It's primates versus palm oil in Africa

As palm oil plantations spread throughout the African continent, primates will struggle to survive. The two are at odds with each other, since oil palms require the same forested equatorial land that primates inhabit. In order to grow the oil palms, the original forest is cleared and the primates lose their irreplaceable habitat.

Scientists are deeply concerned about this because primates in Africa are already in such trouble. Thirty-seven percent of mainland species and 87 percent of species in Madagascar are at risk of extinction, affected by agriculture (including oil palm cultivation), logging, and mining, as well as poaching.

Consumers can't get enough of palm oil, which is why environmental concerns fall to the wayside. Production has doubled in the past decade and is expected to double again by 2050. Right now it is the most commonly used vegetable oil in the world and can be found in nearly half of packaged items in most supermarkets. From cookies to cosmetics to cereal to soap, there's a good chance it contains palm oil. It is also gaining popularity as a biofuel

'Clean' palm oil does exist (or at least somewhat cleaner), certified by third-party groups such as the Rainforest Alliance and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), but these organizations cannot keep up with the entire global supply.

Palm oil and its derivatives can appear under more names than just “palm oil.” While some of these ingredients listed by WWF – like vegetable oil – aren’t always made from palm oil, they can be:

Elaeis guineensis, Etyl palmitate, Glyceryl, Hydrogenated palm glycerides, Octyl palmitate,

Palm fruit oil, Palm kernel, Palm kernel oil, Palm stearine, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmitic acid

Palmitoyl oxostearamide, Palmitoyl tetrapeptide, Palmityl alcohol, Palmolein, Sodium kernelate

Sodium laureth sulfate, Sodium lauryl lactylate/sulphate, Sodium lauryl sulfate, Sodium palm

Kernelate, Stearate, Stearic acid, Vegetable fat, Vegetable oil

 certified sustainable palm oil


If you see these ingredients on a label you can call the company and enquire as to whether or not they include palm oil and/or if they source palm oil from sustainable enterprises.

Also, WWF advises consumers to look for the RSPO label to ensure that certified sustainable palm oil, produced in socially and environmentally responsible ways, was used. Next best, WWF notes, is the Green Palm label which indicates products in support of the transition to certified palm oil and helps growers transition to sustainable crops.

Leave a comment