You may have heard a bit about palm oil and why it’s bad for you and the environment. We will tell you the key points of the consequences in life itself from the production of derivatives of this product. Keep in mind that palm oil has other names with which it remains hidden in the list of ingredients on the labels of the items that you are surely consuming every day but you don’t know contain palm oil.
WHY IS IT BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?
According to WWF, an equivalent of 300 soccer fields are being cut down every hour to make way for the palm oil plantations. The consequence of its cultivation is the destruction of biodiverse ecosystems that are now in danger. Since it is large-scale deforestation, hundreds of species are being pushed into the brink of extinction such as the Sumatran tiger, elephant, rhino and orangutan. If the practice continues at this rate, it is estimated that the tiger could disappear in less than 3 years. See here the reasons why is the tiger so important to the world and the 20 species in critical danger of extinction. Furthermore, this practice gives way to confrontations where thousands of animals are shot, killed, trapped and poisoned; with each destruction, better opportunities present to poachers, they now have easy access to forests, where they hunt endangered beings that are later sold in parts.
In the case of the orangutan, its habitat has been reduced by 90% in just 20 years, and almost 50,000 of them have died in that period. In addition, 1,000 to 5,000 continue to perish each year, despite the key importance they have in maintaining a healthy environment as they spread seeds in rainforests. You can read more about them in the profile of the Sumatran orangutan, critically endangered. There have been cases where they have been found buried alive, or shot, in addition, to being severely hurt with machete and other weapons. This happens because when deforestation takes place in benefit to palm oil plantations, orangutans rush to these areas in search of food, but they only find death or are caught to later be sold and exhibited as touristic entertainment.
Climate change is another impact of palm oil production because, by eliminating native forests, either burning or chopping them, a large amount of CO2 is released into the atmosphere. This is how, unfortunately, Indonesia has become the 3rd largest contributor of CO2 in the world.
WHAT PRODUCTS DO YOU FIND IT IN?
Approximately 40 to 50% of household products have palm oil, for example: shampoo, cosmetics, cleaning agents, laundry detergents, and toothpaste. Here is a list of products and the application of palm oil in them:
- Lipstick – Oil retains color well, does not melt at high temperatures, has a smooth application and is practically tasteless
- Pizza dough – The oil is added to the fresh and frozen pizza dough to prevent it from sticking and to improve its texture
- Instant soups and noodles – a 20% of the weight of soups is palm oil. It is used to pre-cook them, so all you have to do is add hot water
- Shampoo – Palm oil is used to help restore natural hair oils that most shampoos remove
- Detergent – Refined oil is used to make soaps, detergents, and other cleaning products
- Margarine – The oil is applied because at room temperature it is solid and does not contain trans fats
- Cookies – Palm oil is used to give baked goods a creamy flavor and texture
- Ice cream – The oil makes the ice cream smooth and creamy
- Chocolate – The oil gives some chocolates a smooth and shiny appearance and prevents them from melting
- Soap – Palm oil removes oil and dirt from hair and skin, plus it moistens it
- Bread in bag – The oil is used to make bread easier to bake and inexpensive
- Biodiesel – Palm oil can be used to produce biodiesel and biofuel. It is not ideal because it is not “bio” in itself, it has a serious environmental impact
BY WHAT NAMES DO YOU FIND IT?
There are several products that do not mention palm oil and when they do they disguise it using pseudonyms, for example: palm kernel oil, fractionated and hydrogenated vegetable fat from palm kernel, palm stearin, palmolein or palm olein, palm butter or using the scientific name of the species (Elaeis guineensis). Also, vegetable oil, vegetable fat, palm fruit oil, palmate, palmitate, palmolein, glyceryl, stearate, stearic acid, palmitic acid, palmitoyl oxo stearamide, palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3, sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium kernelate, sodium palm kernelate, sodium lauroyl lactylate / sulphate, hydrated palm glycerides, ethyl palmitate, octyl palmitate and palmityl Alcohol. Always check the ingredient label in the back of the product.
WHAT IS IT AND WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
It is a type of a vegetable oil that comes from plantations with hot climates and a lot of rain, such as tropical forests in Africa, Asia, North America and South America. 85% of this oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia, the main exporters in the world. In some cases, this industry has been linked to human rights violations, child labor, where children spend hours carrying large amounts of heavy fruit every day and on top of that, for a very low pay. But the problem is not only in Asia, we must bear in mind that Colombia is already the 4th exporter of palm oil in the world, and is listed as one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet.
GOOD OR BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH?
It’s bad and it is not bad, palm oil is a very rich oil in saturated fats, its excessive consumption is linked to metabolic and cardiovascular diseases due to an increase in levels of bad cholesterol (LDL). They are known to have a lipid profile for the fatty acids that compose it.
WHAT TO DO?
- Reduce the amount of consumption of products with palm oil, even better if you do not consume them at all.
- Join social media campaigns that put pressure on governments to produce responsible palm oil
- Support conservation organizations that seek to break the link between palm oil and deforestation
- Find out which brands and companies are committed to modifying elements that cause deforestation and which ones support the use of responsible palm oil *
* Responsible palm oil means when producers do not destroy thousands of hectares of high-value forest to replace them with their plantations, but instead occupy unused and cleared lands (not forest areas). Additionally, those who are not involved in the violations of human rights as well as land violations. Those that are clear on the provenance of their ingredients and that are transparent with their consumers.
That is why, “The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil” was created, which is an international group of palm oil producers, palm oil buyers and environmental and social groups such as Greenpeace. They are in charge of promoting projects for companies that use palm oil so they can become sustainable and certified producers of the products they manufacture and sell. Furthermore, they seek to eliminate the incentives involved in the production of palm oil that lead to the destruction of forests.
Palm oil is very economical when compared to other types of fats and oils from other origins. Its substitutes, such as soybean oil, hydrogenated oils, or coconut butter, are more expensive. Furthermore, its characteristics, such as its temperature, allow products to remain solid and retain their silky texture at room temperature.
The decision of its consumption is totally in your hands, but now you know a little more about the consequences of its consumption and what it is doing to the Planet, to its species, some already on the brink of extinction. Here you can know more about 20 critically endangered species, you will find several victims of palm oil activities and others. #LifeIsDying #DontLetIt
But, these actions you can take now are: reduce plastic use, avoid products that cause deforestation, eat less meat, eat less fish & seafood, bike to work, car pooling, take public transport, do not buy any type of skins or products made from exotic animals, avoid circuses (places like Sea World), do not pay or take photos with animals, get involved in what’s happening, make donations and report illegal markets.