THE KILLER IN DISGUISE

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Written by Emily Faure

Palm oil, scientifically known as ‘Elaeis guineensis”, is a vegetable oil extracted from the fruit and/or seed of the oil palm tree. Palm oil was commonly used in African countries and was brought over to the South-East Asian countries in the 19th century. Nowadays over 45 different countries are producing this vegetable oil while 85% of the global supply is contributed by Indonesia and Malaysia, making them two of the top global suppliers. 

Palm oil is in most of our everyday products meaning that it is in demand. Due to it being in demand, it is being planted more…way more. So much so that it is now being planted in the space of many of the Earth's ecosystems such as the Amazon rainforest, tropical forests and many more lungs of the earth. These apocalyptic oil palm trees are being planted so fast and in such immeasurable amounts that the tropical rainforests are being deforested “at the rate of nearly 15 million hectares every year.” -David Attenborough (Netflix series - Our Planet). Furthermore, in the last 4 decades the tropical rainforests have declined by 75%.

Not only are oil palms causing deforestation, they are causing many of the creatures that live and survive off these forests to become endangered. An example of these animals is the closest species to us, the orangutang, as well as the pygmy elephant, rhinos and many more organisms. It has been estimated that we lose 100 orangutang per week and the current generation of orangutang might be the last to walk our planet Earth.

 Jungles, as well as the coral reefs and ocean, are the Earth’s lungs and are incredibly important for us and our fellow organisms that also walk and provide for our home. Jungles and rainforests capture and store more carbon than any other habitat on land, unlike oil palms which do the complete opposite and actually emit large amounts of methane gas and in order to clear the forests and jungles for the planting of the oil palms, the land is set a light and burnt which as we know creates an enormous amount of carbon dioxide.

Palm oil is in a huge amount of our everyday products, some of these products are:

  • Packaged bread

  • Crisps

  • Shampoo (such as Head and Shoulders)

  • Soap

  • Lipstick

  • Margarine

  • Chocolate (such as Cadbury and Maltesers)

  • Pizza bases

  • Vegan cheese

  • Biodiesel

  • Biscuits (such as Maryland and Oreos)

Most products have the list of ingredients of the back for the packaging. However you might not be able to spot palm oil listed in the ingredients because it might be sneakily named as something else because it has around 436 different names such as the following list found on https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/which-everyday-products-contain-palm-oil

Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate


Simply not purchasing or using products containing palm oil, you may think it is hard not to because a lot of products contain this vegetable oil but just swapping out palm oil containing products with another brand can do more than you think. Another thing you could do is supporting different companies which are trying to do all they can with your help to reduce and stop this crisis. Some organisations to support are WWF, the Rainforest Foundation and Greenpeace.

As a society, we need to stand against palm oil production, and we need to save the Earth’s lungs. A body with out lungs will die and it’s the same for the Earth and its ecosystems. 

For more information about palm oil and its impacts, make sure to check out World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace.

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