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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.