Why is palm oil an issue? I have recently heard about the destruction of rain forest in connection with palm oil , an ingredient used extensively in the food industry. This video came to my attention and it does not surprise me that animals are speaking to us in unexpected ways….
Rainforestrescue.com posts the following information:
Worldwide palm oil consumption by use (2010)
Worldwide palm oil consumption by use (2010). Source: AGEB
Worldwide demand for palm oil has increased sharply over the last few years. With 54 million tons in 2011, it is the most widely produced vegetable oil worldwide. It has the highest yield of any oil crop and is the cheapest vegetable oil to produce and refine.
Its properties make it highly versatile in the food and chemical industries. It has a high melting point, making it smooth and easy to spread. Palm oil is contained in thousands of supermarket products.
More than 90 percent of the palm oil produced is used to manufacture food products, cosmetics, detergents and candles.
How does palm oil destroy the rainforests?
Expansion of palm oil in Indonesia
Expansion of palm oil in Indonesia
Since oil palms need a rainforest climate – consistently high humidity and temperatures – and a lot of land, plantations are often established at the expense of rainforests. About 90 percent (2011) of the world’s palm oil is currently being produced in Malaysia and Indonesia. Indonesia’s oil palm plantations alone already cover nine million hectares, an area the size of the state of Maine. 26 million hectares are projected for 2025.
According to a report published in 2007 by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), palm oil plantations are currently the leading cause of rainforest destruction in Malaysia and Indonesia. Today, rainforest area the equivalent of 300 soccer fields is being destroyed every hour.
This gives rise to numerous problems for the climate, environment, and people living in the forest:
– CO2 emissions – In preparing rainforest land for a palm oil plantation, the most valuable trees are cut down and removed first. What remains is cleared by burning. If the forest was on peatland – as is the case in much of Indonesia – the land is drained. Peatlands store vast quantities of carbon, and the conversion of a single hectare of Indonesian peatland rainforest releases up to 6,000 tons of CO2. Tropical deforestation is currently responsible for about 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, making it a significant contributor to climate change (see 4. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC).
– Loss of biodiversity – Indonesia’s rainforests and peatlands are among the world’s most species-rich environments and home to numerous endangered plants and animals, such as orangutans, Sumatran tigers and Bornean rhinos. The destruction of natural habitats deprives the animals of the basis for their existence, causing an irreversible loss of biological diversity.
Orangutans are particularly vulnerable because they are dependent on large contiguous forest areas. In search of food, they often get lost in the plantations, where they are regarded as pests. According to the Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP), at least 1,500 orangutans were clubbed to death by palm oil plantation workers in 2006 alone. According to the UN, there is a risk that no wild orangutans will remain outside of protected areas by 2020.
Why is palm oil not listed as an ingredient on most products?
Only a few manufacturers – mostly in the organic sector – label their products as containing palm oil and palm fat. Most companies disguise it, referring to it as “vegetable oils and fats”.
English and latin names for palm oil Likely to be palm oil
Palm oil kernel Vegetable oil (if the product contains saturated fats, it’s most likely palm oil)
Palmitate / palmate Ingredient lists containing “stearate, stearyl”
Elaeis gunieensis Ingredient lists containing the words “cetyl, cetearyl”
Hydrated palm gylcerides hexadecanoic Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), sodium laureth sulphate, sodium dodecyl sulphate, (SDS or NaDS) sodium
Palmitic acid Calcium stearoyl lactylate steareth -2, steareth -20 emulsifier 422, 430-36, 465-67, 470-8, 481-483
The largest palm oil producers: Major palm oil traders: The largest individual consumers of palm oil:
Wilmar, IOI and Sinar Mas Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Unilever, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble and Henkel
According to its own figures, the Unilever Group alone consumes 1.6 million tons of palm oil every year (2008).
One way consumers can protect the rainforest is to avoid palm oil. For a list of palm oil-free products, visit