New Threat to Amazon from Oil Palm Plantations

Mar 24, 2009

An important new study in the open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science highlights that oil palm expansion presents a major emerging threat to the Amazon.

An important new study in the open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science highlights that oil palm expansion presents a major emerging threat to the Amazon.

Already a major cause of tropical forest conversion across southeast Asia, oil palm expansion in the Amazon rainforest is likely, due to a changes in Brazil's forest law, new infrastructure, and the influence of existing foreign soya companies in the region. A proposed change in Brazil's forest code, which requires land owners to retain 80 percent forest on lands in the Amazon, would allow up to 30 percent of this reserve to consist of oil palm. This scheme to increase tree plantations of food crops largely for agrofuel production falsely equates plantations with natural primeval rainforest, at great risk to climate, biodiversity and local livelihoods.

Notorious Malaysian oil palm producers, also implicated globally in massive illegal rainforest logging, have already been allowed to setup shop. High-yielding oilseed would offer higher financial returns and employment than cattle ranching, mechanized soy farms, and expected REDD carbon payments to avoid deforestation. As demonstrated in Asia, it is highly unlikely such activities will be limited to already degraded lands. Indeed, logging off the primary forests often subsidizes the oil palm plantation expansion. Biofuels are disastrous for rainforests and climate, as well as are toxic, destroy water resources and often violate human rights. The use of fuel from food and destroyed forest ecosystems must end.