What are palm oils?
Palm oil is the most versatile, inexpensive and productive vegetable oil in the world. 90% of the world’s supply is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia, with the commodity being used in food products, cleaning agents, cosmetics and vehicles. However, harvesting the oil has detrimental effects for the environment in a number of different ways.
Clic News spoke to Nico Muzi, who is the director of communications for the European Federation for Transport and Environment. He spoke about the qualities of the oil, as well as the harmful consequences removing it has for the landscapes it comes from.
“It is incredibly cheap and versatile. For the amount of land, you get a lot more palm oil than the 2nd most productive vegetable oil which is rapeseed. The problem from an environmental perspective is that it can only grow in tropical regions, where rainforests are. So, the expansion of the use of palm oil is detrimental to these regions.”
Muzi pointed out that the main use of palm oil in the Western world is not, as many would think, food products; “despite all the concerns from consumers about palm oils in foods and cosmetics, the reality in Europe is that the top consumers are drivers.”
He also stressed the damage caused by consumption of the oil at such a high level, “When we burn it in cars we are doing harm in two ways, on the one hand we are increasing the price for people in poorer countries who use it for cooking and washing and on the other we are adding to the demand for biofuels, which leads to a catastrophe.”
An issue of this scale is not easily fixed, and Muzi gave some insight as to what needs to happen going forward, “There is one simple technology that has proven throughout the years to be useful to humanity; trees. To help tackle climate change we need to keep as many trees as possible and then we need to plant even more”.
“We need to stop the demand coming from sectors outside the food sector. Boycotting these products neither helps nor works. We need to manage the existing demand and also ensure better conditions for workers - stop the expansion. If we continue business as usual, we’re going to end up destroying most of the remaining forests.”