SINGAPORE (Apr 29): British supermarket chain Iceland fired up controversy last year when it pledged to say no to palm oil, with the view that the commodity was contributing to deforestation in Asia. The supermarket said that, by end-2018, all of its house label food products would not contain any palm oil. It said that by doing so, it would cut demand for the vegetable oil by more than 500 tonnes a year. Iceland’s managing director Richard Walker said at the time he believed there was no “verifiably sustainable palm oil available in the mass market”.

That may have some truth to it, as we report in our pages this week. Palm oil has been vilified as the main cause of deforestation, and the demise of the endangered orangutans that live in those tropical rainforests. But now, it turns out that beef, jewellery and chocolate are the top causes of the loss of primary tropical rainforest as well.

According to the latest report by the Global Forest Watch, 1.35 million hectares of primary rainforest was lost in Brazil last year to logging and cattle farming. The next biggest loss was in the Democratic Republic of Congo, at 481,200ha, followed by the loss of 340,000ha in Indonesia. The GFW report also noted that the biggest rise in rainforest destruction is caused by gold mining and cocoa farming in Ghana and Ivory Coast.

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