What is palm oil?

What is Palm Oil?

Palm oil comes from the fruit of oil palm trees (Elaeis guineensis) which grow in many of places including Borneo. The palm oil trees are grown on plantations. To make room for the plantations, miles of rainforest are burned leaving many animals without homes and emitting greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.  In Sumatra and Borneo, palm-oil expansion threatens elephants, tigers and rhinos, as well as orang-utans. Enormous amounts of carbon dioxide are released as forests and peatlands are destroyed. Deforestation makes Indonesia one of the world’s largest carbon-dioxide emitters.[1] More and more rainforest is being destroyed and soon there will be none left.

Where does it come from?

There are palm oil plantations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Columbia. In 2008, Malaysia produced 17.7 million tonnes of palm oil on 4,500,000 hectares (17,000 sq mi) of land.[2] Every year there are more palm oil plantations. Since 1995 the production has greatly increased from 10 tonnes to 35 tonnes in 2010.

Tonnes of palm oil exported 1995-2010 [1]

Why is it bad?

When I was born almost half of the rainforest had been cut down.  Now 12 years later, only 40% of the forest cover remains.  Many animal’s homes are being destroyed because of the deforestation. Baby orangutans are left orphaned and homeless. Some are captured and kept as pets illegally.  For the unfortunate baby orangutans this means a life in a cage and poor health

The rate of deforestation is terrible.  One of the ways we can help the rainforest and give hope to the orangutans to reduce our demand for palm oil. Look on product labels to check for palm oil before you buy it. Many things contain palm oil that you wouldn’t expect. It is even used in some soaps! WWF, an environmental group, says it is used in 50% of all packaged supermarket products.[1] Many of my favorite snacks and chocolates contain palm oil so I find other snack alternatives to reduce the demand for palm oil.


  1.  “The other oil spill”. The Economist. June 24, 2010. Retrieved August 2010.
  2. Malaysian Palm Oil Industry Performance 2008 Global Oils & Fats Business Magazine VOL.6 ISSUE 1 (Jan-March), 2009.

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