The Truth about Palm Oil


Palm oil is the most popular vegetable oil in the world. But its widespread use is causing devastating effects.

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil which is derived from pulping the fruit of oil palms. It is the most commonly manufactured vegetable oil worldwide; 69 million tons of Palm oil were produced in 2017. It is found in almost half of all supermarket products.

We may not use Palm oil in our cooking, but we certainly consume it in one way or another. It is a key ingredient to many products we use on a daily basis, from food and cosmetics to cleaning products. Multinational corporations make gigantic profits trading Palm oil, which is the most efficient source of vegetable oil.

In the EU, half the imported palm oil is used as biofuel for vehicles. In 2009, a law (what law?) made the blending of biofuels for motor vehicles compulsory. The consumption of Palm oil is becoming so extensive; it has become one of the major causes of deforestations.

Where does Palm Oil come from?

Oil palms are found in tropical countries with warm and humid climates. Its widespread use involves the mass deforestation of palm forests to make space for oil palm plantations. Something which directly threatens some of the planets most significant and sensitive ecosystems.

What is the Impact of Palm oil?

Each day, forests in Southeast Asia, South America and Africa are being bulldozed or torched to make room for bigger oil palm plantations to keep up with global demand. Such plantations release immense amounts of carbon emissions, and their impact on the planet can be three times worse than that of traditional fuel.

But Palm oil is not only harmful for the environment, it is also boosting the mortality of endangered species such as orangutans, rhinos, tigers and elephants. In fact, approximately 67% of all terrestrial species live in rainforests. When such forests are destroyed to create oil palm plantations, only around 15% of the animal species are able to survive in the resulting plantations, resulting in huge losses for the world’s animal species and their natural habitats.

But that’s is not all. Frequently, indigenous tribes are brutally driven out of their homelands. In Indonesia itself, the world largest producer of Palm oil, over 700 land conflicts are connected to the industry of palm oil.

The consumption of refined palm oil is also detrimental to human health, as it contains substantial amounts of harmful fatty acid esters which have been associated with DNA damaged and cancer.

How to know what products contain Palm Oil?

Read the Labels on each product, it will usually be clearly indicated in edible products. However, sometimes – especially in the case of non-edibles – it may appear under a different name, including:

  • Vegetable Oil,

  • Vegetable Fat,

  • Palm Kernel,

  • Palm Kernel Oil,

  • Palm Fruit Oil,

  • Palmate,

  • Palmitate,

  • Palmolein,

  • Glyceryl,

  • Stearate,

  • Stearic Acid,

  • Elaeis Guineensis,

  • Palmitic Acid,

  • Palm Stearine,

  • Palmitoyl Oxostearamide,

  • Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3,

  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate,

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate,

  • Sodium Kernelate,

  • Sodium Palm Kernelate,

  • Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate,

  • Hyrated Palm Glycerides,

  • Etyl Palmitate,

  • Octyl Palmitate,

  • Palmityl Alcohol

What about Sustainable and Ethically sourced Palm Oil?

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – the world’s biggest palm oil certification scheme – has been promoting the use of sustainable palm oil for years. Products made with sustainable palm oil will often have the RSPO label or the Green Palm label. However, many environmentalists claim this is nothing but greenwashing by the RSPO.

A study conducted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found, that in its present form, “sustainable palm oil” is only vaguely better than regular palm oil for avoiding deforestation.  

“When you consider the disastrous impacts of palm oil on biodiversity from a global perspective, there are no simple solutions,” said IUCN director general Inger Andersen. “If we ban or boycott it, other, more land-hungry oils will likely take its place.”


The Yogi Press Verdict 

The Yogi Press recommends avoiding products containing palm oil wherever possible. When using products that contain palm oil, it is best to use products certified by the RSPO’s label or are approved by the World Wildlife Fund.

It is best to avoid refined and processed foods altogether and eat healthy homemade meals made with healthy oils – such as olive, coconut and sesame – or small quantities of organic butter.

When time is of the essence, and processed food is the only way, consider eating fruits and various nuts instead. Nuts contain multiple essential oils which do not require mass deforestation. 

Cleaning products and cosmetics can be found palm-free with ease.