'Sustainable palm oil' advert false, says watchdog

10 September 2009

Brussels, 10 September 2009 – Friends of the Earth has welcomed a ruling yesterday, by the UK advertising watchdog, that describing palm oil as "sustainably produced" is false advertising.

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. [1] The ASA has banned the advert.

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.

Friends of the Earth International 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'.[1]

Friends of the Earth Europe biofuels campaigner Adrian Bebb said: 'Europe"s growing demand for palm oil is driving the expansion of plantations around the world. Wasting this oil by burning it in cars adds insult to the crime. The European Union must get rid of its target to massively expand biofuel use.' [2]

The Friends of the Earth's complaint can be found at:
http://www.foei.org/en/what-we-do/forest-and-climate-change/grassroots-highlights/2009/halting-misleading-palm-oil-ads

The ASA ruling can be found at:
http://www.asa.org.uk/asa/adjudications/Public/TF_ADJ_46897.htm

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NOTES
[1] In January 2008, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that an advertisement by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) which described palm oil as "sustainably produced" was false advertising. The verdict followed a Friends of the Earth International complaint against an advert by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council. For further information see: http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/sustainable_palm_oil_adver_09012008.html

[2] The EU target requiring 10 percent of the EU's energy in transport to come from renewable sources by 2020 was passed in December 2008 but still needs to be implemented into national law. Significant new research on the carbon emissions caused by indirect land-use change to make way for biofuels crops was published in 2007 and 2008.