Demand for palm oil threatens the orang-utan with extinction
Thank you for sending us your comments.
The debate is now closed but a selection of your views are published below.
Panorama: Dying for a Biscuit was broadcast on BBC One at 8.30pm on Monday, 22 February 2010.
I would like to thank you for bringing this matter to my attention! I was unaware that companies were doing this and thanks to your programme I will now be far more careful about the products I buy from the supermarkets. If we do not look after our environment it will soon be too late and we will lose many of our precious species of animal.
- S. Dalton and S. Mercer
Thank you for highlighting the issues surrounding palm oil. I make soap, which I am starting to sell, and made the conscious decision not to use palm oil in any of my products - sustainable or not. This is another example of man's get rich quick scheme, at the expense of the natural world.
- Suzanne Jones
As long as demand is there with population of world need food you cannot avoid this cheaper oil.
Thank you for this very informative program, I was well aware of palm oil production in Indonesia, but I had no idea that as a consumer it is used in the products that I purchase and it is not labelled to give me the option not to purchase. We will now research the products and boycott any that use palm oil.
- Dean Lewis
Since I can't be sure of those products labelled "vegetable oils" as lacking palm oil, the answer is simple - I shan't buy anything with those words at all. That's the only way I can be sure. It's up to us - the public - to change things. If we all did this, the oil companies wouldn't be able to sell to anyone!
- Christine Poster
I was horrified watching this show. I was aware of the use of palm oil. But I never knew it was put in so many household products. I can't put into words how shocked I am. I will in future be more careful what I buy. How is the misuse of this product being allowed?
- Julie Harris
Wow! This program was so moving and has made me think a lot! I would love to do the same as the presenter and go to a different country and help orang-utans! I really hope more people see this program and we can all do something about it!
- Beth (age 11)
Tonight's Panorama episode was certainly enlightening, proving yet again the end consumer has little knowledge of what the large corporations are partly responsible for. The episode will certainly affect my purchasing choices - the removal of the natural habitat for any animal is in my view unforgiveable and exposure like this has to be a good thing to open people's eyes.
- David George
An extremely disturbing documentary, "Dying For A Biscuit" addresses the issue that palm oil is hidden behind the general label "Vegetable Oil", but it didn't go far enough in failing to appeal to the government for a change in legislation. I believe the government should address this issue of "hidden ingredients" through legislation, ensuring that each and every ingredient becomes known, so that the general public can vote against this product through abstinence and in doing so work to save both the rainforests, orang-utans and our planet.
- Antonia Jarvis
Well done BBC for raising the issue of palm oil, reading the commitments which companies have made to reducing their use of palm oil or sourcing from sustainable sources, it would be great to see in 12 months time an update on the situation and whether they are really making progress or whether they were empty promises. Aside from decimating the orang-utan population, which is heart breaking enough, without Indonesia's rainforests the world has a reduced carbon store which adds to the ever growing problem of rising CO2 emissions and climate change.
An excellent piece of investigative journalism. May it make a difference! The image of the orang-utan climbing up to the top of a "tree" that was not much more than a telegraph pole amongst a forest of similar remnants of rainforest should become as much of an icon as the images of polar bears stranded on diminishing icebergs. Overwhelmingly depressing. What have we done to the earth we were given to look after? And none of us can distance ourselves from what is going on, unless we can boycott every tainted product in an alarmingly long list.
- Stuart Otley
What a truly enlightening programme. For far too long have I been caught by the marketing stereotype that is vegetable oil - what is the picture that comes into your head when you think of a vegetable? Not a nut like palm nut I'm sure! I have been to naive for far too long. Surely if companies such as Unilever truly believed in their plans to make palm oil sustainable, then they would not hide behind the vegetable oil label to which we all buy into without thinking. I will be considering my purchases carefully next time I buy a tub of margarine.
- Ben Daplyn
Well done Panorama on bring the plight of the Orang-utans to the awareness of the consumer. I was really angry to learn that manufacturers were able to legally hide "palm oil" on their labelling under "vegetable oil" as I have been checking labels when shopping for over a year to ensure I did not buy anything containing palm oil. They declare "peanut oil" and I felt that this would be the same. I will most certainly now be boycotting these products until the manufacturers source from legal and sustainable sources. Again many thanks for your programme as I am sure others now will think twice before buying these and other foods.
- Sian Davies
It was good to see how much and how complex the whole situation really is. One thing I found interesting was how the peat areas can produce so much CO2 during the farming of the palm oil! By saving these forests we save not only the orang-utans but the other animals of the forest and the world in general on a wider level! This is very much a message that needs to be put across much more in this, the International Year of Biodiversity!
- Simon McGlary
Good to know that so many companies plan to source sustainable palm oil by 2015. And before then? - how many more square miles of forest will be lost? Now let's have a list of products we can boycott - when manufacturers start losing sales then they will really take action!
- Sheila Penfold
Not sure what the public can achieve as a result of this programme. While we can try to avoid products which contain palm oil, companies will no doubt continue to increase the size of plantations in order to produce increasingly more palm oil for bio diesel. I fear the future of the Orang-utan in Indonesia is very bleak!
- Cliff Webb
I for one would wish to know if a product I intended to purchase contained any palm oil - surely it should be law to state that the product contains palm oil? The % argument holds no water with me, it either contains it or doesn't? - if we can labels foods that contain nuts due to allergies we must be able to ascertain if a product contains palm oil and label it accordingly. If the source of the palm oil is sustainable then it would be a badge of honour for the manufacturer. Save the Orang-utans.
- Jon Woods
Well done Panorama! This is never going to go away. The big Companies behind all of this should indeed be penalised severely so that there is a warning presented to others who see this as an easy way to make their pockets lined with this blood money! Shame on them! The public are the ones who can make a difference by being assertive with what we buy. If we all act together we can bit by bit make them change their actions to try to preserve what is left of the rain forest. The cause of many modern day issues is greed the question is do any of us have a conscience. Our Government should ensure that our food products are labelled properly so we can make informed choices.
- Karen Noble
One day not too far away all life on earth will wake up gasping for breath. The equation is simple, compare the oxygen available from one square kilometre of prime, rich rainforest and compare it with the potential pollution from out of a plantation, it's not only the responsible stewards like animals which are denied the rich bounty, it is the destroyers, humans, who with their short sighted greed are gambling with the future of life on Earth.
- Mike Lancaster
I was greatly informed by "Dying For A Biscuit", and saddened by the illegal burning of the rain-forest and the endangering of the orangutans. I was very surprised at how many of our super-market products contain either sustainable or unsustainable palm oil. I intend to question my local super-market as soon as possible. All this illegal logging needs to stop.
- Jamie McIntosh
I had no idea that palm oil was being passed off as vegetable oil in products at the supermarket. Had I known, I would have avoided buying those products. I want to buy products with ingredients that don't threaten the world's habitats and all that lives among them. Thank you Panorama for bringing this topic to my attention - this will help me make the right choices before putting my hand in my pocket. I so hope other consumers do the same.
- C Baker
With reference to the spokesperson from 'Flora' stating they cannot put palm oil as an ingredient on the label because vegetable oil content varies. Why not put 'vegetable oil content may vary. May contain palm oil' on label instead?
- Christine Cheal
Having been to Borneo and seeing for myself the devastation to the Rain Forest and the sheer volume of Palm Tree plantations I thought the programme tonight was excellent. Whilst I was in Borneo I spent time planting trees, I asked the ranger how far we were from the nearest plantations, thinking we were in the heart of the rain forest she directed me up an incline about 20 metres and I was so shocked to see the rows and rows of plantation trees it actually made me cry, all we were achieving planting the trees was creating a corridor for the wildlife. On my return to the UK I targeted every director of every supermarket via email to inform them of my experience and the absolute devastation I had witnessed and asked them to please give consumers the choice to opt out of purchasing products with palm oil in. I only received one response which was very standardised. In recent months I have noticed that Sainsbury's do specify palm oil in there ingredient lists, which would definitely encourage me to shop there more often. Well done Panorama to bringing this massive problem to public attention.
- Stella Butler
Well done for exposing this to your viewers, I note that most of the suppliers who use palm oil are quoting 2015 as the phase out deadline, perhaps in the meantime they all could support the animal rescuers in their endeavours to mend some of the harm they are allowing.
- Brenda Brown
An excellent programme, very thought provoking and heart rending for the plight of the orang-utans. It makes you feel helpless and frustrated that money always speaks loudest and conservation issues take a back seat to greed. The shopping trolley list highlights slow moving and half hearted moves to source sustainable palm oil by 2015, how much more destruction will have been caused by then, and how few orang-utans will remain. I will certainly be more aware of the products I buy.
- Mrs Carol Dearden
We have been aware of the effects of non-sustainable palm oil for some time now and don't have any problem finding alternate products to use. If everyone took a stance against the palm oil industry the world would be a better place. The only reason palm oil is used is that it's CHEAP! Big companies are never going to find an alternative as it's not good for business.
I think that every product that contains palm oil should be clearly stated on the label, so we can decide if we wish to buy it or not. If I knew which products contained palm oil I would not buy them, as a consumer we should have the right to know what goes into our products.
- John Kimbell
My husband & I travelled to Malaysian Borneo last year for our honeymoon. We were disturbed to see the amount of deforestation there, but it seems from your programme to be far worse on the Indonesian side of the island. I have certainly tried to be far more careful with my shopping, although it's not always easy to tell. Thank you for your list this will be helpful. Our government needs to putting pressure on food companies to use alternatives or at least sustainable palm oil, so the diverse wildlife of Borneo may be preserved for future generations. Please continue in your work to highlight the use of palm oil.
- Joanne Begg
Panorama provides further evidence that industrialised agriculture practiced upon an unimaginable global scale is the largest contributor to global warming. Rain forests and associated peat bogs are being stripped of their carbon at an ever increasing rate and, to-date, little account is taken of the contribution of such carbon losses to atmosphere. Claims that replacement of fossil fuels by bio fuels eg those derived from palm oil, improve carbon footprints are therefore bogus. Our future depends upon the soil under our feet and an opportunity to both produce food in a sustainable way and practice carbon sequestration to reverse the continuous rise in carbon dioxide emissions.
- John Allen
I visited the rainforest in Borneo a few years ago and was amazed by the density and diversity of life there, it really was a privilege to see it. These forests take literally thousands of years to grow and when they are gone, they simply can't be replaced. Their destruction has got to be one of the greatest crimes of our age. I dread to think what future generations will think of us, destroying the richest natural habitats on earth so we can have cheaper margarine? It's like dismantling St Paul's Cathedral and using the bricks to build a supermarket. As so much of the rainforest has been destroyed and the rest is going at a rapid rate I think that urgent action is needed. It should be a criminal offence for EU countries to buy palm oil from non sustainable sources. Companies should have to be able to prove that their oil is sourced ethically. Also, it should not be legal for palm oil to be described as vegetable oil on packaging. The consumer should have the right to make an informed choice.
Once again I was disgusted by the plight of these primates; now we need action and not words. The Unilever representative appeared to have prepared little for the interview and offered poor consolation. This was much like the comments of Hilary Benn; a minister without any conviction if ever I saw one 'leave it to market forces'..a joker. When will we take deforestation and the plight of other species seriously; when a natural disaster hits the human population, money and propaganda is there in abundance, just because we are not affected YET by deforestation in Borneo et al, that doesn't mean that it doesn't count. The European Community must ban the import of timber and palm oil wherever and whenever it causes the plight outlined in Panorama, those companies involved throughout the supply chain must have punitive fines and be made to restore the forests and repatriate displaced species. For my part I am prepared to stop using these palm oil products, canvass my employer and friend to do the same.
- Kevin Leedham
I was not aware of what palm oil was, or where it came from until I watched your show "Dying for a biscuit" last night. I was horrified to think products we use every day contain palm oil that could be sourced in parts of Borneo that were once home to our beautiful orang-utan, and are supposed to be protected. I have sent a link to your web page on the show to many of my friends and family already. I intend to contact Unilever and Proctor Gamble to ask them to do what they can to help stop the illegal harvesting of palm oil in Indonesia. I would like to contact the appropriate authorities in UK and Ireland, in order to put pressure on them to change our labelling laws, so that consumers will be more aware what products contain palm oil, and therefore make conscience choices when shopping. Thank you Panorama for bringing this important issue to light for myself, and so may others.
- Jean McCarthy
I just wanted to express my thanks and appreciation for your excellent programme "Dying for a Biscuit" which aired yesterday on BBC1. It is so refreshing and comforting to hear others making the same statements that I have been "banging on" about for over 2 years. I am very fortunate to work with Sumatran tigers at the Wildlife Heritage Foundation in Kent (www.whf.org.uk) and as part of my job I give educational tours to paying guests, the devastation caused by oil palm plantations has been a hot topic when discussing the threats to Sumatran tigers (and all Indonesian and Malaysian wildlife) and is the main reason why captive breeding of these amazing animals is so important. Thanks again for bringing this important issue to the general public and confirming to the sceptics issues which organisations like whf try to convey. Well done Raphael and the Panorama team!
- Sarah Curry
I have just watched dying for a biscuit I hung my head in shame, just when you hear all the world leaders saying they care about our planet and they want to do all they can to lower emissions, and we are made to feel guilty because the car we drive isn't the most efficient you watch a program like this, what can you say, my grandfather used to say "money is the root of all evil" and when you see the world today you realise how true that statement is. I know I as an individual can do nothing to stop this but felt compelled to write and say thank you for bringing it to our attention.
- Andy Lavender
The multi-nationals and supermarkets create the products, therefore they create the demand, not the consumer. It's a sad fact that the majority of what passes for food in our "developed" world is heavily processed, profit driven, nutritionally empty junk. Most people in our society will continue to blindly consume...."if it's in the shops, it must be alright" We pile on the pounds while the rest of the world disappears.
- Paddy Bonner
I found your programme "dying for a biscuit" really moved me and made me think just what a terrible price is being paid for the food we eat. The price is far too high and the destruction of the rainforest must stop NOW. I have been lucky enough to visit Borneo on holiday and go into the rainforest and see the Orang-utan's. No words can describe just how beautiful it is to see these magnificent apes. We have no right to destroy their habitat. We in the west must also help the Indonesian government and find ways for their people to live in a better way (i.e jobs so their families can have a better life). This programme has made me realize that my actions (products I buy) indirectly affect our natural world in a way I never imagined, I will now take a closer look at the products I buy and will avoid palm oil products if possible.
- Duanne Gibson
Thank you for highlighting the over use of palm oil in our shopping trolley, the need for a certain brand of chocolate, bread, etc at the cost of one of the worlds most beautiful animals and the deforestation of their home is outrageous. From tonight I will not buy any of the products listed on you website, and I hope more of your viewers will do the same. Can I also mention the heartbreaking site of a animal with a chain around its neck, being fed by children in a village and used as a plaything at the expense of its mothers life - who is the animal in this instance! What a legacy we will leave for future generations that we valued a chocolate bar more the the beautiful Orang-utan.
What a bleak vision of the future for the Orang-utan. The only way, I feel, to bring about change is to hit these companies where it hurts, by reducing their profits and refusing to purchase any uncertified palm oil or products that contain it. Consumers have real clout and the more that make their voices heard the better.
- Linda Sparrey
Another insight into man's destruction of the planet for profit, to the detriment of the Orang-utan. I sailed up jungle rivers in Borneo 40 years ago, little did I know that our cargo's of Palm oil and plywood would mean the destruction of the forest.
- Peter Cunningham
So horrified and disappointed to learn that so many products in my home contain palm oil and that the manufacture of this oil causes such tremendous devastation to wildlife and the environment. I can not believe that illegal oil plantations are still allowed to operate. The list provided on products containing palm oil was worryingly long, however I shall now do my best to avoid them in future and will try and convince my friends and family to do the same.
- Karen Deller
Excellent programme. I had no idea that palm oil could simply be labelled as vegetable oil. I will be extra vigilant in the future and Flora is coming off my menu.
- Bernadette Keeshan
For a number of years I have been making a conscious effort to not consume palm oil products but it is so difficult because the manufacturers are not transparent. However, I'm relieved to see from your list of things that I do not buy the vast majority of those products as I prefer to cook everything from raw ingredients. I have also started sourcing soap etc from companies who do not use palm oil. One thing I have noticed is that most of the major manufacturers claim they only use a small amount of palm oil. If this is the case, why can't they eradicate it completely? I would be prepared to pay extra for products that use alternative oils. The orang-utan's predicament is man-made and it breaks my heart to see such destruction.
- Anne Lowe
A very good informative program but should name and shame the companies selling products with palm oil in the UK and the main companies trading in palm oil in order that the public can boycott the goods; avoid buying shares in these companies and put pressure on pension companies, unit trusts and unit fund companies to also boycott their shares.
- David Poole
More has to be done urgently to a) stop more land being converted to palm oil plantations AND b) find something other than palm oil to use in products before it is too late. All this talking is nothing without action to stop the spread of these plantations and in a multi billion pound operation the Indonesian government is not going to stop willingly. Therefore the industrialised countries must push for action. At the moment the industry in the west is talking about 2015 - will we still have orang-utan and virgin forest by then?
- Sue Lillico
A very thought provoking programme. Our local chippy fries in palm oil , I will certainly be asking them to change it or I will stop using it and make other people aware of what they are doing and why they need to change it did make me ask the question, is there an alternative to palm oil that these companies can use or do they only use palm oil because it is so cheap?
- Russell Pettit
I was shocked & horrified by the destruction (illegal or otherwise) of rain-forest and ALL the species it contains - just for cheap vegetable oil. I don't normally take a special interest in conservation, so "thank you" Panorama for bringing this to our attention. I will shop differently from now on.
- Simon Whitaker
How sad it was to see the devastated forests and orang-utans trying to survive man's greed. It would seem from your website that many manufacturers "plan" to use sustainable palm oil in the next few years. I wonder if anything will be left by then... I'm guessing this may be too little too late.
- Sue Kirkham
Following a recent programme on a similar theme, Cadburys chocolate/orang-utans/deforestation/palm oil plantations etc. My daughter and I are no longer eating Cadburys chocolate. Now we will also look at the ingredients and will not purchase any other products that contain palm oil/vegetable oil. It should be listed on the ingredients to give us choice, and sourced sustainably. I feel more informed, thank you BBC perhaps more people will choose not to purchase these products and the companies will have to source sustainable palm oil, and maybe make better chocolate to boot!
- PJC Clarke
This programme has made me think about the things I put into my shopping trolley. These poor animals are dying and will soon become extinct. Food companies should be more ethical. I would rather pay a little more for my food if I knew it did not contain palm oil. If it is not used then the demand will go and the Orang-utan could recover. It is their forest not ours to destroy. Thank you Panorama.
A very good programme thank you for reminding us. I have tried in the past to make sure that I am not buying products with palm oil that is not sustainable but it is a minefield. But I won't give up and hope that others will not give up also.
- Jean Strickland