Loss of biodiversity and climate change
Palm oil is a vegetable oil, just like sunflower and olive oil. The problem with palm oil is that its production results in a major amount of deforestation which has immense consequences for biodiversity and ecosystems. Already, the palm oil industry has led to the habitat destruction of several different plant and animal species, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia where palm oil plantations are booming. More than thirty percent of all mammal species in Indonesia are critically endangered. The Sumatran tiger is likely to become extinct in less than three years and the orangutan will not be far behind. The loss of both of these species will have a major impact on ecosystem in Indonesia. Orangutans spread rainforest seeds, many of which can only germinate once passed through their gut. Less rainforest seeds that germinate means less rainforest overall.
Deforestation not only affects animal and plant species, but also contributes to climate change. To create space for plantations, timber and forest vegetation are being burned. These fires release large quantities of smoke into the atmosphere. That is why, globally, Indonesia is the third highest greenhouse gas emitter.
The demand for vegetable oils keeps increasing. Palm oil production is so popular because it produces a very high yield compared to other oils. It takes 6 times the amount of land to produce the same quantity of soybean oil as it does for palm oil. Because of its economic advantage, various multinationals have switched to the production of palm oil over other oils. They create what so called mega plantations, but with it increase the demand for agricultural land. Locals and farmers are being forced to give up their land and as a result lose their livelihoods. And if they are allowed to keep their land, farmers next to big plantations suffer when pesticides are accidentally sprayed on their lands by airplanes. Locals also become dependent on imported and usually expensive products. In addition, the habitats of indigenous tribes become trapped, or disappear altogether. All of these consequences ensure that local people have no choice then to cooperate.
Through our consumerism, we have attributed to the palm oil problem. Maybe you don’t buy plain palm oil in a bottle as you do with olive oil, but palm oil is used in absolutely everything, especially processed foods. Most consumers do not realize how much they actually consume on a daily basis. Palm oil in itself is not necessarily unhealthy, but as with nearly everything, an excess should be avoided.
As consumers we have a choice to avoid the use of palm oil from these large-scale plantations. The European law helps us out a little, because since 2014, whatever oil is used in a product has to be mentioned on the packaging. All you have to do is be conscious, educate yourself on where your ingredients come from. Take a stand against the use of palm oil and its detrimental consequences for life on this planet. Simply check the label of whatever you’re buying. That’s all you have to do.
For more information, check out http://www.saynotopalmoil.com