palm oil: uses and consequences

Introduction

Palm oil has a bad reputation. Considered by some as a poison, its production has exploded since the 1980s with increasing demand coming from foods, cosmetics, cleaning products and multitudes of other industries. The natively African tree is now the most consumed vegetable oil worldwide, with more than 85% of its  supply produced in two countries exclusively: Indonesia and Malaysia. Its rise to stardom came due to its extremely low production costs and saturated fats contents. As a result, the cosmetics industry is able to use this ingredient for its moisturising actives.

While palm oil does not cause harm to the skin, it does cause harm to the ecology of our planet. It is so significant that it has caused the extinction of thousands of species. Palm oil represents two-thirds of the global consumption of vegetable oils. This excessive consumption is a social and environmental scourge: it causes deforestation of thousands of hectares in Malaysia and Indonesia, two countries that possess(ed) rich tropical rainforests with beautiful biodiversity, but also displaces many local producers as multi-national corporations step in to reap the profits.

 

What are the alternatives to palm oil?

Alternatives to palm oil would be other vegetable oils such as olive oil, colza oil or even soy oil. However, these cost significantly more. Certain companies use ‘durable’ palm oil and try to obtain palm oil from fair trade. Yet, these practices remain minor as these use of ‘durable’ palm oil does not prevent in any way deforestation.



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