Palm oil, you may have heard about it but how much do you know about what it is, where it comes from and what its environmental effects are?

What is palm oil?

It is the most widely produced edible plant oil in the world. It is a common ingredient in many products, from food and household products to make-up and other cosmetics. It is thought that one in ten products found on our supermarket shelves today contain palm oil.

Palm Oil plantation - aerial view

Where does palm oil come from?

Close to 90% of the world’s palm oil is produced in Malaysia and Indonesia, covering an area of 9 million hectares. This is down to the fact that palm oil needs a rainforest climate with consistently high humidity and temperature, plus lots of land.

Why is it a major issue?

Worldwide demand has increased over the last few years, and today rainforest areas the equivalent to 300 soccer fields is being destroyed every hour. The rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia are among the world’s most species-rich environment and is home to many endangered plants and animals, such as orangutans, Sumatran tigers and Borneo rhinos. The orangutans are particularly vulnerable, as they depend on large forest areas, and when searching for food they often get lost in the palm oil plantations, where they’re seen as pests and destroyed. It’s a sad fact, but according to the UN, there is a risk that by 2020 there will be no wild orangutan remaining outside protected areas.

Wild Tenderness Among Orangutan, Borneo
Orangutans threatened by plantations in Borneo

What can we do?

The most obvious way consumers can protect the rainforest is to avoid palm oil, however under current European legislation companies are under no obligation to state whether or not their products contain it, and is often disguised as a vegetable oil in the list of ingredients. Here is a link to a list of palm oil free products.

Further reading on this can be found on the Rainforest Rescue website. This tells you more about the clearing of rainforests in Borneo to make way for these Palm Oil plantations.

Please sign the petition, help save the rainforests and its inhabitants.

Thanks for reading

Author: Steppes Travel