Flat World Partners

Jan 17, 2019

5 min read

🤦 Face-Palm: Let’s Talk Palm Oil

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We recently watched Iceland’s sensational (banned!) advert against palm oil [flatworld-partners.us15.list-manage.com] and wondered: How do you know if you’ve bought or supported this product? Well, here’s a short questionnaire: Have you bought pizza or chocolate recently? What about bread, margarine, ice cream, instant noodles or shampoo? Ever had breakfast cereal [flatworld-partners.us15.list-manage.com] made by Kellogg’s, General Mill’s, Post, or Nestle? Do you use a bank [flatworld-partners.us15.list-manage.com]? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions it is likely that you have financed palm oil [flatworld-partners.us15.list-manage.com] plantations.

Palm oil is so common as a food additive and cooking oil that almost half of the world relies on the African oil palm [flatworld-partners.us15.list-manage.com] as part of their diet. In fact, land allocation for cultivation of this product has tripled to 50M+ acres [flatworld-partners.us15.list-manage.com] since 1990. The growth in its cultivation is largely due to the insane productivity of its spiky fruit, which yields 9x more vegetable oil than some alternatives. So… what’s the problem?

Unfortunately, farming palm oil has an extremely harmful impact on the planet. Much of the land cleared for its production is in tropical areas rich in biodiversity [flatworld-partners.us15.list-manage.com] (Indonesia and Malaysia account for 85% of global production) and these areas release massive stores of carbon when bulldozed. Additionally, the increase in palm oil consumption [flatworld-partners.us15.list-manage.com] encourages the displacement of traditional subsistence farming for this cash crop. This leads to increased migration as people turn over lands used for farming to palm oil corporations (increasingly happening in Central America, like the Guatemalan region of Jakelin Caal’s [flatworld-partners.us15.list-manage.com]).

Palm oil is not just used for cooking. George W Bush’s 2007 energy independence push legislated for an increase in biodiesel. The available soy stores were no match for the demand for biofuels. In turn Indonesian peatland came into high demand as palm oil became a credible substitute. In fact, the US went from importing 0 to 100M gallons [flatworld-partners.us15.list-manage.com] of palm oil per month. Unfortunately, using palm oil — a product that is meant to produce less CO2 than petroleum — is razing Indonesian peatland, which in turn is emitting more carbon than the entire state of California.

So, what to do? Well avoiding products that have palm oil [flatworld-partners.us15.list-manage.com] (anything with ‘palm oil’, ‘palmitate’, ‘palmitic acid’, ‘vitamin A palmitate [flatworld-partners.us15.list-manage.com]’, or even ‘vegetable oil’ if it has saturated fats) is a start. However, in order to avoid just displacing biodiversity loss to other regions, we will need to reduce the demand for vegetable oils [flatworld-partners.us15.list-manage.com] by eating fewer processed and artificial foods. We can also work to improve transparency and standards [flatworld-partners.us15.list-manage.com] for sustainable vegetable oil production and avoid institutions that fund unsustainable farms.

Kellen Parker, Vice President, Analytics & Lauren Thurin, Vice President, Business Development

According to research [flatworld-partners.us15.list-manage.com], in the last 18 years, the quest for palm oil has led to the death of over 100,000 orangutans.

Palm oil is unescapable. But the question is: Can it be sustainable [flatworld-partners.us15.list-manage.com]? The short answer is absolutely — but at what cost?

We recommend that all books you read should be on a kindle 😊

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