The global demand for palm oil has already devastated millions of acres of rainforest in South East Asia and now companies are turning to Africa. Research by the Rainforest Foundation UK found that more than a million acres of rainforest is imminently threatened in the Congo Basin.
Palm oil comes from the fruit of the oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis). It can be separated into a wide range of distinct oils, with different properties. This versatility has seen palm oil replace animal and other vegetable oils in a wide variety of products. Currently, around 50% of products in UK supermarkets contain palm oil, including soaps, shampoos, lipstick, waxes, polishes, icecreams and many other kinds of food. Consequently, palm oil plantations have become one of the fastest-growing monocropping plantations in the tropics of Africa, as well as in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean. Much of this expansion has occured in Malaysia and Indonesia. these two countries accounted for over half of the world's total plantation and Nigeria accounted for just over 30%. Cultivation continues to expand – with dramatic consequences for biodiversity.
Large areas of tropical forests and other ecosystems with high conservation values have been cleared to make room for vast monoculture oil palm plantations – destroying critical habitat for many endangered species, including rhinos, elephants, gorilas and tigers. In some cases, the expansion of plantations has lead to the eviction of forest-dwelling peoples.
People, wildlife, forests, and sustainable palm oil
“The expansion of palm oil poses a growing threat to Africa’s rainforests, as well as to the people who depend on those forests for their livelihoods and culture.”
As consumers, we can make a difference by opting to buy only those products that contain palm oil from sustainable sources, and so encourage companies to use certified sustainable palm oil in the products they make and sell (RSPO). But more will have to be done on the labeling side in order to make this information readily available to the public. The Rainforest Foundation UK has come up with the Palm Oil Guide which provides people with the information to make informed choices, helping us avoid those that are destroying rainforests.
Go to Palm Oil Guide (online) to get your info now.
You can also get a copy of the guide by texting the word PRODUCT to 70300 and have it to hand for their next trip to the shops.