Every time you have a wash a Columbian peasant dies

Reminds me of the story about Bono up on stage at an African Food Aid charity concert, when he said to the masses "every time I clap my hands another child in Africa dies," to which one wag from the audience retorted "well stop f*ckin doin it then."

But I digress...

The Guardian - Britain's passion for chocolate, cakes and crisps is fuelling a violent campaign to force Colombian peasants off their land to make way for oil palm plantations, a report claims today.

British consumers have become the biggest export market for the controversial crop which is used in margarine and pastries as well as toothpaste, soap and detergents and cosmetics.

The surge in demand has sustained a ruthless landgrab by rightwing paramilitary groups in Colombia's rural areas, War on Want, a London-based advocacy group, says in its report.

"The UK, despite being one of the largest consumers of Colombia's palm oil products, remains unaware of the devastating impact of cultivation of this crop on the lives of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities."

The report details numerous land seizures in the south-west Pacific region where subsistence farmers have been expelled and in some cases killed by armed groups allegedly seeking to cash in on the palm oil bonanza.

"The chocolate, margarine or soap that we see on supermarket shelves contains palm oil that has a good chance of coming from a country where thousands of people are being forced off their land, some of them brutally killed, in order to meet international demand."

In the past four years Colombia has more than doubled cultivation to 350,000 hectares, with about a quarter of exports going to the UK and much of the rest bound for Germany and Spain. Colombia is the world's fifth largest palm oil exporter behind Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

Colombia's government has promoted the crop as a legitimate alternative to coca, the raw ingredient for cocaine which fuels the country's conflict between leftwing rebels, rightwing militias and the security forces. President Alvaro Uribe, Washington's closest ally in South America, has also promoted its use as a biofuel and said he hopes the area planted with the crop will grow tenfold in the next decade to more than 3m hectares.

In January prosecutors opened a formal investigation into 23 oil palm plantation owners in Uraba for alleged links with paramilitary forces.