12 Mar 2010

PNG palm oil boom causes health concerns

1:40 pm on 12 March 2010

Palm oil campaigners in Papua New Guinea are calling for new laws to make companies more accountable for the effects of their industry on the environment and communities.

A spokesman for the PNG Environmental Law and Community Rights, George Laume, says there is growing concern that the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which was set up to clean up the industry, has become ineffective.

He says the RSPO certification scheme rules are only on paper and do not reflect the reality.

Mr Laume says even if palm oil companies say they meet the RSPO standards, the environmental, social and economic impacts of the industry show that stronger legal measures are needed.

"Women are complaining about health problems. There was report from communities in the province that some mothers, pregnant mothers, they have you know, birth defects, from drinking polluted water. So these are serious issues on the ground that companies, as well as relevant government departments, have to take into consideration."

George Laume says the problem is the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil is currently a voluntary scheme and it is up to companies to comply with environmental rules reached by consensus with environmental lobby groups.