Trade in illegal wood is unacceptable

25 May 2007

Trade in illegal wood is unacceptable

SP Member of Parliament Remi Poppe today conducted an inspection of a garden centre run by Life and Garden, at the invitation of environmentalist group "Milieudefensie" ("Environmental Defence"). Life and Garden, which operates a chain of garden centres throughout the Netherlands, was presented with Milieudefensie's not exactly coveted "Botte Bijl Award" in the presence of Poppe and a number of his parliamentary colleagues. The Botte Bijl Award – a bijl is an axe, but the English expression which best translates "als een Botte Bijl" is probably "like a bull in a china shop" – is presented for outstanding service to the destruction of forests. Life and Garden won it for, amongst other things, their use of illegally-felled wood from Indonesia. Earlier in the week Remi Poppe, well-known for his environmental activism inside and outside parliament, put a number of questions to the government on the issue of illegal forestry in Congo.

Each year Milieudefensie conducts an inspection of the Netherlands' garden centres. The firm which has the worst performance in relation to the use of wood from sustainable sources is presented with the Botte Bijl Award. According to Milieudefensie, as little as five percent of the garden furniture sold in Life and Garden outlets is made from Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC)-certificated wood and much of it is made from wood from illegal plantations in Indonesia. The firm has for years made no substantial efforts to change this.

Remi PoppeFurniture with the FSC mark of approval comes from forests or plantations which are managed in a sustainable manner. Their production and the entire chain of trade is monitored by an independent body. Earlier in the week Remi Poppe put a number of parliamentary questions on illegal forestry in Congo, where corporations registered in the Netherlands are behaving like old-fashioned colonialists. Trees are being illegally felled. and the local population is bought off with payments of a couple of bags of salt and sugar. The Dutch government can do nothing about this independently, because free trade agreements under the WTO prevent a unilateral Dutch ban on the import of wood from illegally-felled trees or unsustainable sources.

'An organisation such as Life and Garden is knowingly trading in stolen wood and we act as if that is all perfectly acceptable," says Poppe "But the state authorities should not accept it. If the law and trade agreements are inadequate to deal with this then they must be altered, which is precisely what I am asking the minister about."

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