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eNews from Monday, February 7, 2011

Malaysia Still Losing Forests to Palm Oil: Wetlands International Report

UPI Science News -- February 4, 2011 -- Malaysia is destroying large areas of carbon-rich peat swamp forests to expand palm oil plantations as the world's second-largest producer, a report says.

The report by Wetlands International says plantations are being greatly expanded, mostly in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on Borneo island, Britain's The Guardian reported Wednesday.

None of these forests will be left by the end of this decade if the trend is not halted, WI senior scientist Marcel Silvius says.

"As the timber resource has been depleted, the timber companies are now engaging in the oil palm business, completing the annihilation of Sarawak's peat swamp forests," he says.

Almost 875,000 acres of forest -- a third of Malaysia's total -- were cleared between 2005 and 2010, the report says.

Satellite imagery combined with existing data and surveys show deforestation as a result of the palm oil production was far greater than the Malaysian government claims, Wetlands International says.

"Official Malaysian government figures now appear to have given a far too optimistic picture of the situation," the report says.

Some major Western retailers and consumer goods brands, many of which use palm oil in their products, have joined the call for palm oil companies in Malaysia and Indonesia to halt the expansion of plantations that lead to forest clearance.

Two major U.K. supermarket chains, Sainsbury's and Tesco, have stepped up plans to buy palm oil only from suppliers that have had their plantations certified as sustainable, The Guardian reported.

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