3 reasons not to use palm oil

It is 7am and suddenly you are awake by the sound of your alarm. You stand up and make your way to the shower to wake up. You decide to wash your hair, which leaves less time for breakfast, so you eat your bowl of cereal and run to the bathroom to brush your teeth. Afterwards, you take your things and quickly start the car, heading towards the responsibilities of a regular week day. All of your activities have one thing in comment – the use of palm oil.

Palm oil is native to West Africa and has only been introduced in 1990s to Malaysia and Indonesia, the countries that produce over 90% world’s total palm oil today. The production equates to over 62 million tonnes a year, which is predicted to double by 2020. This is because palm oil is cheap, easy to transform from liquid to solid and we keep buying it! However, it has a severe impact on the environment and well-being of living species; especially if the production is not regulated which is often the case leading to dirty palm oil. Here are 3 reasons why we should think twice before using it.

1.       Dirty palm oil destroys rainforest. Forests and native settlements have been destroyed and replaced by “green deserts” containing no biodiversity on an area the size of New Zealand in Indonesia and Malaysia! Expanding palm oil plantations leads to deforestation, which leads to greenhouse gas emissions. This is due to palm oil plantations often being established on land converted from swamp forests, which release carbon dioxide and methane when they are burned for clearing.

2.       Dirty palm oil is harmful for living species. Rainforest for us might be the ‘lungs of the planet’, but for some species it is also home, rapidly evaporating due to excessive deforestation. As a result, the animal and plant life has decimated, most notably in Indonesia and Malaysia, bringing some species like the Orangutan, Sumatran Elephant, Tiger and Rhino close to extinction. It also effects human lives; even though palm oil industry provides a solution to poverty for some, it has caused many people to lose their land without consultation or compensation and left them deprived of the possibility to grow food and build homes from forest materials as they have been doing for decades.

3.       Palm oil is bad for health. It is very high in saturated fat causing heart disease, liver dysfunction, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Also, burning rainforest not only causes greenhouse gas emissions but fills the air with dense smoke, causing respiratory problems.

The 18th of June is a Sustainable Gastronomy Day, which is a good time to reflect on your palm oil usage and ways you can reduce/ refuse. How to recognize it?

Palm oil can be found in more than half of the products in the regular supermarkets across New Zealand, however it is hard to recognize it. The reason behind that is the absence of law bounding the companies to declare palm oil in their goods.

Palm oil in food and other products most commonly hides under these names:

-          Vegetable oil

-          Palm kerenel oil

-          Anything containing the world ‘palmitate’ or ‘palmate’

-          Elaeis gunieensis ; the scientific name for the oil palm plant

-          Hexadecanoic or palmitic acid

-          Hydrated Palm Glycerides

-          Sodium Lauryl/ Laureth Sulphate (SLS)

(Source: Auckland Zoo)

(Image source: Greenpeace)

To learn more about which everyday products contain palm oil go to: https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/which-everyday-products-contain-palm-oil