Palm oil August 27 2010, 0 Comments
You may have heard a lot in the media about palm oil – its use, source and its damaging effects.
So what is exactly is palm oil and why should we pay more attention to its use?
Palm oil comes from the fruit of the oil palm tree and comes via a number of names including Elaeis guineensis (mainly cosmetics), sodium lauryl sulphate, cetyl alcohol, stearic acid, isopropyl and other palmitates, and other fatty alcohol sulphates. It can also be contained in some products labelled ‘plant derived’.
You may just be surprised what products contain palm oil ranging from ice cream, chocolate, fruit juice, soap, toothpaste, laundry powders, make-up, pet food and cleaning products to name a few. The alarming part is the widespread use and volume consumed.
Due to its variety of uses, global production of palm oil has doubled in the last decade. In 2006, palm oil was the most produced and traded vegetable oil accounting for 65% of all vegetable oils traded internationally with worldwide demand again expected to double by 2020.
This increased demand also saw (and continues to see) the expansion of plantations in Indonesia, Malaysia and other Asian countries - often at the expense of tropical forest and critical habitat for a large number of endangered species.
This large scale conversion has contributed to devastating effects on local species including tigers (Malaysia, Sumatra), Asian elephants (Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo), Sumatran Rhino (Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo), orang-utans (Sumatra, Borneo) and the sun bear (Malaysia, Borneo).
In fact, the largest plantation developments are in Malaysia and Indonesia with South East Asia deforesting the equivalent of 300 football fields EVERY HOUR for palm oil production.
As a result of this wide-spread expansion, palm oil production can be attributed to single-handedly causing the dramatic reduction of the orang-utan population in Borneo.
Poaching of orang-utans for illegal pet trade in cleared areas is also a regular occurrence. In addition, the burning of natural forests to pave the way for palm oil plantations has contributed to the slow and painful death of thousands of these beautiful creatures as they try unsuccessfully to escape.
On top of this, the effects of land degradation, soil erosion, air pollution and climate change from palm oil production and land clearing is even more reason to boycott its use. The practice of draining and converting peatland forests is especially damaging for the climate, as these ‘carbon sinks’ store more carbon per unit area than any other ecosystem in the world.
These are the types of damaging activities occurring at the hands of palm oil production and its destructive nature on habitats, endangered species and our planet.
So what can you do to help?
Start by making palm oil free choices in your everyday life.
You can begin by becoming educated and informed about the products you use and the ingredients products contain – question their source and their make-up.
You can make a difference.
Support businesses that support and produce palm oil free products and lets take real measures to becoming PALM OIL FREE.
For more information on palm oil issues and how you can help make a difference please visit:
SOURCE: Research, information and some content was sourced from the the WWF and Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Australia.