Pourquoi boycotter l’huile de palme n’est peut-être pas la meilleure façon de sauver l’environnement

L’huile de palme se trouve partout dans l’alimentation et les cosmétiques : en fait, la moitié de la population mondiale utilise l’huile de palme dans l’alimentation.

Mais le public est de plus en plus conscient de la perte d’espèces sauvages liée à la déforestation causée par la culture de l’huile de palme, et les détaillants sont de plus en plus pressés de réduire leurs ventes de produits à base d’huile de palme, voire de les boycotter complètement.

Le débat est devenu particulièrement animé depuis qu’une publicité de Noël de la chaîne de supermarchés britannique Iceland – qui dramatise le lien entre l’huile de palme, la déforestation et la mort des orangs-outans – a été interdite de diffusion au Royaume-Uni, au motif qu’elle aurait violé les lois politiques en matière de publicité, car l’animation était initialement produite par Greenpeace.

Au cours des quatre premiers jours de sa sortie, la vidéo a été visionnée 13 millions de fois. Une pétition visant à renverser l’interdiction de la publicité a jusqu’à présent attiré plus de 720.000 signatures.

Mais si la campagne a été un excellent moyen d’attirer davantage l’attention du public sur les questions de durabilité alimentaire, un boycott pur et simple des produits à base d’huile de palme pourrait en fait entraîner davantage de problèmes pour les forêts et la faune.

Les preuves

Un rapport récent de l’Union internationale pour la conservation de la nature a conclu que le boycott de l’huile de palme ne ferait que déplacer – plutôt que de contrer – les pertes causées par l’agriculture dans les forêts tropicales et la faune sauvage.

En termes simples, l’huile de palme boycottée devrait être remplacée par d’autres types d’huile végétale pour répondre à la demande mondiale – et cela pourrait même aggraver la situation.

En effet, par rapport à d’autres sources courantes d’huile végétale – comme le colza et le soja – les cultures de palmiers à huile produisent quatre à dix fois plus d’huile par unité de surface et nécessitent beaucoup moins de pesticides et d’engrais. En fait, l’huile de palme représente 35 % de toutes les huiles végétales, cultivées sur seulement 10 % des terres affectées aux cultures oléagineuses.

Ainsi, si d’autres cultures comme le soja remplaçaient une pénurie d’huile de palme, non seulement la production serait plus importante en Amazonie (une importante région productrice de soja), mais il faudrait aussi plus de terres, ce qui entraînerait une déforestation accrue.

En effet, la culture du soja est déjà responsable de plus du double de la déforestation de l’huile de palme. Dans le contexte d’autres sources alimentaires, la production de bétail et de viande bovine a entraîné une déforestation plus de cinq fois supérieure à celle de l’huile de palme.

Huile de palme durable

La certification – un mécanisme par lequel les consommateurs paient des prix plus élevés pour des produits d’origine plus responsable – est un moyen d’aider à protéger les forêts tropicales et la faune qui y vit.

La certification de l’huile de palme est menée par Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), qui mène le marché vers une huile de palme écologiquement et socialement responsable qui ne contribue pas à la déforestation.

Alors que la RSPO se réunit pour renouveler ses engagements en matière de durabilité, l’un des principaux défis auxquels le secteur est confronté est que moins de 20 % de l’huile de palme mondiale est actuellement certifiée comme durable.

Il y a peu d’incitation pour les producteurs à demander la certification – ou pour les détaillants à promouvoir des produits respectueux de l’environnement et socialement responsables – tant que le débat continue à se concentrer sur le boycott total de l’huile de palme.

En conséquence, seule la moitié environ de l’huile de palme durable est effectivement vendue certifiée, car une grande partie du marché n’est pas disposée à payer la prime pour des produits durables.

Malgré cela, de nombreux grands détaillants et grandes marques (dont Nestlé, Unilever et Palmolive) et supermarchés (comme Morrison’s, Waitrose et Sainsbury’s au Royaume-Uni) utilisent déjà de l’huile de palme certifiée dans leurs produits, mais ne peuvent pas en faire la promotion en raison de la négativité persistante envers tout type d’huile.

Plantations respectueuses de la faune

Pour aider l’industrie de l’huile de palme à protéger la faune sauvage, les scientifiques de la conservation travaillent avec les organismes de certification et les producteurs pour améliorer la façon dont la culture de l’huile de palme affecte la biodiversité. Cela peut être aussi simple que de cultiver la culture dans des zones non boisées.

Mais il peut aussi s’agir de protéger les forêts le long des cours d’eau, de sorte qu’elles relient des parcelles de forêt de haute qualité dans le paysage de l’huile de palme, permettant ainsi aux animaux sauvages de se déplacer plus librement.

Si la certification de l’huile de palme devient plus populaire, elle améliorera les perspectives pour la faune, y compris les orangs-outans. C’est pourquoi les grandes organisations de conservation – y compris les principales organisations caritatives d’orangs-outans et Greenpeace – continuent à soutenir l’huile de palme certifiée, plutôt qu’un boycott.

Et maintenant, les consommateurs soucieux de l’environnement peuvent vérifier où acheter des produits qui contiennent de l’huile de palme provenant de sources responsables.

Espérons que l’intérêt suscité par la publicité de l’Islande apportera des changements positifs pour les forêts tropicales et leur faune.

Mais un boycott n’est pas la meilleure réponse. La meilleure chose que les détaillants peuvent faire est d’aider leurs fournisseurs à apporter des produits de sources plus responsables dans les rayons des supermarchés à Noël.

Jake Bicknell, associé de recherche postdoctorale, Université de Kent ; Eleanor Slade, boursière de recherche, Université d’Oxford, et Matthew Struebig, chargé de cours principal en conservation biologique, Université de Kent

Cet article est republié à partir de The Conversation sous une licence Creative Commons. Lire l’article original.

Source : ScienceAlert 

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