Palm oil is known to contain saturated fats increasing cardiovascular risks. Beyond these health considerations, this product, now ubiquitous in various industries, raises many social and environmental questions.
Twenty years ago, palm oil was not very present in the industry. In 1995, 15.2 million tons were produced in the world against 60 million tons in 2015. This strong increase is a will of the industrialists since this raw material turns out to be very cheap. Palm oil is used in the composition of many food products (biscuits, spreads, prepared meals), cosmetics (toothpaste, shampoo), as well as in the development of bio-fuels.
Palm oil has become a controversial matter in recent years and many NGOs denounce abuses concerning the environment and populations. The short video visible at the end of the article resulting from the collaboration between the NGO Greenpeace and the daily Le Monde summarizes the current situation quite well.
Palm oil comes from the pulp of the fruits of the oil palm. These abundantly cultivated palms are responsible for 40% of deforestation on a global scale, mainly in Indonesia and Malaysia, the two most producing countries. This massive deforestation has consequences on biodiversity because indeed, many wild animals find themselves dispossessed of their natural habitat. The most famous victim of palm oil is the orangutan, which has simply found itself threatened with extinction.
The environment is seriously affected. Deforestation is orchestrated by slash and burn cultivation, a technique of clearing and fertilization by fire frequently used in tropical environments. In reality, it destroys soils and ecosystems, while causing significant pollution. Populations are also directly impacted by the toxic fumes of this means of deforestation. In 2015, an estimated 100,000 people died prematurely in Southeast Asia for this reason.
Local populations are also affected by human rights violations. Farmers are regularly victims of land expropriations, finding themselves destitute and sometimes even murdered when they do not let themselves be done.
The real solution would be to no longer consume products containing palm oil, but labeling still needs to make progress, just like the states. France and Germany have pledged to use 100% palm oil from sustainable production by 2020, while a debate in the European Parliament took place on April 3, 2017. However, the major manufacturers do not are very little called into question, while the responsibility is also a citizen’s responsibility.
Here is the short video explaining the palm oil problem:
Sources: Le Monde – Konbini