With 66 million tons per year, palm oil is the most produced vegetable oil in the world. The low price on the world market and good processing characteristics lead to a reality where one half of the products you buy in the supermarket contain palm oil. In addition to ready-made meals, biscuits and margarine, palm oil is also found in moisturizers, soaps, make-up, candles and detergents.
In the tropical regions around the equator, the oil palm (elaeis guineensis) finds ideal conditions for its cultivation. In Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa, vast areas of rainforest are cleared and burned every day in order to create space for plantations. This way, huge amounts of greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere. In 2015, Indonesia – the largest producer of palm oil – emitted more climate gases than the US. CO2 and methane emissions cause biodiesel produced from palm oil to be three times more harmful to the climate than fossil fuel.
But not only the global climate is suffering: along with the trees, rare animal species such as the orangutan, the borneo pygmy elephant and the sumatran tiger also disappear. Often, small farmers and indigenous people who inhabit and protect the forest are displaced from their land in a violent way. In Indonesia, more than 700 land conflicts are related to the palm oil industry. Even on plantations declared as “sustainable” or “ecological”, human rights are violated again and again. This comes certainly as a wakeup call when it comes to buying palm oil products. Next time you go to your grocery think on how a small purchase here and there can harm the environment.