The vanishing rainforests and the growth of large plantation monocultures. The lone cause. The lucrative business with the most popular vegetable oil in the world – palm oil. The environment and climate suffer as a result.
Palm oil, the most common vegetable fat used in Europe, can be found in nearly 50% of packaged products – in food (biscuits, chocolate, ice cream, potato crisps, etc.), in cosmetics, in cleaning agents, pet food and increasingly also in motor fuel as a material for the production of biodiesel. Hence, we come into contact with palm oil on a daily basis, with most of its production occurring in developing countries. The largest producers include Indonesia and Malaysia, which account for more than 80% of the palm oil produced in the world.
In addition to its versatility, palm oil is also characterised by its high productivity. Yields are much higher than with other vegetable oils, while production costs are much lower, primarily thanks to cheap labour in places where oil palms are grown.
Thanks in part to these qualities, we are witness today to the large-scale appropriation of land across continents for the monoculture cultivation of this crop on vast plantations, resulting in a wide range of negative consequences for the environment and climate. These include sweeping and swift deforestation, which has a major impact on biodiversity and on natural resources, such as the accessibility and quality of water and the exhaustion and erosion of soil.
The burning of forests to create land for the plantations releases an enormous amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, thus contributing to global warming. Moreover, the destruction of the original rainforests is often connected with illegal land grabs and the displacement of native people. When the negative impacts are weighed, the oil palm industry does not represent a sufficient contribution to the economic growth of the producing countries.