Palm oil has become an miracle ingredient found in everything from our biscuits to our shampoos. But the world’s dependence on palm oil has devastating environmental consequences for the communities where it is grown and produced.
So what exactly is palm oil, why has the world become so dependent on it, and why is it so bad for the environment?
What is palm oil?
Palm oil is a vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of the African oil palm tree, and grows in warm and wet conditions.
It is the world’s most versatile vegetable oil and is cheap to grow and produce.
Palm oil has become popular as it can handle frying without spoiling, and blends well with other oils.
Its combination of different fats and consistency also makes it a popular ingredient in packaged baked goods and can be used as a natural preservative in processed foods.
It also can be used as a foaming agent for cosmetics and for biofuels.
Where can you find palm oil?
Palm oil is found in a wide range of everyday consumer items from breakfast cereals, snacks, peanut butter to shampoo and cosmetics.
What is the problem with palm oil?
The demand for palm oil is leading to significant environmental damage in many countries around the world, including mass deforestation and species loss.
Despite being native to Africa, countries such as Guatemala and Honduras are among the largest producers of palm oil in the world.
The huge demand for palm oil is also leading to serious human rights abuses, where people are being forced off their land by companies that want to use the land to produce palm oil. Many community members that try to get their land back face violence, harassment, intimidation and even murder.