What is Palm Oil?
Palm oil comes from the palm species Elaeis guineensis. The saturated oil is derived from the mesocarp, or fruit pulp, grown at the apex of the tree below the fronds. The oil of palm is a highly versatile, high-yield vegetable oil that is widely used in products, including chocolate, frying oil, baked goods, breakfast cereals, cosmetics, personal care and cleaning products. It is the most consumed edible oil today. Because of its versatility, the demand worldwide has tripled over the last few decades.
Why is palm oil so widely used in the US?
Palm oil became a large import of the United States when the Food and Drug Administration determined that all nutrition labels needed to list whether a given product contained trans fats or partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Palm oil is often substituted for cocoa butter because it is cheaper and is semi-solid at room temperature, like solid fats. People use palm oil everyday, but they are likely not aware of what it is, where it comes from, or what implications it has for the environment. Palm oil can be found almost everywhere, if you know where to look and what aliases it masquerades under. (Click here to see the Palm Oil Pseudonym List). Also see 'The (Sometimes Strange) Places Palm Oil Hides' under the 'About Us' tab above.
Where is it grown?
Oil palms can be grown anywhere that has a lot of rainfall and is warm/humid. It is produced in South America, Borneo, Sumatra, Malaysia and Africa. This cheap oil is in such high demand that much of Southeast Asia, especially Borneo and Sumatra, have continued to grow massive plantations of this crop at the expense of the rainforest and its inhabitants.
Some Facts About Palm Oil
What Does Palm Oil Look Like?
What's the Problem with Palm Oil?
The problem with palm oil is the way in which it is farmed and manufactured. Current estimates indicate 90% of the rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia will be replaced by palm oil plantations unless drastic action is taken to find ways of producing it sustainably.
Why Should I Care About Palm Oil?
In rain forests half a world away from the United States, orangutans are making their last stand for survival. Scientists warn that these gentle and intelligent animals, among humankind’s closest kin, could become extinct within our lifetime if their rainforest homes continue to be destroyed for palm oil plantations. And the primary threat to these animals is much closer to you than you might think: It’s hidden in the snack food aisle of your local grocery store, and likely in your own shopping cart…in fact it’s in 52% of EVERYTHING in American Stores.
The skyrocketing demand for palm oil has had huge costs for the climate, environment, human rights and health for people, animals and forests the world over. Some of the biggest problems with palm oil:
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/88087720@N00/3047314457
Help the Leuser Ecosystem
"The Leuser Ecosystem is home to the densest population of orangutans remaining anywhere in the world and is the only place where orangutans, tigers, elephants, rhinos and sun bears live in the same forest together. The people of Aceh have long fought to protect the Leuser Ecosystem as it also provides them with clean water for downstream irrigation, agriculture and food production and helps avoid soil erosion, flooding, landslides and pest outbreaks. Today, it is at a crossroads. Massive palm oil companies are pushing hard to open this pristine ecosystem up for mass clearing in order to plant palm oil plantations. Local activists and community members are being joined by scientists and conservationists around the world to call for protection for the Leuser. And protection comes down to one man, Governor Dr. Zaini Abdullah, who can nominate the Leuser as a UNESCO World Heritage site. "
Photo Credit: http://act.ran.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=8963