The Swiss Farmers’ Union (SBV) has called on the country’s farmers to stop using palm oil-based supplements in dairy cattle feeds after a television programme revealed the practice on some Swiss farms.
The revelation by Switzerland’s public television company SRF’s ‘Rundschau’ programme came as an embarrassment to the union, according to SwissInfo.ch on 31 May, as the SBV had traditionally opposed palm oil imports from Asia.
Using palm oil supplements in animal feed is not against any laws or regulations in Switzerland, but SBV had been lobbying against the practice in an effort to protect Swiss rapeseed production from being overtaken by cheaper palm oil imports.
“Palm oil does not belong in animal feed,” SBV president Markus Ritter told the SRF. “This practice must stop.”
He additionally raised concerns about deforestation and habitat loss in Southeast Asia that had been linked to palm oil plantations.
But weeding out palm oil use might be easier said than done as, in 2016, Swiss farmers used around 5,000 tonnes of palm oil-based feed.
Replacing this supplement with rapeseed oil products would cost farmers an additional 1M Swiss francs (US$1.02M) annually, according to SwissInfo.ch.
Erbo Spraytec, a Swiss supplier of palm oil feed and a producer of powdered products, defended palm oil by saying it was the friendliest supplement for the cows’ digestive systems.
The firm told SwissInfo.ch that European rapeseed oil was too expensive to use as an alternative to palm oil.
The SBV’s call was preceded in March by Swiss NGOs criticising the country’s famous banking institutions for allegedly providing funding to set up unsustainable palm oil plantations.