Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world. It is used in nearly 50% of the packaged food that we find at the supermarket (chips, cookies, soups, ice-cream, milk etc) as well as toothpaste, cosmetics and cleaning products.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) indicated in 2007 that palm oil plantations are the mayor cause of deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Deforestation: every hour a rainforest area of 300 football fields is cut down to make palm oil plantations, leaving Orangutans and Tigers (in Sumatra) without their homes. The consequence won’t be just the extinction of many species of animals, plants and insects:
- The Rainforest Biodiversity is crucial for our own well-being, affecting the global food chain.
- The loss of Rainforest will drive many climate changes, stopping the water and transforming the tropical forests to hot barren deserts.
- Without the canopy trees providing pure oxygen to earth, the pollution will increase as well as the global warming.
Endangered survival of Orangutans: more than 80% of Orangutans habitat has been cut down to grow palm oil trees. Easier access to the forest, as well as deforestation, has increased the number of Orangutan’s hunting. Farmers tend to kill the adult Orangutans looking for food on the new burnt land, while the babies are captured for trade. In fact, more than 1000 Baby Orangutans are sold as pet every year on Java island. If we don’t intervene they can be extinct during our lifetime, bringing huge problems to the whole Earth’s Ecosystem:
- Regarded as an ‘umbrella species’, they create the necessary environment for the survival of tropical fauna and flora. Killing Orangutans means to destroy thousands of other species that co-exist with them.
- Their fruit-eating and seed-dispersing behaviour has a fundamental ecological significance: helping to shape and preserve the rich biodiversity of the fragile rain forests habitat.
- Sharing 97% of human DNA, they are (together with the chimpanzee) our closest relatives. For this reason they deserve respect and protection
Social Issues: if on one hand, palm oil cultivation has provided a new source of employment to poor areas, on the other hand, local people have been evicted from their customary land holdings to satisfy the increasing demand of land concession.
- Palm oil plantation development has exacerbated the conflict with local communities over traditional land right.
- Many palm oil companies often have used force to acquire the land by the indigenous communities
- The palm oil industry is considered one of the worst industries concerning human rights: children of seven years old are forced to work in the heat of many hours being underpaid and without safe conditions.