Palm Oil and Deforestation

Following the launch of the Campaign Challenge in January, the Lower Sixth girls have been working in small groups to choose a social issue they feel passionate about and design a campaign to inspire and educate the BGS community about this issue.

Milly David, Emily Dunning, Romina Johnson, Charlotte MacMahon, Ava Orman-Wheeler and Sophie Schreiner are campaigning about the social and environmental impact of palm oil and deforestation.

By Romina Johnson (Lower Sixth)

In 2020, it is almost impossible to have a palm oil free diet. It is found in close to 50% of packaged products including cereals, pizzas, chewing gum, chocolate and even cosmetic products. Palm oil has had a bad reputation due to its high levels of saturated fat which is linked to heart disease although this risk is very low. What we find to be the problem with palm oil is its role in deforestation which can result in loss of habitats for already endangered species like Orangutans, and add to climate change.

Palm oil is an extremely efficient crop that is extracted from orange fruits that grow on a particular type of palm tree in many tropical rainforests around the world. It is one of the most versatile types of oils that can be used for spreads, frying and to increase a products shelf life. Palm oil produces the most oil per land area than all other vegetable oils and although it may seem common sense to produce more of this oil it has come to the point that masses of land are being cleared either through logging or burning to be replaced with this cash crop. This introduces the issue of deforestation and the consequences on the health of people working in these areas.

However, work is being done to ensure the sustainable production of palm oil. The RSPO is a group in which its members must follow strict guidelines on how to run a palm oil farm. More and more food companies and manufacturers are saying that they will only purchase palm oil from sustainable producers and due to 2014 EU regulation, they must state if a product contains palm oil as opposed to ‘contains vegetable oils’.

For us at home, it is still possible to make an impact on the palm oil problem. This does not necessarily mean boycotting all palm oil products but rather being mindful each time we go shopping and checking the label for RSPO approved products. At school, we are cooperating with the Greens Kitchen to reduce our use of palm oil for example reducing the sale of packaged biscuits and increasing homemade products. Additionally, we are arranging for a palm oil free day to take place next term. If enough shoppers stop buying products containing palm oil from unsustainable resources, businesses are more likely to take action and impose stricter rules on the farms to ensure that the production of palm oil does not continue to result in the devastating effects of deforestation.

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