‘Our lives have changed drastically since the palm oil company stole our land: we could drink the water from our well, gather fruit and wood in the forest and grow our own vegetables. Now we have to buy everything in the shop, even water,’ says a woman in an Indonesian village that is now nearly completely surrounded by palm oil plantations. The SUPPLY CHA!NGE Consortium, in which SOMO participates, concludes that the palm oil production chain is still extremely problematic.

Consortium member GLOBAL 2000 (Friends of the Earth Austria) published a report on abuses in the Indonesian palm oil sector. “In one case, a village leader sold the community’s forest to a palm oil company without the knowledge of the villagers. In response, the villagers set ablaze a tree-cutting machine owned by the company. Two weeks later, 200 police officers stormed the village, breaking down doors and windows on a massive scale. Twenty people were arrested and abused in prison, in order to force them to confess,” states Martin Wildenberg of GLOBAL 2000.

Support for UN agreement

“While large-scale voluntary initiatives such as the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) have already been trying to address problems in the palm oil sector for more than ten years, sustainably produced palm oil remains out of reach. We therefore call on the European Commission to support the initiative for a new and binding UN agreement concerning companies and human rights. This agreement should obligate companies to take sufficient measures to protect people and the environment, no matter where the companies operate or where they obtain their raw materials,” states Sanne van der Wal of SOMO.

That is why the consortium has started a petition to call for signatures from all over Europe. Palm oil is a common ingredient in many processed food products including biscuits, ice cream, chocolate, margarine, ready-made meals and meat substitutes.

SOMO is part of the Treaty Alliance.