The ethical dilemma of palm oil

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created October 28, 2011 at 2:17 PM

I don't personally use palm oil, but I've seen it recommended on some paleo blogs as a healthy oil. However, there does seem to be some legitimate concerns about the ethics of consuming it. I just saw this article today about the human rights violations and environmental damage surrounding this product. I realize Alternet isn't exactly an unbiased source, but this isn't the first time this same information has come across my radar.

Do you use palm oil? Do you feel it is necessary to your diet? Are there responsible sources?



on October 28, 2011
at 06:00 PM

I think its real problem. Unfortunately, I have only 1 palm oil available here and I don't think that not buying it will improve situation.

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on October 28, 2011
at 05:05 PM

The following quote is from Bruce Fife, in The Palm Oil Miracle. After describing the propaganda campaign by American vegetable oil producers to denigrate the healthfulness of palm oil, he continues:

In an effort to sway public opinion against the palm oil industry, [the CSPI] began taking out full page ads in newspapers, such as the New York Times, claiming that these companies were destroying rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia to make room for palm plantations. In clearing the jungles, the natural habitat of endangered species such as the orangutan were in eminent danger.

The problem with this argument is that it is completely untrue. Again CSPI is deceiving the public. These countries have environmental and conservation laws in place now that protect endangered species and strictly limit clearing of jungle land. In Malaysia, for instance, the vast majority of the land used for palm cultivation over the last 20 years has come from preexisting rubber, cocoa, and coconut farms, or from logged-over forests in areas zoned for agriculture. Areas with endangered species are strictly off limits.

Palm oil cultivation is more environmentally friendly than any other seed oil crop in the world. It uses only a fraction of the land area required by other oil crops, thus preserving forests and protecting the environment. Acre for acre, oil palm far outproduces all other vegetable oil crops. For example, soybeans require 13 acres of land to produce the same amount of oil that palm can produce on just one acre. Corn requires 35 acres for the same amount. ...

The land that is used for palm cultivation is utilized to the fullest with the least harmful effect on the environment. Wildlife is allowed to roam in and out of the farms unhindered. You don't see this on farms that grow soybeans, corn, or peanuts. ... Soybeans require vast acreages of fenced off land. In addition, thousands of tons of pesticides are sprayed on soybean and other oil crops, causing untold damage to the environment, not to mention your health. Palm plantations generally do not use pesticides.

I have seen comments from other knowledgeable people who maintain that there really are environmental and ethical (concerning the mistreatment of orangutans) problems with palm oil cultivation in Southeast Asia.

In any case, if you get your red palm oil from someplace like Tropical Traditions or Radiant Life, you will be getting it from West Africa rather than Asia. There do not seem to be any environmental or ethical problems with West African palm oil.



on October 28, 2011
at 02:33 PM

I do use it occasionally, but prefer animal fats and coconut oil. I only source mine from ethical sources, though, including wilderness family, where I know they harvest and treat their indigenous partners with respect.

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