Companies seeking to exploit the global market for palm oil are increasingly grabbing land from indigenous communities, with promises of jobs and development.
But instead local populations previously self-reliant are locked into poorly paid jobs, according to the report from a coalition of international environmental groups including Friends of the Earth.
The report also reveals that pesticide and fertiliser pollution from the farming of palm oil plantations is leaving many villages without clean water.
Friends of Earth, who co-authored the report, blame EU targets to increase the use of biofuels in transport for the rising demand for palm oil. It says the recently proposed target of 10 per cent of road transport fuel to come from biofuels by 2020 should be scrapped.
“This report shows that as well as being bad for the environment, biofuels from palm oil are a disaster for people,” said Hannah Griffiths, Friends of the Earth biofuels campaigner.
“Instead of introducing targets for more biofuels the EU should insist that all new cars are designed to be super efficient. The UK Government must also take a strong position against the 10 per cent target in Europe and do its bit to reduce transport emissions by improving public transport and making it easier for people to walk and cycle,” added Mrs Griffiths.
This article first appeared in the Ecologist February 2008