What's the issue?
Expansion of palm oil has led to extensive loss of rainforests which support the greatest diversity of organisms on Earth.
Palm oil is the world’s most widely consumed vegetable oil and can be found in around half of all packaged products on UK supermarket shelves. While palm oil is the most efficient source of vegetable oil (more oil from less land), its rapid expansion threatens some of the planet’s most important and sensitive habitats.
Although they cover just 2% of Earth’s surface, rainforests house over 50% of all life on the Earth.
Oil palm trees grow best in areas that originally supported rainforest. It is the uncontrolled clearing of these forests for palm plantations that has driven widespread loss of these species rich forests. Palm oil is frequently linked to human-wildlife conflict and threatens charismatic species including orangutans, tigers and elephants. Expansion also leads to land disputes with indigenous peoples.
An endangered Sumatran orangutan with her baby in Leuser National Park, Sumatra. There are estimated 6,700 Sumatran orangutans, primarily in the dense rainforests in the north of the island. There is growing alarm that plans to open up new swaths of forest to mining, palm oil and paper companies, could put orangutans and other critically endangered species at even greater risk.
Photo: AFP / Romeo Gacadromeo / Getty
What should you know?
Palm oil is the world’s most widely consumed vegetable oil. Oil palm fruits are high yielding, and each fruit is 30-35% pure oil. One tree produces a fresh fruit bunch (FFB) every two weeks all year round. A single palm tree can produce 40kg of oil in a year. Humans have been using palm oil in food production for over 40,000 years. Palm oil has even been found sealed in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs.
But you don’t need to stop using palm oil altogether! Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) is produced with respect for the environment, local communities and conservation. We need to put pressure on the industry to convert all oil palm plantations to CSPO plantations.