What Is Palm Oil? Palm oil is a vegetable oil derived from edible mesocarp of the fruit of oil palms, mainly from African oil palm Elaeis guineensis, and to a lesser extent by the American oil palm Elaeis oleifera and from palm Attalea Maripa Maripa.
The palm oil is naturally reddish in color due to the high beta-carotene content. It should not be confused with palm kernel oil derived from the core of the same fruit, or with coconut oil derived from the coconut core. The differences are in color, since palm seed oil lacks carotenoids and is not red, and in saturated fat content: palm mesocarp oil is 49% saturated, while palm seed oil and coconut oil are 81% and 86% saturated fat respectively.
The oil palm produces clusters containing a large number of fruits with the fleshy mesocarp which encloses a core covered by a very hard shell. Together with coconut oil, palm oil is one of the few highly saturated vegetable fats and is semi-solid at room temperature.
USES OF PALM OIL
What is palm oil used for? Palm oil is a common cooking ingredient in the tropical belt of Africa, Southeast Asia and parts of Brazil. Its use in the commercial food industry in other parts of the world is widespread due to the low cost and high oxidative stability when used for frying.
It is mainly used for sweets and biscuits, soaps, cosmetics and creams.
The use of palm oil in food has attracted concern from environmental groups; the high oil yield of trees has encouraged wider cultivation, bringing massive deforestation of rainforests to different parts of the world, just to make room for oil palm monoculture.
This has led to significant losses also in the animal world.
PALM OIL AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Dealing with environmental issues seems to have become war, in fact the difference between environmental pollution and a hypothetical war does not change much. Climate change threatens millions of species, including ours, even if it seems that society has not yet understood it well.
Our development model is not sustainable, because we have lost contact with nature that has supported and helped us for millennia. We see everything as “goods to be exploited for profit”, not as a livelihood for life. There is no economic activity today that manages to escape from this innate contradiction: on the one hand, our need to meet primary needs, and on the other, environmental damage.
Among the many hot topics, there is certainly that of the production of palm oil which, alas, represents an exceptional product for industries, and on the other hand destroys forests.
If in the past the palm tree, an ancient tree of which some specimens have been found in the fossil state together with dinosaur footprints, was associated in the collective imagination with Caribbean beaches and coconut, today the West knows a less peaceful version, the one linked to the massive production of palm oil .
The problem with oil palms is their huge demand for water and nutrients from the soil: growing in hot and humid places, it inevitably takes away place from the rain forests, one of the key ecosystems of global biodiversity.
The loss of millions of hectares of rainforest is an ecological drama with still unknown consequences, we are not only losing symbolic animals such as the orangutan, but also a fundamental catch catch basin of Co2, the element responsible for climate change. In this context, there are various certifications that can guarantee 100% sustainable palm oil production , such as FSC – Forest Stewardship Council.
Palm oil kills orangutans, but also elephants and dozens of other animal species.
The link between palm oil plantations and deforestation has reached public opinion in all western countries, including Italy. Also thanks to awareness campaigns launched by non-profit organizations.
According to a 2016 report, global palm oil production increased from 15.2 million tons in 1995 to 62.6 million tons in 2015 . But if people only received a few years ago the information that something was wrong in the production of this product, it is incredible how such important topics as human rights, the environment and food revolve around a single type of tree.
The oil palm today is the symbol of discord, the demonstration that there is something huge going on, involving in one fell swoop, the life and health of humans, animals and nature. With this guide we want to explain what palm oil is , how it is produced and why it is destroying our planet .