean renewable energy, energy savings and efficiency.

All renewable energy developments should be within strict environmental and social parameters, should not endanger food sovereignty and should lead to the empowerment of communities.


Friends of the Earth International challenges the over-consumption and inefficient use of natural resources, particularly in the North, and campaigns for environmental sustainable and socially just societies.


28 November, 2007


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