Palm oil and its impact on the environment

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Palm oil is a type of vegetable oil derived from the palm fruit, grown on the African oil palm tree. Because the trees can grow in tropical climates, today almost all palm oil is produced in, and exported from, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Palm oilPristine rainforest is slashed and burned each year in order to make way for more and more oil palm plantations as the demand for this oil in increasing year by year.

Many orangutans and other wildlife are killed in the process, so that this one vegetable oil can be used in many popular foods, cleaners, make-up and other products and it is present in about 50% of products at this time and more than likely its use is going to increase and with it the environmental degradation unless we, the consumer, take the appropriate steps.

This large-scale deforestation is pushing orangutans to extinction, along with many other native species of Borneo and Sumatra. Please avoid products that contain palm oil whenever possible! Many products simply label palm oil as "vegetable oil" in order to confuse the issue and the consumer.

Even greater impact has the race for vegetable oil derived bio-diesel and some countries now make a proportion of bio-diesel mandatory to be in “ordinary” diesel and thus too more and more palm oil is required, as that is the main source for the oil for the production of bio-diesel.

For more info and how to detect palm oil and it's various names:

For a list of 300 companies that use palm oil:

Another list:

Rainforest Action Network:

We, all of us, as consumers, have the power to influence as to whether this oil is being used or not and the same applies to the use of palm oil for bio-diesel only in the latter case it is our political power that we have to bring to bear rather than our buying power.

However, a change in our way of living, by reducing the use of the infernal combustion engine (the “infernal” is not a typo) will also help to get the message across as to reducing the need for fuel, whether diesel or gasoline – the bio-version of that which is being produced from corn (maize) on agricultural land which would be much better employed in growing food for people.

We, the people, can be the change and be the catalyst for change if we but do our bit, each and every one of us.

© 2013