Still wondering what Palm Oil is, where it comes from and what all this has to do with You?

In our everyday life we may not think about Palm Oil, but in reality we are all consumers of it on a daily basis. Palm Oil is used in a variety of industries, for food and non-food products such as:  chocolate, mayonnaise, margarine, sauces, cereals, chips, soaps, deodorants, toothpaste, cosmetics… you get the idea!
So, what IS palm oil?
Palm Oil is an edible oil derived from the crushed pulp of the fruit of the Oil Palm tree. Half of this plum sized fruit is trans-fat-free oil! Palm Kernel Oil also comes from Oil Palm fruit’s kernel/seed. There are two species of Oil Palm: Elaeis guineensis native to west Africa and Elaeis oleifera the American Oil Palm.
Fig 1. Oil Palm fruit.  Note the oil pooling below the fruits.
Why Palm Oil?
Palm Oil has properties of hydrogenated oils (being semi-solid at room temperature), making it usable in non-food products. It is actually NOT hydrogenated and is free of trans-fats, which is why it is good for you. Additionally, it is high in saturated and unsaturated fats, but is plant based making it digestible and has beta-carotene, vitamin E and contains antioxidants.
Where is it grown?
Oil Palms grow within 20 degrees of the equator in tropical regions. Though native to Africa and America, in SE Asia deforestation is making room for the non-native cash crop. Malaysia and Indonesia currently vie for position as the world’s largest producers of Palm Oil. 4.5 million people earn a living with Palm Oil.
How is it grown?
Plant a palm seed and after only 5-6 months a fully mature tree reaching around 20m tall, will bear fruit all year round. The fruit grow in bundles weighing up to 50kg. This short growth period and abundance of fruit, make this a very attractive crop for farmers and investors.

Why all the hullabaloo?
Rainforests are being cut down, the wood sold for immediate investment returns, while the Oil Palm trees grow. This is much more profitable than repurposing agricultural land, which has been improperly/unsustainably managed. The problem is, deforestation is not a sustainable farming practice and causes loss of habitat in the most biodiverse areas of our planet and contributes to global warming by reducing the trees that help get rid of damaging green house gases.
What can you do?  
Preserve the biodiversity and save the rainforest by purchasing palm oil products that carry this logo:  

Fig. 5 GreenPalm Programme.
Exclusively endorsed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)