Recently, I have been asked by a few customers why I don´t use Palm oil. With this in mind here we take a look at what is Palm oil and whats the stigma surrounding it!
WHAT IS IT?
Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the pulp of the fruit of the oil palm Elaeis guineensis. Oil Palm is highly productive, in agricultural terms has a very high yield with relatively little input. The fruit produces a unique oil that is low in saturated fat and offers an increased shelf life, stability to foods and cosmetics, as well as a multitude of applications, from baking to Biofuel.
PALM OIL CONSUMPTION
Palm oil from has long been recognized in the African continent and its use may date back as far as 5000 years to ancient Egypt. Commonly used as a cooking oil until Palm oil became a highly sought-after commodity by British traders, for use as an industrial lubricant for machinery during the Industrial Revolution.
Total consumption of palm oil has increased tenfold since 1980 and now stands at around 50 million tonnes per year. Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil on the planet.
This vegetable oil is found in approximately 40-50% of household products in countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and England.
Palm oil can be found in a wide variety of products, including:
-Baked goods & confectionery
-Washing detergents & cleaning agents
Palm oil formed the basis of soap products, of well-known brands such as Unilever and the American Palmolive brand.
Unfortunately, the Palm oil industry is linked to major environmental issues such as deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty as well as rights abuses against indigenous communities that populate the areas in deforestation zones. Huge amounts of virgin land are cleared daily to make way for the development of oil palm plantations.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production.- As production of palm oil is set to increase, so does the expansion of plantations that threaten native forests and ecosystems, this destruction is at the expense of biodiversity and habitats in the countries it is produced.
Considering that a great many of the world species live in forests such as these, we have already seen the continuous reduction of many rare species. One animal, in particular, the Orang-utan, has had over 90% of its habitat destroyed in the last 20 years, with an estimated 1000-5000 orang-utans killed each year. Data shows that over 50,000 orangutans have already died as a result of deforestation due to palm oil in the last two decades. As such, is considered by the UN as “a conservation emergency”.
Wildlife such as orangutans have been found buried alive, killed by machete attacks, guns, and other weaponry. Mother orangutans are also often killed by poachers and have their babies taken to be sold or kept as pets, or used for entertainment in wildlife tourism parks in countries such as Thailand and Bali.
Currently, a third of all mammal species in Indonesia are considered to be critically endangered.
Global destruction of tropical forests is a major contributor to climate change. Typical methods for clearing land include burning felled trees and vegetation which actually represent an invaluable source of the world’s timber, not to mention the undergrowth and top soils essential for the earth’s fertility. The physical act of burning these huge fires release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and create air pollution that can block out the sun and threaten human and animal health. In recent years, almost a fifth of oil palm expansion in Indonesia and Malaysia has taken place on peat swamps. Peat locks up huge amounts of carbon, so clearing peatlands by draining and burning them releases enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Over 50% cent of all climate change emissions from oil palm plantations come from 17% of plantations on peat soils.
Although large corporations may promote the idea of bringing wealth to remote places, the wealth rarely falls into the hands of the local community Displacement of unique tribal communities, much like the Penan tribe from Borneo, documented by the BBC in 2008. We find that across Malaysia and increasingly across Africa, the destruction of people’s lives and entire communities has been taking place.
The forest, to which these tribal and nomadic peoples are perfectly adapted, has already been radically altered. They have a deep emotional response to all changes that outsiders would simply take for granted, including the change in environment, food sources, changes in light, sound, and smell of the forest. Normal life for these people will never return as long as their forests are being destroyed, everything from, culture to hunting and collecting medicinal plants. Even the availability of clean water is becoming much more difficult.
Steps in 2014 and onwards...
Europe is one of the leading consumers in palm oil. In recent years some steps towards conscious and sustainable palm oil have Around 14% of palm oil production is now certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO). The oil is produced according to a set of environmental and social criteria designed to ensure the rights of local communities are respected and that no new primary forests or high conservation value areas have been cleared for palm oil production since November 2005. European manufacturers and retailers have made time-bound commitments to source 100% CSPO. The Netherlands is committed to using 100% RSPO certified sustainable palm oil by 2015.
Under a new EU law which will come into effect on 13 December 2014, the types of vegetable oil used in food products must be stated explicitly on the label. This means that manufacturers will no longer be able to hide palm oil in their ingredients under the generic term ‘vegetable oil’ but will be required to list the specific type of vegetable fat used, including palm oil.
Due to the uncertainty in the market surrounding palm oil, all our Alchemy Skin and Soul products exclude the use of any Palm oil. In short, we have an abundance of different oils available on the market, most cheap and adulterated. But there are so many smaller producers, of which are sustainably farmed, GMO-free and as local as possible.
My aim is albeit being a very small business in the grand scheme of things, is to take the responsibility that is in my hands, to say no to unethically produced materials and act in supporting businesses and practices that are earth-friendly, and sustainable.
I only source materials from local companies where possible. Excluding large corporations and opting in favour of small local businesses or Co-ops for transparent traceability. These days it is possible to acquire CSPO Certified sustainable palm oil on the market but I still prefer to use other sources of oils to feed our skin with.
Thank you for reading!