Leading experts from the UK’s food industry will gather at a major summit in Westminster, organised by Chester Zoo, to tackle the agricultural deforestation that is driving wildlife such as orangutans towards extinction.
It is the first major gathering ever held at the Houses of Parliament to unite wide ranging experts on the issue - from across the food industry, the conservation community and British politics.
Conservationists from Chester Zoo will discuss the damage to rainforests caused by unsustainable palm oil production and the benefits that sustainable production can bring.
The event on June 13 - created by the zoo in association with partners EFECA, experts in sustainable forest and agriculture advice - is hosted by City of Chester MP Chris Matheson and supported by the WWF-UK, The Orangutan Land Trust, The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
Backed by key players in the sustainable palm oil industry who will share insight into sustainable production methods and availability of sustainable palm oil, the talks will also highlight collaborative efforts across the sustainable palm oil industry and bring together environmental NGOs, the RSPO, food service providers, animal feed providers and leading UK retailers.
Palm oil is a widely used ingredient in UK food and household items.
Unsustainable production is destroying rainforests in South East Asia, home to species such as critically endangered Bornean and Sumatran orangutans.
As public awareness of the problem has grown, so too have calls to boycott palm oil entirely from supply chains. Yet if produced sustainably, palm oil is a highly efficient crop.
Switching to other oils can cause even greater environmental damage.
The UK Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, unveiled this year, backed the sustainable palm oil solution.
Cat Barton, field programmes manager at Chester Zoo, said: “Unsustainable palm oil is causing terrible damage to the rainforest homes of orangutans and many other species.
“But to boycott palm oil and increase the demand for other, less efficient oils, could have a negative impact on wildlife in other areas of the world.
“Oil palms are highly productive and the yield per square kilometre is higher than for any other edible oil.
“Growing oil palms is the most efficient use of land, producing more yield per hectare than oils such as rapeseed and coconut.
“This means that palm oil has the potential to be very environmentally friendly if it is grown sustainably.
“Bringing together key players from across the food industry and conservation community is vital if we are to work together to solve this crisis and be part of the solution. Action is critical and urgent. There is no more relevant place to tackle this issue than the home of British politics – the Houses of Parliament – supported primarily by our own City of Chester MP Chris Matheson.”
Chester Zoo, supported by Chris Matheson and a host of partners, are behind a pioneering campaign to make Chester the UK’s first Sustainable Palm Oil City.
Mr Matheson added: “I will always champion Chester and the people here.
“When the zoo told me about this idea, I knew it would be another opportunity for our city to shine.
“This project is not just about Chester though, it is about the planet and that’s why I will do everything I can to support the zoo to lead the world and change it for the better.”