Palm oil is an edible oil taken from the fruit of oil palms, from palm trees grown in the tropics. The crop provides a higher yield at a lower cost compared to other vegetable oils. This oil is used for cooking in developing countries, but also in beauty products, detergents, and biofuel. WWF says that more than 50% of packaged products in America are made with palm oil. As demand for palm oil increases, so do the plantations, involving the clearance of large areas of tropical forests.
IMPACTS of palm oil’s increase in production:
– Loss of habitat: as the creation of oil palm plantations leads to the destruction of tropical rainforests (deforestation), plant and animal species lose their habitats and their risk of nearing extinction increases
– Soil erosion: A primary cause is palm trees being planted on steep slopes. The effect is increased flooding.
– Climate change: Tropical forests are a major carbon sink, that help to absorb the atmosphere’s carbon. So by clearing forests, we lose a major carbon sink. Forest fires are also initiated to clear out forests, further releasing carbon.
– Social impacts: Local communities may lose or not be ensured their land rights, leading to conflict and loss of income