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How Green is Your Palm Oil?

10/5/2009 12:00:00 AM

Tags: rainforest, deforestation

Used in everything from cookies to lipstick, palm oil is a common ingredient in many everyday items. Its use has doubled in the United States over the past four years—mostly because its lack of trans fats makes it easier to label processed foods as “healthy.” Unfortunately its popularity has lead to extensive destruction of tropical forests, which are being cleared to make way for oil palm trees. 

palm trees in the rain forest
Rainforest may have been chopped down and ecosystems destroyed to make room for the organic palms. Photo By georgegoodman/Courtesy Flickr. 

Choosing organic palm oil is a good step, but that label simply means that chemical fertilizers and pesticides weren’t used on the trees. Rainforest may have been chopped down and ecosystems destroyed to make room for the organic palms.   

To combat this problem, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, (RSPO) an international organization set up to define sustainable palm oil standards, put 1.3 million tons of certified-sustainable palm oil on the market last year. As of May, only 1 percent, or less than 15,000 tons, of that oil had been sold. Most buyers just won’t pay the extra cash for sustainable palm oil.

To encourage buyers, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) plans to assess the major palm oil buyers, including major supermarkets, cosmetics and food manufacturers, over the next six months and publish a Palm Oil Buyer’s Scorecard ranking them. The WWF also asks that these major global retailers, manufacturers and traders of palm oil commit to using 100 percent certified sustainable palm oil by 2015.

What do you think? Would you give preference to WWF-sanctioned palm oil in your next purchase?

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