You may have an inkling that all is not well when it comes to palm oil production, but you may not be aware of how many facets there are to this problem.
Such is the issue around palm oil that a website called ‘say no to palm oil’ has been created to try and encourage people to seek alternatives. Palm oil is a type of edible vegetable oil that is derived from the palm fruit, grown on the African oil palm tree. Whilst oil palms originate from Western Africa, they can grow wherever heat and rainfall are abundant, and large tracts of land in Asia, North America, and South America are also being given over to palm oil production. Indonesia and Malaysia produce 85% of all this oil globally, and most of the time this is not harvested in a sustainable way. In fact, the industry is causing havok for the environment.
The industry is linked to many of the major issues, like deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty and human rights abuses. Local farmers or indigenous people find themselves cleared out of the way so production can expand and intensify. The impact on rainforests, upon which we all rely for oxygen is horrendous, with 300 football fields worth of land being cleared every single hour in order to plant more palms. Aside from destroying our O2 supply, animals are being made extinct by this process as their homes no longer exist.
Palm oil is in a wide variety of products, including baked goods, confectionery, shampoo, cosmetics, cleaning agents, washing detergents and toothpaste. 50 million tons of the stuff is produced each year and it shows up in our shopping baskets the world over.
Next time you are browsing the labels in the supermarket, take a moment to see if there is palm oil in what you are buying. If you see it, you know what was done to get it and you can consider putting it back and finding an alternative. Producers will not advertise what happens behind the scenes, but armed with the right information we can make our own decisions. Palm oil is ok, but not when it isn’t ethically produced – that is the message producers need to hear.