What is Palm Oil? 27 January 2017 | Posted in News
Many people including myself are concerned about the content of trans fat in the foods we eat on a day to day basis. Not because it harms the environment, but rather because it has many negative side effects such as type 2 diabetes, lowering good cholesterol and raising bad cholesterol, and increasing the risk of a stroke or heart disease. It is such a nasty fat that there is even bans and restrictions from the government concerning it. Our solution was a healthier option called palm oil. Palm oil is grown on the African Palm Oil Tree or the Elaeis guineensis and is mostly grown in Africa, Asia, North America, and South America. It is used in soaps, cosmetics, detergents, margarine and many other places that you might not expect. In fact, it is so widely used that it’s estimated about a half of all supermarket products use a form of it with about 50 million tonnes of it used annually. But although it may be convenient and sometimes delicious, it can be detrimental to our forests, climates, and communities.
Possibly the largest toll that palm oil causes us to pay is peatlands. Peatlands are swamp-like areas of land consisting of about 90% water and 10% organic material (carbon) meaning they are huge carbon sinks. In fact, these peatlands hold 18-28 times more carbon than the forest above meaning that in Malaysia (a large palm oil economy) a square mile of forest can hold up to 100 million kilograms of carbon in a huge carbon sink. The cultivators end up draining these peatlands of their water to free up space for palm oil trees which as you might imagine may be harmful. The leftover carbon now turns into carbon dioxide and is released into the atmosphere. In some places of Malaysia, only 16% of the peatlands remain. To get more space for planting palm oil trees, many cultivators end up cutting down trees, which is detrimental on many levels. First of all, trees are a carbon sink. By cutting them down, there is nowhere for carbon dioxide to go except for the atmosphere. Trees also absorb water, meaning that without them, floodings may occur more often. Without the trees, there are no roots to hold loose soil in place, which may result in erosion.