Palm Oil

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the mesocarp (reddish pulp) of the fruit of the oil palms. The oil is used in food manufacturing, in beauty products, and as biofuel. Palm oil accounted for about 33% of global oils produced from oil crops in 2014. Palm oils are easier to stabilize and maintain quality of flavor and consistency in processed foods, so are frequently favored by food manufacturers. On average globally, humans consumed 7.7 kg (17 lb) of palm oil per person in 2015. Demand has also increased for other uses, such as cosmetics and biofuels, creating more demand on the supply encouraging the growth of palm oil plantations in tropical countries.

The use of palm oil has attracted the concern of environmental groups due to deforestation in the tropics where palms are grown, and has been cited as a factor in social problems due to allegations of human rights violations among growers. An industry group formed in 2004 to create more sustainable and ethical palm oil, through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. However, very little palm oil is certified through the organization, and some groups have criticized it as greenwashing. In 2018, a report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature acknowledged that palm oil is much more efficient than other oils in terms of land and water usage, however deforestation causes more biodiversity loss than switching to other oils.

The biggest producers of palm oil are Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Nigeria. Indonesia produces biodiesel primarily from palm oil. Since agricultural land is limited, in order to plant monocultures of oil palms, land used for other cultivations or the tropical forest need to be cleared. A major environmental threat is then the destruction of rainforests in Indonesia.

Vegetable Oils and Fats