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Palm Oil: One of the Most Controversial Edible Oils on Earth

Sugandh Bhatnagar
Sugandh Bhatnagar

Palm oil is everywhere around us - in cosmetics like soap, shampoo, lipsticks, food items like ice cream, bread and other processed foods & even newspaper ink. It is truly a miracle ingredient! It is the most widely consumed vegetable oil on earth with India being the largest consumer. We consume over 20% of global supply.  Read further to know how this extensively used oil became one of the most controversial oils on the earth.

Oil palm grows in tropical rainforest and is considered a major cause for deforestation for expansion of its plantations.

Palm Oil Uses:

  • Its wide-spread can be attributed to its versatility. Apart from its regular use as cooking oil, its fat content makes it an ideal emulsifier for moisturizers, makeup and candles.

  • Its consistency after refining makes it a popular ingredient in a lot of different type of food products.

  • Palm oil can be used as an adhesive that binds together the particles in fiberboard.

  • Palm oil is used to manufacture sodium lauryl sulfate, which is used as a foaming agent in many soaps and shampoos. It has a very long shelf life.

Palm oil accounts for 35% of the world’s vegetable oil market. Here’s why?

Palm fruit can be harvested all year long. It produces a yield of 10 tons per hectares which is far more than soya, rapeseed and sunflower crops. This also means that palm oil requires 10 times less land than the major oil producing crops. Hence, palm tree has exceptional efficiency.

Palm Oil: Health effects

  • Researchers have shown that adding red palm oil in diet can help increase the Vitamin A levels in those who are suffering from deficiency.

  • Palm oil has high saturated fat content, which can be harmful to cardiovascular health.

How is Palm oil bad for the environment?

The main reason that palm oil is one of the most controversial oils is because of its impact on the environment.

  • It is a major cause for deforestation as more and more land is being cleared to make way for plantations of the palm trees.

  • They directly threaten the survival of 193 endangered species of the world.

  • In the process of planting palm oil trees, the existing flora are being removed which is detrimental to the soil in the ground. The new palm oil trees absorb more valuable nutrients from the soil, which degrades the quality of the soil.

Can we boycott palm oil?

The answer is NO! Shifting away from palm oil is not that easy. It is because the palm oil is so productive and switching to other oil could cause more harm because it would require more land to cultivate substitutes. The solution lies in finding sustainable ways to produce palm oil like small scale agro-forestry techniques that offer cost-effective ways to produce palm oil while protecting the environment.

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