How do palm oil farms affect forests?

Palm oil: a blessing or a curse?

Around every second supermarket product contains palm oil. But when we buy margarine, pizza, chocolate bars, detergents, creams or lipstick, we also decide about the fate of endangered species such as orangutans or tigers - and the rainforest.

Palm oil accounts for a third of total global consumptionworld's most important vegetable oil. Because palm oil is cheap and versatile: at room temperature, it has a firm consistency and is free of harmful trans fatty acids. Margarine, chocolate, cakes, biscuits, chips, dough and rolls, soups, sauces, french fries and ready-made meals - all of these contain palm oil. Names such as “vegetable oil” or “vegetable fat” reveal whether a food contains palm oil.

Palm kernel oil is a component of skin cream, soap, sun lotion, body lotion, lipstick and other cosmetic products. Surfactants can be made from palm kernel oil, which are found in shower gels, shampoos and detergents and cleaning agents. Palm or palm kernel oil is also found in lubricants, candles, paints and varnishes. Five percent of the palm oil harvest worldwide is used as raw material for electricity and heat production and as biofuel - and the trend is rising. Especially in the densely populated countries of Asia - India and China - many people cover theirsdaily fat requirement with palm oil.

Bad palm oil, good palm oil

Thesteadily growing demand on the world market means that tropical forests are being cleared on a large scale for palm oil plantations. The oil palm is grown todaymainly in Indonesia and Malaysia, but also in South America and Africa. Since 1990 the area for oil palms has doubled worldwide, in Indonesia even tenfold. Palm oil plantations now cover twelve million hectares worldwide. That is about a third of the Federal Republic of Germany. The list of natural damage is long:Huge monocultures threaten biodiversity and rob species like orangutans and tigers from their habitat.

Rainforests on peat bog are giganticCarbon storage. They contain up to 50 times more carbon than an equal area of ​​“normal” rainforest. Tropical peat bog forests are mainly found in Indonesia, mostly in low-lying, coastal areas in Sumatra, Borneo and New Guinea. If they are drained when setting up palm oil plantations, greenhouse gases are released. As a result, Indonesia has become the third largest greenhouse gas emitter on earth.

Good palm oil, bad palm oil

Still, palm oil is basicallynot a bad oil. With palm oil can be compared tosmall area a large part of the global demand for vegetable oils can be met. In many countries, palm oil is a difficult-to-replace food and forms the livelihood of smallholders. In many places, the use of palm oil is an opportunity to fight poverty. But as with almost everything, the way in which it is produced also matters with palm oil. Production must be different from what it is today for the most part - namely ecologically, economically and socially compatible. Most palm oil producers are still a long way from achieving this. OneMinimum standard The Round Table for Palm Oil (RSPO), on which the WWF is involved, offers the cultivation of palm oil.

  • Round table palm oil

    Because the growing use of palm oil is contributing to the clearing of tropical forests, the WWF has launched the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Continue reading ...