10 July 2013

The problem with palm oil

You might have heard about this before, but I want to share it in case you haven't. So many products contain palm oil and I think it's important to be aware of the problems surrounding it so that you can make informed decisions at the grocery store.

Image from here

These paragraphs is from the Sumatran Orangutan Society website. It explains the issue in a few sentences. I'll link to sites where you can read a lot more at the end of the post.

"Over the past few decades, oil palm plantations have rapidly spread across Southeast Asia and the palm oil industry has become a crucial source of income and employment for countries such as Indonesia.  However, this development has come at the expense of Indonesia's tropical rainforests and peatlands, home to countless endangered species and providing crucial ecological services to millions of people.

There is a huge amount of degraded land available for planting oil palms in Sumatra and Borneo, but palm oil companies can make a quick profit when they cut down rainforests and sell the timber, so the relentless deforestation continues."

"The decline of the orangutan in Sumatra and Borneo in recent years symbolizes the devastation of one of the world's biodiversity hotspots - the lowland rainforests of Southeast Asia. Conversion to oil palm plantations is of course not the only threat facing these forests, but in Indonesia and Malaysia, the palm oil industry has been a significant driver of deforestation. The loss of these forests threatens many endangered and critically endangered species, including orangutans. Orangutans share their forest home with countless other species, including Sumatran tigers, elephants, and rhinos.  More than 80% of agricultural expansion in the tropics between 1980 and 2000 came at the expense of forests. Agricultural expansion is also linked to other causes of biodiversity decline, including hunting, poaching, human-wildlife conflict, illegal logging, and forest fires. Tropical forests are also vitally important to everyone on the planet - they are incredible carbon sinks, so losing these habitats would be catastrophic in terms of the global fight to prevent dangerous climate change."

We've been avoiding products containing palm oil since we found out about these issues since last year. It can be really difficult since so many products contain palm oil and it's often only labelled as vegetable oil or fat. Many of our favourite products contain palm oil and we've stopped buying them. It's not only in food, but many many other products too.

I've read about sustainable palm oil and some people recommend demanding companies use it instead of trying to avoid palm oil. I would be happy to buy real sustainable palm oil products, but I'd need to know a lot more about it and what it really means. It seams like there's still a long way to go in that field.

Here's just a few places you can read more about palm oil:

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