Whenever you go to the supermarket, you find all these kinds of oils that you can use for cooking.
You have coconut oil, flax seed oil, even hemp oil.
Even so, there is a type of oil that you might never want to buy and use it for cooking, but your favorite foods have it as a special ingredient.
This is palm oil and you can find it in a very wide range of foods: pizza, chocolate, biscuits.
Think of Nutella, which is “safe to eat” and is produced in enormous quantities. Rightly so, it tastes pretty good and young people are always buying it.
It is the king of chocolate spreads, as it owns 54% of the global market share and has annual sales of billions of dollars.
Nonetheless, one ingredient in Nutella is palm oil, and this is scary. Its production is hurting people, hurting the air we breathe, and it ends up vanishing healthy environments.
Palm oil is the most popular type of vegetable oil in the world. People use it in large quantities and it can be found in more than half of the products at your local supermarket. Even so, it was disguised for many years under different names such as: Palmitic Acid. Since 2014, a new directive stated that manufacturers need to reveal when they use palm oil for production.
Good news, right?
Well, think again. Palm oil was always an ingredient in some cosmetic items! However, the directive does not apply to this niche. It is used in shampoos, soaps, toothpaste and even makeup.
There are three main reasons why it is so popular among manufacturers. It doesn’t contain trans fats, which most people want to avoid. It has a high melting point and it is very cheap!
Where does palm oil come from?
The most controversial oil in the world, is an edible vegetable oil that from the fruit of the oil palms. It comes mainly from Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Thailand and Colombia. Indonesia is the largest producer of palm oil and produces more than 20 million tonnes.
Why is palm oil bad for the environment and the rainforests?
At what cost do we indulge in treats such as Nutella?
Oil palms grow at the expense of rainforests, which are home to various animals such as the Orangutan.
The oil’s production leads to deforestation, and ultimately, to the disappearance of a healthy environment for these animals. That is how a lot of species become not only endangered, but critically endangered.
Nevertheless, not just animals are in trouble because of this. In Indonesia, there are children as young as 8 years old that are being used to produce the this ingredient which is found in popular products. These children also work in hazardous conditions, and a lot of organizations are aware of these issues.
Do you remember the forest fires of 2015? Those were also a cause of the production of palm oil. They caused extreme pollution, and guess what? Deforestation affects it as well.
What is the solution?
You might expect a simple answer: to stop using this oil.
Most campaigns and organizations, such as WWF and Greenpeace are not going for this, because palm oil is an efficient crop that has many benefits.
Therefore they call for more sustainability practices in the production of the oil, such as using less pesticides on the crops and not hurting rainforests and the environment.
No deforestation, no exploitation!
Nonetheless, palm oil producers did not keep their promises. Many argue that there is no such thing as sustainable palm oil.
We have a long way to go and unless these practices change, the harm from palm oil will most definitely continue.