The Rainforest on your Plate - Imported Deforestation

Did you know that we often – unknowingly - consume rainforest? For instance, many cosmetics as well as prepared food or chocolate products contain palm oil. However, currently only around 0,2% of the global production area is used to grow sustainable palm oil.

A group of researchers[1] shows in two new studies the correlation between food consumption in Europe and increasing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation of tropical rainforest.

They found out that countries having reduced their forest loss in the past years or even started to afforest successfully, have basically outsourced their “forest consumption”. Through steadily rising imports from products like palm oil, soya and pork, European states and China support deforestation in other parts of the world, especially in Brazil. That is to say that by buying specific products, we are unconsciously jointly responsible for the clearance of tropical rainforest, we basically “consume forest”. The study shows that the production of food and animal feed is responsible for half of forests’ deforestation. If diets don’t change, meat demand keeps increasing and neither states nor companies shift direction no positive change is foreseeable.

There is a direct correlation between the decrease of forest area and greenhouse gas emissions. Deforestation of tropical rainforest is one of the crucial causes of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. This even leads to a phenomenon in several European states, where the emissions caused by imported products exceed those cause by the national agriculture sector.

Moreover, indigenous peoples’ habitat is destroyed through deforestation, even though they have been living there for centuries and use the area in a sustainable way. This leads among others to the loss of cultural practices, health damage and in the worst case displacement of populations. Therefore, the fact that in areas where indigenous people have secure land titles, rainforest is maintained shows how important the strengthening of indigenous rights is.


In fact the researchers believe that states and international organisations have to take responsibility and political actions in order to mitigate these developments. “If the EU really wants to achieve its climate goals, it must set harder environmental standards for those who export food to the EU," says Martin Persson, one of the authors of the study. Nevertheless, as consumers we are not powerless but can indeed influence politicians through our consumption patterns and by participating in the public debate. 


[1] Stockholm Environment Institute in Sweden, Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre in Germany, and NTNU, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology

"If you give tropical countries support in their work to protect the rainforest, as well as give farmers alternatives to deforestation to increase production, it can have a big impact."

Florence Pendrill, autor of the study




  • Oilpalm (by domilo122 /

    Oilpalm (by domilo122 /

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