Why you should care about palm oil

Orangutan, orphan
iStock-Jan-Otto

Here at SciTech we are welcoming Andre Laperrière, the Executive Director of Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN), to discuss the environmental implications of using unsustainable palm oil.

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees. Palm oil is in almost 50% of the packaged products that we find in the supermarket. From shampoo to chocolate, you can find palm oil almost everywhere.

Palm oil is the driving force behind a lot of the world’s deforestation. Causing endangered species like the orangutan to lose their habitats. The deforestation destroys some of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems. Palm oil is also widely associated with the exploitation of workers as well as child labour.

Andre Laperrière said: “Palm oil is notorious for its incredibly detrimental effect on the environment. This is because its production is dependent on the clearing of vast swathes of tropical rainforest and untouched land to make way for plantations, a process that has ultimately led to the major loss of biodiversity, ecosystems and habitats which support endangered species such as orangutans.

He continued: “Palm oil is used for an incredibly large amount of western foodstuffs, including highly popular and mass produced products such as chocolate, Nutella and ice cream. Due to this popularity, our shifting diets are largely to blame for driving the demand behind this large-scale ecological damage. With the largescale consumption of these foods, palm oil farmers are forced to clear more land in order to meet production, which comes at the expense of the surrounding natural environment and its ecosystems, often in developing countries.

“Though some plantations have made efforts to become sustainable in their production of palm oil, it is not yet known whether these measures are sufficient in preventing further ecological damage. The damage that we are causing to our global ecosystems is verging on irreparable and unless immediate action is taken, we will likely see the large-scale extinction of several plant and animal species. Therefore it would therefore be more beneficial if consumers are aware of their indirect palm oil intake, and as much as possible cut down on their allied products. This would also help to prevent further environmental damage and deforestation.”

Opinions and observations expressed in this article neither support nor conflict the opinions and observations of SciTech Europa.
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