Environmental activists confirm that forestry and palm oil are not major causes of deforestation

The US-based Union of Concerned Scientists recently published a blog post admitting that anti-forestry and -palm oil campaigns are not justified. The article, entitled Ending Tropical Deforestation: Have We Got Our Priorities Backwards?, pointed out that although the palm oil and forestry industries attract more attention from environmental activists than other agricultural sectors, they are far from the most important drivers of tropical deforestation.

The number one driver of tropical deforestation is cattle ranching, followed by soy farming, pig and poultry farming, and maize cultivation. Despite this, activists devote most of their time to pressuring palm oil and timber producers to make no-deforestation pledges. This demonstrates an ideological, rather than practical, basis for their campaigns.

As was stated in the article: “…the end result was that we concentrated on getting corporate zero-deforestation commitments relating to crops that weren’t the main causes of deforestation.”

As this publication has long argued, forest-rich countries and communities need to be able to set their own land use policies, balancing the need for economic development against the importance of protecting the environment. Environmental activists should seek to help inform these decisions, rather than attempting to pressure important national industries that are not even important drivers of forest conversion.

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