Palm Oil – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be suspicious of any product that lists palm oil in the ingredients. Production of this crop has been responsible for ravaging tropical rainforests in our never-ending pursuit of cheap food. However, not all palm oil is bad and in one of my occasional series on ingredients, I give you sustainable palm oil.
Sustainable palm oil sounds like a contradiction in terms. Palm oil production can not only wreck vital tropical rain forests, but also the lives of the indigenous peoples who live in those forests. Workers rights can be disregarded in an outrageous way. The burning of forests and the destruction of vital ecosystems is contributing to climate change and air pollution. Many know of the plight of the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger and quite rightly people are concerned about it and are boycotting products made of bad palm oil.
So why is this particular oil so popular? The tree itself is easy to grow, efficient and very high yielding, so it sort of makes sense. It’s also a really useful ingredient and is great for frying, baking and extending the shelf life of products. It’s found in about 50% of the goods we buy from supermarkets. It can be found in chocolate *covers face and weeps*, margarine, spreads and baked goods as well as makeup and household cleaners. But is it all bad?
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is a not-for-profit organisation that has been working to transform the palm oil industry since 2004. Simply stopping the production of palm oil would not actually help the planet and the peoples and animals that live on it. The crop would simply be replaced by another one that would require even more space to produce the same amount of oil. So the RSPO has come up with a set of standards which it’s encouraging the industry to adopt. The most critical one of these is to refrain from using any lands that are virgin forest, support fragile ecosystems or are particularly important for wildlife. The reduction of pesticides and fires is also seen as important as is respecting workers rights and consulting with local peoples regarding new plantations. It’s worth bearing in mind that 4.5 million peoples in Indonesia and Malaysia currently earn their living from this crop.
The RSPO has made considerable progress, but still needs the help of consumers to be aware and either buy products that carry the RSPO label, or call for products that contain sustainable palm oil. Whole Earth peanut butter, for instance is RSPO certified. At the moment only 21% of the palm oil consumed is sustainably sourced, but the aim is to make that 100% by 2020. No pressure there then.
Artist Jess Dance has created three fun knitted food videos to liven the campaign’s message up a bit. As a once keen knitter, I am still in awe of her creations. Here’s one of them.
What are your thoughts on palm oil and are you happy to buy products that include it? If you’re happy to say yes to good palm oil, why not join in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter or share one of the knitted videos? Noodles, Ice Cream or Cookies. Use the hashtag #GoodBadPalmOil.
If you want to read more on the palm oil debate these Guardian articles might prove useful.
This is a sponsored post. It’s an issue I feel strongly about. I was not expected to write a positive review and all opinions are, as always, my own.