Palm oil, made from the fruit of the Elaeis Guineenis tree (native to Africa) is a type of vegetable oil. Used for cooking and as an ingredient in butter, crackers, frozen foods, soap, makeup, and shampoo—it is a well known oil. However, the way it’s produced is high unsustainable and is wreaking havoc on the environment in Southeast Asia.
In 2021, the world produced 167 million pounds of palm oil. It’s most commonly used as a vegetable oil to replace trans fat in processed food. Its popularity is due to the fact that growing and harvesting it is relatively cost-effective and it has a mild flavor and smooth texture.
However, the environmental cost is exhausting. In countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, where 85% of the world’s supply comes from, communities are suffering.
To start with, the large-scale production leads to runoff and pollution of nearby soil and waterways. Secondly, loss of biodiversity is also a big factor. In some parts of Asia, palm oil is estimated to cause half of all deforestation. Additionally, many birds and animals become increasingly threatened or endangered in these countries. Not to mention, mass production contributes to global warming by releasing excessive amounts of greenhouse gases into the air.
What can be done to stop the negative effects of harvesting palm oil?
Unfortunately, production is barley regulated. Many believe that if it was regulated, it could lead to less carbon emissions and higher wages for factory workers. Some advocate to reduce the industry’s emissions by using only land that has already been forested for palm plantations which could protect the most carbon-rich lands.
Currently, the European Palm Oil Alliance is committing to fight deforestation, land exploitation, and peat forest development. In fact, in Iceland and Amsterdam, most grocery stores have done away with palm oil. Other nations and countries have vowed to only use sustainable palm oil.
If palm oil was produced in an eco-friendly way, it could have numerous benefits for the environment. Not only does it have health fats, antioxidants, Vitamins A and E, but it would also minimize deforestation, pollution, and global warming.
The bottom line
The unfortunate fact of the matter is this: Palm oil production is responsible for deforestation, greenhouse gas emission, pollution and so much more. As the industry continues to grow and consume it, the issues could intensify.
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