Palm oil derives from the fruit of oil palms. It is grown on the African oil palm tree. Oil palms can grow wherever there are vast amounts of rainfall and heat. Today palm oil is globally produced and grown throughout Africa, Asia, North and South America.
Palm oil is one of the world's most popular edible vegetable oils, due to its low cost and wide availability. It is a multi-billion dollar industry, and demand continues to grow at the expense of our forests. It is the most widely used vegetable oil on the planet, (65% of all vegetable oil). It has many different properties and functions which make it so widely used.
It is semi-solid at room temperature, so can keep spreads spreadable; it is resistant to oxidation, and so can give products a longer shelf-life; it is stable at high temperatures, and so helps to give fried products a crispy and crunchy texture; it is odourless and colourless, so does not alter the look or smell of food products; It is mass-produced, and therefore cheap.
Deforestation impacts climate change. 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation. Palm Oil production is the main driver of deforestation. Endangered species such as Orangutans, Elephants and Sumatran Tigers are being pushed close to extinction. We are presently losing over 6,000 orangutans a year. The term "Sustainable" Palm oil is nonsense. Deforestation is the permanent destruction of forests.
The World loses 20 million acres of forest per year. This equates to 40,000 football pitches per day or 28 football pitches per minute. Palm Oil production is the main driver of deforestation. In the last 20 years, over 3.5 million hectares of Indonesian and Malaysian forest have been destroyed to make way for palm oil production. Corporate owners of palm oil plantations are responsible for slashing or burning the land to clear large swaths for palm tree production at a higher rate than ever before.
Endangered species such as Orangutans, Elephants and Sumatran Tigers are being pushed close to extinction. 15 years ago there were more than 230,000 Orangutans in total. The present figure is around 100,000, meaning the population has more than halved since 2004.
We are presently losing over 6,000 orangutans a year. Orangutans will be extinct within 20 years. There are now only 400 Sumatran tigers left in the world. Almost 80% of orangutan habitat has disappeared in the last 20 years. Their forest homes have been lost and degraded, and hunting threatens their existence. Orangutans have been found buried alive, killed by machete, guns and other weaponry. This can happen after the animals enter a village or palm oil plantation in search of food, or during the deforestation process. If captured by poachers, adults are usually killed. Their babies are sold as pets.
The term "Sustainable" Palm oil is nonsense, a myth, not a reality. Deforestation is the permanent destruction of forests. Multi-national corporations' (Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Ferrero, Johnson & Johnson, Pepsi Co, etc) demand for palm oil production increases year on year. They use a shell game called "Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil" (RSPO) to hide their connection to deforestation. So-called "sustainable" plantations sit on thousands of acres of former wildlife habitat within a critical watershed. The forests are forever gone. These corporations have blood on their hands whilst claiming to be sustainability leaders. Biodiversity and endangered species should be in every conversation about palm oil. As tigers, orangutans, elephants and rhinos become extinct at the hands of RSPO, we must reconsider our values and priorities. The RSPO label is a shield that deflects proper scrutiny.
Palm oil is high in saturated fat. This is fine if consumed in moderation, but if consumed in high amounts, it increases LDL cholesterol level. This removes any good nutrients and minerals, and makes it harder for our bodies to digest.
Consumers can make a difference through avoiding products, brands and companies that use palm oil. You are part of the palm oil problem, but could be part of the solution. Do not accept or trust most companies' "Sustainability Policy" at face value. The likelihood is that it is no more than a marketing tool. "Sustainable" palm oil is certified forest destruction.