Saturday, 6 June 2009

Orangutans and taking action to help them

The following is a letter from a supporter to her MEP, followed by the reply. Only though concerned people writing like this will our MEP's, supermarket CEO's etc know of our concern. And the more people who write the louder will our message be heard. Do you think you could write to your MEP and/or MP/ Will you?


Letter sent by Andrea to her MEP .............

Dear Diana

I am writing to you as I received your flyer through my letterbox last week.

I would like to raise awareness of the plight of the Orangutan and the destruction of the rainforest.

I propose to do this by raising awareness to the general public about the use of Palm Oil in everyday food/products from un-sustainable sources. I wish to make them aware that as a direct result of the destruction of the rainforest to plant Palm Oil plantations the Orangutan population is in danger of losing its natural habitat and of becoming extinct within the next 10 years.

As Palm Oil does not have to labelled as such but can be labelled as vegetable oil I feel that the general public are not being allowed to make an informed choice about whether or not they buy products which contain Palm Oil from un-sustainable sources and through ignorance of the facts could be partly responsible for the demise of the Urangutan and the rainforests.

I feel that the only way forward is for a new law to be passed in this country which states that Palm Oil has to be listed individually on products and it has to state whether or not it is from a sustainable source, at least that way people have the facts to enable them to make a choice just as they have the choice about saturated fat/sugar/salt content in products.

I would be interested to know what your thoughts on this subject are?

Yours sincerely


Ps Are you aware after running in the Flora marathon that Unilever use Palm Oil in their spreads and incidentally Palm Oil is 90% saturated fat! I wasn't aware of this until I did some investigative work.

reply received from the MEP

Dear Andrea,

Thank you for writing to me about the plight of orang-utans, an issue which you seem to care very deeply about. I am also sorry to not have responded immediately, but I have been kept very busy by my campaign for the up and coming elections on June 4th.

During the past mandate, the committees in the European Parliament whose work has touched upon palm oil production (and therefore orang-utans) were not my own. I did however recently support, along with fellow Lib Dem colleagues, a ban on the use of great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orang-utans included) in scientific experimentation, which I hope will serve to protect our friends the orang-utans to some degree.

I have however been supporting the work of my Lib Dem colleagues on the environment and industry committees on a number of reports, which may have an impact on the Malaysian palm oil industry, or on the continued destruction of rainforests. In particular, my colleague representing the North East, Fiona Hall, was directly involved in drawing up the European renewables package, which was passed at the end of 2008. She represented the European Liberals and Democrats in negotiations to reach the final agreement, introducing amendments to the text which drew attention to the need for "sustainable" production of bio-fuels, and several requirements for environmental safety in areas of production.

Whilst there is a need to support the workers, farmers, families and communities that rely on palm oil, we need also to make sure that tropical forests are protected for everyone's future benefit.

Another important area in which we have been working to protect the world's rainforests is with our recent initiatives on imports of illegal timber. After five years of debate, a deal may finally be in sight to stop imports of illegally harvested wood being sold in the EU.

A recent European Parliament report has ruled that only legally harvested timber should be available to buy in the EU. Agriculture ministers of the 27 EU Member States are due to meet this month to discuss the original legislation proposed by the European Commission, and the subsequent Parliament report. I hope they will support the stronger position that MEPs have pushed for.

With regards to labelling, a recent written declaration asking for better regulation on the origin of foodstuffs was signed by many MEPs, but not enough for the text to be adopted as a legislative proposal. I do however feel that this subject will be brought back to the table for debate very soon, because of a growing demand for it from European citizens themselves. I myself, as a strong believer in transparency, will be following developments in this domain with great interest.

At present however, we have to rely on voluntary labelling schemes. A positive example of this is Sainsbury's, which has created a ‘made with sustainable palm oil' icon that is displayed on the front of its packs of palm oil. It claims that the palm oil used in these products do not contribute to illegal deforestation, and is sourced with consideration to the environmental, social and economic aspects of palm production. Let us hope this action will put pressure on other distributors to do the same.

Thank you for taking the time to write to me. It is input from constituents, such as your email, that helps me to represent Yorkshire residents better here at the European Parliament and I do hope you will be making your voice heard at the upcoming European elections.

Best regards

Diana Wallis MEP