Livestock Production is Driver of Global Deforestation, Not Palm Oil
Deforestation has become a concern of the global community, especially in the last two decades. It causes various environmental problems, such as being a threat to the preservation of natural biodiversity to contributing to global GHG (Greenhouse Gases) emissions thus triggering global warming and global climate change. Although deforestation has existed since civilization began on Earth, this issue is no longer a mere environmental issue because it has been used as the basis for trade policies implemented by developed countries.
Palm oil is one of the agricultural commodities that is subject to trade policies related to the issue of deforestation by developed countries as importers. Some of these trade policies such as the European Green Deal include Renewable Energy Directives, Indirect Land Use Change, and Forest and Ecosystem Risk Commodities (FERC). Because palm oil is often seen as a driver of global deforestation. The perspective of developed countries also reflects that global deforestation that has occurred is palm oil’s “sin” so that their producers must be responsible for that. So, is this perspective true?
The answer to this question is found in many results of studies, one of which is reports from an international organization such as the European Commission and FAO. The study of European Commission study in 2013, which was a study made by the European Union itself, revealed interesting fact that livestock production was the main driver of global deforestation with a share of 24 percent in the 1990-2008 period. Besides livestock, other drivers of global deforestation are cereal (8 percent) and soy crops (6 percent). Meanwhile, palm oil, which has always been blamed as the driver of global deforestation, has a very small contribution of only around 2 percent.
The results of this study are also confirmed by FAO data related to the distribution of global agricultural land reached 4.95 billion hectares, around 69 percent or 3.4 billion hectares are livestock production (cattle) areas. Meanwhile, the global oil palm plantation reaches around 28 million hectares or only about 0.56 percent of global agricultural land. Besides that, the area of global oil palm plantations is still lower than the global soybean plantation area which reaches 120 million hectares (2.4 percent).
The WRI study also shows that during 2001-2015, cattle pasture has converted by far 45.1 million hectares of forest or an area of deforestation size of Sweden. A popular article entitled “When It Comes To Deforestation, Nothing Beats A Hamburger” reveals that forest cleared (deforestation) for livestock/cattle is then held until the values rise before it is sold to soybean producers.
In the article, Rachel Garret, a professor of environmental policy at ETH Zurich, also reveals that cattle are easily move around to obscure their connection to illegal deforestation. Besides, the livestock industry has been insulated from international market pressures related to deforestation because most of the livestock products (meat/milk) are consumed domestically or only a quarter of the livestock products are exported.
These data and facts show that palm oil isn’t a driver commodity of global deforestation. So these accusations which are widely used in black campaigns and trade policies of importing countries that discriminate against palm oil are irrelevant and misleading.
If western countries have been concerned about deforestation and always accused palm oil as drivers of deforestation, the attention of these countries should be diverted to the Top-5 commodities that cause global deforestation, such as by limiting the production of livestock products (meat, milk, cheese) in Europe and Australia or limiting the production of soybeans which is heavily grown in the United States.
However, it will not be possible. The European Union through its various trade policies inhibits imports of palm oil on the grounds of deforestation, instead, they import soybeans on large scale from US. Even though soybeans have been proven to be the top-3 drivers of global deforestation. This further shows that the accusation of palm oil as driver of global deforestation is only due to unfair business competition (unfairness) and discrimination (crop apartheid).
Share this article
You may also like these articles