Is Palm Oil Ecologically Better Than Other Oils?
For years, palm oil has been viewed in a bleak light due to reports of negative environmental impacts. Although unethical practices have been long reported to cause damage environmentally and socially, the bigger picture gives a more comprehensive view of palm oil and the truth surrounding it.
As activists have pushed to tackle these issues, many parties within the palm oil supply chain have pledged to ethically and sustainably source their palm oil and have made significant efforts to make changes within the industry as a whole.
As we look at palm oil farmers involved with Palm Done Right, who grow palm oil organically and sustainably, we can see the positive side of palm oil and how it proves to be better for the environment than other comparable oils. How can palm oil actually benefit the environment, rather than cause harm? Discover how the palm oil industry, with the correct standards and regulations, can do good for the environment.
- High yield
One of the most prominent positive impacts of palm oil on the environment is its high yield. What does this mean? Compared to other vegetable oils, more palm oil can be produced per area of land than its competitors. According to studies, up to nine times the amount of land could be needed to produce the same amount of other types of oils as compared to palm oil. This efficient oil, due to this incredible yield, actually serves its purpose as an extremely sustainable crop.
To further this point, data shows that palm oil accounts for 40% of the world’s vegetable oil but is grown on only 6% of the land used for oil production globally. This disparity is extremely telling, signaling that the environmental issues associated with palm oil actually have little correlation to the oil itself, but rather with the practices used by unethical parties. Especially as efforts increase to stop the deforestation commonly linked to palm oil production, we can more clearly see the advantages of using palm oil instead of other natural vegetable oils.
Pesticides are a common issue associated with the production of various vegetable oils and other crops in general. Used to control pests, such as insects and rodents, pesticides can also cause harm to the environment, contaminating the ecosystem and hurting beneficial organisms. Because of this, pesticide usage is cause for controversy. The oil palm tree – used, of course, to create palm oil – requires far less pesticide to be used on palm oil plantations than any other vegetable oil plantations.
Even better than lessening pesticide usage, pesticides can be eliminated entirely by efforts within the palm oil industry, pushing for organic farming to create products with only natural ingredients rather than chemicals. As environmental activists raise awareness across the industry and within the general population, we see synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers being eradicated from palm oil farms and instead using practices that nurture plants and soil.
- Biodiversity & multi-cropping
Another function of improved standards in the palm oil industry is the prospect of multi-cropping, which many farms have incorporated into their model. Multi-cropping means that farmers plant various crops in one plantation to foster biodiversity and complement the other crops in the area nutritionally. Interplanting in this way allows the plants to supplement each other through their root systems, and it attracts a greater variety of insects, which is positive for plant growth.
As we have highlighted previously here on Palm Oil Done right, interplanting with oil palm trees is wonderful for the ecosystem. Oil palm trees are frequently interplanted with passionfruit, cacao, cassava, citrus, maize, and pineapple. These plants benefit each other and nourish the land, rather than taking away from it.
- A multi-use product
Palm oil is truly an irreplaceable part of countless industries and a product we simply cannot eliminate – and one we wouldn’t want to eliminate. A report at China Dialogue found that palm oil is in half of the products at the grocery store. 71% of food products and 24% of consumer goods contain palm oil. These staggering numbers show the endless usages for this natural vegetable oil.
Just a few of the many products containing palm oil are:
- Ice cream
- Instant noodles
- Soap & detergent
- Refrigerated, pre-packaged dough (including pizza dough and cookie dough)
- Shortening & margarine
The list goes on! Because of its versatility and ubiquity, sustainable palm oil is in a league of its own. And since we’re able to create so many goods using this oil which can be efficiently grown, its value is priceless.
Although palm oil production was seen destructive in the past, new standards can revolutionize the industry. As a commodity we can’t replace, palm oil harvested sustainably is a staple in so many facets of our lives. Prioritizing the production of other oils in its place would only cause further environmental harm and displace issues to different parts of the world, rather than eliminating them.
If you’re interested in palm oil’s benefits and the people who care about harvesting palm oil correctly, find out more about Palm Done Right. Through this organization’s efforts, palm oil production doesn’t need to be seen as a necessary evil; it can be revered as an unparalleled good. (*)