There is a huge variety of products that contain palm oil and it’s hard to imagine our routine without them. Where does palm oil come from? The awareness has been recently rising concerning the question of palm oil and sustainability and the impact that the production of palm oil has on the environment.
Where does palm oil come from?
Palm oil is extracted from the pulp of the oil palm fruit. The plantations are located in South America, New Guinea, Ghana, Indonesia and Malaysia. Oil palm is extremely productive and gives much greater yield than other crops, like sunflower or rapeseed. In addition, the prices for this oil are relatively low as the labor cost is low as well. Therefore, it is not surprising that the demand for this oil is growing constantly and the demand for more plantations occurs. This leads to the environmental problems that palm oil production causes.
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The effect of palm oil production on the environment
There are few major problems caused by palm oil production that are of great concern nowadays:
Deforestation caused by palm oil
Since the demand for palm oil is really high, more and more plantations are needed and therefore it requires more land. This problem is especially serious in Indonesia and Malaysia. For example, there has been a major tropical forest cleaning in Indonesian national parks. The deforestation includes total clearance of the land from any trees and plants and heavy machinery is used. What has to be remembered is the fact that plantation can last only from 20 to 50 years until the soil completely runs out of nutrients, and therefore, palm oil is not a long-term solution for sustainability.
Palm oil and orangutans
Since deforestation means clearing the land from trees that also means elimination of orangutans’ natural habitat. The animals living on the Indonesian islands are the two endangered species, Sumatran orangutan and Borneo orangutan. By getting more and more palm oil plantations, more and more species are killed and this leads to the orangutan extinction. As well orangutans can be sold by poachers or even considered as pests and shot.
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Is there any solution?
The action has to be taken and there is a solution to the problem that aims at stabilizing the situation. In 2004 the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil was established and according to Wikipedia, its objective is promoting the growth and use of sustainable palm oil. That means oil palm plantations can be located only in specific areas approved by RSPO and palm oil production has to correspond to the set global and ecological standards. The organization gets together the stakeholders, growers, manufacturers and various governmental and non-governmental bodies in order to discuss the industry and make sure that all sustainability criteria is followed. Therefore, it is highly recommended to choose palm oil approved by RSPO as such oil corresponds to standards and promotes sustainable development of the industry.The importance of choosing sustainable products is also explained by Doctor Oz.