Fuel for Thought

The Pros & Cons of Palm Oil

Dec 15 2015 Read 4012 Times

Palm oil. It’s become one of the most controversial ingredients of the 21st century. So what’s causing all the fuss? And is the highly contentious resource as immoral as some environmentalists like to make out? Read on as we delve into the pros and cons of palm oil – then you can decide for yourself.

The pros

  • Cardio-proactive effects

When combined with a balanced diet, palm oil has been found to have cardio-proactive effects that actively minimise the presence of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and raise the abundance of its high-density lipoprotein counterpart.

  • High in tocotrienols

As far as consumables go, palm oil is the only edible that contains high levels of a vitamin E class known as tocotrienol. This discourages the formation of tumours and blood clots, and is also known to prevent heart disease and some cancers.

  • A cheap source of vegetable oil

For vegetable oil producers, the African oil palm tree is a cost effective way of meeting market demand. It thrives in hot Asian environments, and is relatively easy to farm, harvest and process.

The cons

  • Environmentally irresponsible

Across the globe, palm oil is largely harvested at the expense of tropical forests and other sensitive ecosystems. Companied ruthlessly clear biodiversity rich sites in order to make way for monoculture oil palm plantations. This destroys the natural habitats of animals, with the orangutan a particular concern. According to conservationists, a colossal 90% of orangutan habitat has been destroyed over the last 20 years, resulting in the UN categorising the crisis as “a conservation emergency.” Every year, deforestation contributes to 1000-5000 orangutan deaths.

  • Labour exploitation

As well as seriously lacking in street credentials, palm oil has also been blamed for the exploitation of workers, particularly in Asian regions. In Malaysia, most workers are poor migrants from countries such as the Philippines, Nepal, Bangladesh and Indonesia. They endure alarming conditions, with Eric Gottwald, a legal and policy director at the International Labor Rights Forum revealing “It is a very abusive system that includes labour-trafficking, debt bondage and unfair payments. With no written contracts, he adds that “A lot of those workers are undocumented and Malaysian law is very unfriendly to migrants.”

While edible crops can sometimes cause controversy, they’re also hailed as the future of the biofuel revolution. ‘The Cutting Edge Advances in Worldwide Biodiesel Testing Specifications and Standardisation’ explores the industry in further detail, looking at some of the latest developments to hit the biofuel scene.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons. Credits: Rainforrest Action Network



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