I was regretfully addicted to a particular cake sort of cookie from the bakery until my neighbor pointed out that they contained Palm Oil. I haven't purchased them since. Last night I picked out an assortment of "healthier options" from the store and today when I started to polish off a bag of plantain chips. PLANTAIN CHIPS. Three ingredients: Plantains, palm oil, and salt.
I started looking at other labels and noticed that not only was palm oil an ingredient in things I was eating, but it was an ingredient IN ingredients in things I was eating, like margerine. I don't even buy margerine, but it's sometimes in other things I buy. Then I started trying to remember all of the things I knew about palm oil and why I boycotted it in the first place. I honestly couldn't remember. Something about tearing down rain forests, killing orangutangs ...? So I set out to do a little research.
(Please note, I am going to copy and paste some things, with sources at the end of those paragraphs. This is just to inform you, and I am in no way benefitting from what I am about to tell you.)
Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the mesocarp (reddish pulp) of the fruit of the oil palms, primarily the African oil palm, and to a lesser extent from the American oil palm and the maripa palm. It is not to be confused with palm kernel oil derived from the kernel of the same fruit, or coconut oil derived from the kernel of the coconut palm. (Wikipedia)
The use of palm oil in food products has attracted the concern of environmental activist groups; the high oil yield of the trees has encouraged wider cultivation, leading to the clearing of forests in parts of Indonesia and Malaysia to make space for oil-palm monoculture. This has resulted in significant acreage losses of the natural habitat of the orangutan, of which both species are endangered; one species in particular, the Sumatran orangutan, has been listed as critically endangered.
In 2004, an industry group called the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil was formed to work with the palm oil industry to address these concerns. Additionally, in 1992, in response to concerns about deforestation, the Government of Malaysia pledged to limit the expansion of palm oil plantations by retaining a minimum of half the nation's land as forest cover. (W)
Palm oil is very common in things like mayonnaise and many salad dressings, keep an eye out when purchasing these items. It's a staple ingredient in most margarines because it was thought to be a good substitute for trans fat, but even the USDA decided they were wrong about that! Butter is a much healthier option. Always read the ingredients. Just because it appears to be a natural and healthy option, doesn't make it one.
It's also found in many soaps, like Unilever and Palmolive, hence the name. We literally need to look at the ingredients of EVERYTHING we purchase.
This is what bothers me, almost the most:
Palm oil is used to produce both methyl ester and hydrodeoxygenated biodiesel. Palm oil biodiesel meets the European EN 14214 standard for biodiesels. (W)
The organic waste matter that is produced when processing oil palm, including oil palm shells and oil palm fruit bunches, can also be used to produce energy. This waste material can be converted into pellets that can be used as a biofuel. Additionally, palm oil that has been used to fry foods can be converted into methyl esters for biodiesel. The used cooking oil is chemically treated to create a biodiesel similar to petroleum diesel. (W)
Palm oil cultivation has been criticized for impacts on the natural environment, including deforestation, loss of natural habitats, which has threatened critically endangered species such as the orangutan and Sumatran tiger, and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Many palm oil plantations are built on top of existing peat bogs, and clearing the land for palm oil cultivation contributes to rising greenhouse gas emissions.
Environmental groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth oppose the use of palm oil biofuels, claiming that the deforestation caused by oil palm plantations is more damaging for the climate than the benefits gained by switching to biofuel and utilizing the palms as carbon sinks.
While only 5 percent of the world's vegetable oil farmland is used for palm plantations, palm cultivation produces 38 percent of the world's total vegetable oil supply. In terms of oil yield, a palm plantation is 10 times more productive than soy bean and rapeseed cultivation because the palm fruit and kernel both provide usable oil.
I did find that palm oil isn't a new commodity, but has actually been used for over 5,000 years, and was found in tombs in Egypt. It's always been a popular cooking oil in Africa, and became highly sought after by the British as a lubricant for machinery.
So let's consider our options. Read labels on everything you purchase if you are against the use of palm oil, and spread the word!