Palm Oil, the world's most prevalent, yet hidden food and cosmetic ingredient, is quietly causing destruction and devastation across Southeast Asia. In fact, the Palm Oil industry is quickly destroying the most precious and bio-diverse ecosystem in the world - the rainforest. Still, it's found in a wide variety of food and cosmetics, including ice cream, shampoo, soap, and even lipstick. Today, we're uncovering the ugly truth about Palm Oil and why we adamantly avoid it. Below are six good reasons to avoid Palm (Elaesis guineensis) Oil.
1. Mass Deforestation
The main countries responsible for the majority of the world's Palm Oil production - Indonesia and Malaysia - have no regulations in place to address how the Oil is harvested or produced, or how this process impacts the environment. With no laws or regulations in place, the Palm Oil industry continues to grow and survive by literally burning the world's most precious resource - it's rainforests - to the ground. Across Southeast Asia, as well as Latin America and Africa, huge tracts of rainforests are being bulldozed or torched in order to make room for giant Palm Oil plantations. At the same time, massive amounts of carbon are being released into the atmosphere, further contributing to climate change. Indonesia, for example, is now the 3rd highest greenhouse gas emitter in the world due in large part to the burning of its rainforests. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that an area of rainforest the size of 300 football fields is torched every minute for Palm Oil production.
2. Human Rights Abuses
The Palm Oil industry is also rife with human rights abuses. For example, the Indonesian and Malaysian governments often sell plots of land belonging to indigenous people over to large corporations for the sake of Palm Oil production. Local farmers and families are forced out of their homes and forced out of work as these large corporations move in and destroy the natural land and rainforest on which these local people rely. Displaced and out of work, many of these people then have little choice but to work for the very corporations that displaced them. Forced to work on these large Palm Oil plantations, they are faced with poor working conditions and extremely poor pay. Thousands of children are also forced to work and receive little to no pay in return. And the human rights abuses don't stop there - there are also serious issues of debt bondage and human trafficking within the Palm Oil industry.
3. Orangutan Endangerment and Extinction
Along with mass deforestation and human rights abuses, the Palm Oil industry brings with it a slew of other heart-breaking consequences. Borneo and Sumatra, the only two places in the world where Orangutans are native and endemic, have experienced a massive expansion of Palm Oil plantations. Over 50,000 Orangutans have been killed since 1999, with up to 5,000 now being killed each year due to the destruction of the rainforest. It is estimated that Orangutans have had over 90% of their habitat destroyed by the Palm Oil industry in just the last 20 years. The United Nations has declared the situation a "conservation emergency" and researchers now believe that Orangutans will be extinct in as little as ten years.
4. Endangerment and Extinction of Other Species
While the Orangutans suffer tremendously at the hands of the Palm Oil industry, other species, both plant and animal, are suffering harsh negative consequences as well. Orangutans are, in fact, vital to the overall health and biodiversity of the ecosystem as they carry and distribute seeds throughout the rainforest. As Orangutans move closer and closer to extinction, so too does the rainforest itself. Other animal species in these regions, such as elephants and tigers, are dwindling in numbers as well. This is both due to habitat destruction and due to eager poachers who can now readily access these creatures without the protection of the dense rainforest.
5. Heavily Refined
Most of the Palm Oil used in food, cosmetics, and other products, is heavily refined. This refining process diminishes or even eliminates, the nutrient profile of the Oil. Therefore, Refined oils have significantly lower levels of vitamins and nutrients than the plant itself and are more difficult for our bodies to digest or obtain nutritional value from.
6. Potential Toxicity
A study published in 1999 found that oxidized Palm Oil "induces reproductive toxicity and organotoxicity particularly of the kidneys, lungs, liver and heart." Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing whether the Palm Oil found in a product is oxidized, and to what extent. What researchers have found is that, "a considerable amount of the commonly used Palm Oil is in the oxidized state." This potential for internal toxicity is just one more reason to avoid this destructive ingredient.
Palm Oil is not always clearly labeled and appears under many names. Any of the following ingredients found on your food or cosmetic labels indicates that a product likely contains Palm Oil or a Palm Oil derivative:
Wabi-Sabi Botanicals is proud to be 100% Palm Oil and Palm Oil derivative-free. Shop our Palm Oil free products here.