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Palm oil is not the worst

Palm oil is not the worst

Everyone is up in arms and the “Boycott Palm Oil’ posts are being shared faster than a flu virus.

This is so typical of our social media boycotts. Everyone gets into a tizz, shares everything to show that they stand by the cause, point fingers at those that don’t share or do anything….and then…. less than a week later everything is forgotten. Life carries on. Problem solved right?

Everyone is saying stop buying any product with palm oil. First problem, you don’t know all the products that contain palm oil, so how are you going to stop buying them?

Second problem, what is going to replace palm oil?

Stop and think for a second.

Think about the consequences about a ban on palm oil.

You think the forests will be saved? The Orangutans will be safe? The flowers will all start to bloom again and the sun will shine?

Will you suddenly stop eating? Are you going to stop washing yourself with soap?

I guess not. So guess what?

Something will have to replace palm oil.

Do you want animal fat to come back? No?

Petrochemicals? Like Mineral oil? Even if you did want that, it is a limited resource. Despite everyone’s aversion to mineral oil, it too is actually natural and comes from the Earth. The problem is the Earth is also running out of oil. I’m sure you’ve heard a thing or two about that?

So that leaves another vegetable oil. Let’s take some options that could replace it, soy or sunflower. These crops need around 4 times the amount of land than palm oil does for the same amount of oil produced. This is why palm oil has been used, because it has a very high yield. So if palm is replaced by one of these, do you think that deforestation will stop? No, it will get worse, much worse.

I’ve done lots more reading on the subject and delved really deep. There are some startling facts that I’ve come across.

The below is taken from an article on I normally wouldn’t take an excerpt straight from the article, but I cannot word it any better than they already have.


Still, the palm oil issue is really complex. It’s in a lot of cosmetics and food – it’s semisolid at room temperature, which makes it a vegetarian alternative to animals fats. But simply removing it from the food chain doesn’t mean it will help to tackle deforestation. “Oil palm in itself is no better or worse than other crops,” says Douglas Sheil, an ecologist at Norwegian University of Life Sciences. “Pineapples, chocolate, coffee, bananas, cane sugar, soya, coconuts, vanilla and so on, also beef cattle, also replace tropical forests.”

And overall, palm oil is not the main driver of deforestation. The World Resources Institute estimates that four commodities drive about half of the world’s tropical deforestation: palm oil, beef, soy, and paper and pulp. The other half is due to things like timber production and illegal land use. Palm oil itself is only a fairly small element of that.

To stop using palm oil completely, we would have to find an alternative. The problem is, there’s no other product that yields the same amount of oil using the same level of resources. Iceland’s move to ban palm oil products is potentially dangerous, argues Bicknell, because boycotting it may put pressure on other crops that are just as responsible for the world’s environmental problems, if not more so.

Compared to other sources of vegetable oil, such as rapeseed and soybeans, palm oil is the most productive vegetable oil, says Denny Ng of Nottingham University in Malaysia, who is also the founding director of Centre of Sustainable Palm Oil Research. It produces up to five times the oil per unit of land and needs far less pesticides and fertiliser. So swapping it for something else could require humans to use more land, fertiliser and pesticides to meet the world’s oil consumption.


Palm oil is our current culprit, but the problem is so much bigger and extends much further. I certainly did not know that pineapple plantations also contribute to deforestation, did you? What about coffee plantations? Are we going to boycott coffee, chocolate, pineapples and coconuts?

Guess what was in my lunch today? Fruit salad with pineapple, followed by a delicious coffee! It doesn’t seem so delicious now.

The point I am trying to make is that we need to stop this extreme, all or nothing, emotional reaction with these social media posts. I love that this is getting attention like it is, but honestly, next week everyone goes about their business. This problem is over 30 years old, when did you hear about it the first time? This week?

What do we do? Short of ridding the planet of the evil called humans, yes, it is entirely due to humans, we can start by being more conscious beings.

Don’t just call for the boycott today. Live everyday with more awareness. Insist on sustainable products. No matter what the source, let’s all make sustainable choices. That is the only way to help the Earth.

Sustainable palm is possible Currently only 20% of global palm oil is sustainably sourced. We can make huge progress to get to 100% sustainable palm.

That goes for sustainable everything! Let’s make a sustainability drive.

On a positive note, researchers at the University of Bath have found a way to chemically engineer an oily yeast that can mimic palm oil. This yeast has been traditionally used in South Africa’s wine making. It is still early stages and they are working on ways to make it viable, currently it would be too costly but in the next few years they hope to have the project up and running. This yeast would need far less land to grow, they estimate anywhere form 10 – 100% less land than palm. Isn’t Science amazing!

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