Palm Oil: Cheap, Versatile, Everywhere, Seemingly Innocuous, and greasing the slippery slope to total rainforest destruction

Sum of Us created a great commercial (anti-commercial) on palm oil, focused on Doritos. Check it out – it is awesome. I loved it so much I wanted to share the joy with all of you. I think the best part of this commercial is that it really does make you think, which in this world of high-tech options, make me dig for more information. Here is what I discovered.

  1. Grown in tropical areas of Asia, Africa and South America, it’s found inside food products, household cleaners, toiletries and cosmetics – around 50 per cent of all packaged products in a typical supermarket, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.
  2. Because it’s a highly versatile oil derived from a very productive tree, and the demand for products containing it is rising, production of palm oil has doubled over the past decade – and is expected to do so again by 2020.
  3. As a result, huge swathes of tropical forests are being cleared to make way for palm oil plantations.
  4. Diverse, important ecosystems are being destroyed; human populations are being displaced; endangered animals such as orangutans could become extinct in the wild within the next 5-10 years, and Sumatran tigers less than 3 years.
  5. Deforestation heavily contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, particularly when clearance occurs on deep peat soils.
  6. The establishment of oil palm plantations is often promoted as a way of bringing development to poor, rural regions of Borneo and Sumatra. In reality, the industry often has devastating impacts on the people in these areas.

Some frightening information, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There have been some attempts to create a sustainable palm oil movement; however, it looks like mostly a green washing marketing campaign. That led me ask the same question new and frightening information always makes me ask, “What can I do”. It turns out that what I, what WE can do is help spread the word and make an effort to buy palm oil free products aka vote with your feet.


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