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Vegan palm oil

Palm oil continues to be one of the fiercest hot topics for vegans and people concerned with environmental protection.

It is thought of as one of the most destructive crops on the planet and many vegans staunchly refuse to purchase products containing the oil crop.

Most of this talk focusses on palm oil production in southeast Asia due to extensive deforestation associated with the industry. Opponents cite loss of habitat and death to primates on a large scale as main reasons to campaign against the crop.

During my time at the Just V Show in London this weekend, I purchased the following jar of palm oil that just happened to be labelled with The Vegan Society trademark.

sustainable palm oil ghanaHow do you all feel about oil farmed in areas where rainforest destruction isn’t the main practice of the industry? Would you buy it?

Here is what the AKOMA company says about their oil online:

AKOMA Authentic Palm oil has been produced in Ghana by a women’s Cooperative where forest destruction is not a common practice. Ghanaian palm oil has been used in traditional dishes for centuries and is part of the African diet.

Palm fruit grows at the top of the tree in bunches of about 700-900 palm fruits. A thin yellow and reddish skin covers the pulpy fruit which yields the Palm oil. Palm oil comes from this fruit, the oil has a higher unsaturated acid content than palm kernel or coconut oils.

It’s uniquely rich in natural pro-Vitamin A, Vitamin E and Lycopene, all of which are powerful anti-oxidants. Vitamin A is essential for healthy skin, hair, teeth and good vision, while Vitamin E is important for maintaining a healthy heart and blood.

Akoma is proud to be a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – the world’s leading organisation concerned with producing palm oil sustainably.

Would this be enough to convince you to buy products containing palm oil? Would a palm oil plantation on land in Ghana that was never rainforest be OK when it comes to supplying this crop?

Would switching to sustainable farming providers in Africa be beneficial to Asian rainforests or would this drive those producers to step up their production into overdrive in order to make more palm oil to sell at lower prices?

Is rejecting palm oil completely leading to the over-reliance on other farmed oils? Is a blanket rejection of palm oil creating other environmental catastrophes connected to coconut and alternative oils that we might not see the full extent of until it’s too late?

It is an incredibly complex situation with no simple solution.

Please post information and links below if you have insights to share on the production of palm oil in Africa. I am incredibly interested in furthering this conversation and finding out more.

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Written by fatgayvegan

  1. I’d buy it if I had a use for it (I don’t particularly enjoy the strong taste of unrefined palm oil but it might be good for authentic recipes). I try to avoid products with palm oil unless they state it’s responsibly produced, but I’ll make an exception if it’s something I’ve never tried before that everyone is raving about (see my previous comment re. wafer biscuits).

  2. It is a complicated situation and many people I know really could not care less or even know about the implications palm oil production. I think stopping buying palm oil full stop will have an impact on supply/production of other oils. I will only buy palm oil or ingredients containing it, if the company is reputable & who use sustainable palm oil otherwise I would avoid. I would also buy palm oil from the likes of the co-operative group mentioned above because I would be supporting them as long as it is sustainable, these people do rely on the sale of their crops to make a living and support their families. Interested to see what others have to say.

  3. This topic is being covered in Ethical Consumer’s September/October issue (out in August) and they’re asking for views in their forum at the moment – so you may be interested to read the discussions there.

  4. I’ve been debating whether to boycott palm oil or not, and have come to the conclusion to buy more ethically made products over-all than just changing to palm oil free products that could have other ethical implications. I’m not sure that a boycott is the solution, and could have other problems, so I will continue to research. Ethical Consumer magazine is doing a lot of research and consultation into this subject at the moment. http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/commentanalysis/environment/palmoil.aspx

  5. My email from Ethical Consumer said:-

    “We’re looking for the views of our readers on the controversial issue of palm oil.

    In the next issue of the magazine (September/October 2015) which goes out in August, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at the issues surrounding palm oil and your responses will help to shape the coverage.

    Rainforest destruction
    As many of you will know the mass production of palm oil is devastating the world’s rainforests. Some 8.7 million acres of forest in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea was converted for oil palm plantations between 1990 and 2010.

    Many organisations from the Zoological Society of London, to Survival International and Greenpeace, have spoken out about the impacts of this deforestation on endangered species, human rights, and climate change.

    But the expansion of the industry is continuing apace and industry is now setting its sights on tropical Africa. A recent investigation by the Rainforest Foundation warned that two-thirds of the forest in the Congo Basin – or a colossal 284 million acres – have suitable soil and climate for growing palm.

    Raising standards
    Industry standards from the ‘Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’ (RSPO) are seen as far too weak to stop the environmental and social problems caused by the demand for this oil. Several large companies including Nestle are even creating their own standards which go beyond those of the RSPO.

    A desire to curb the growing demand for palm oil has seen many people in Europe and the US try to avoid it altogether. However pushing for alternatives could bring its own problems as replacement crops such as soya use more land and inputs.

    Some of the loudest voices such as the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace say avoiding it won’t help, and are calling for the standards of production to be improved instead.

    What do you think the most effective consumer action would be?
    Highlight the worst performing companies and push them to also go ‘beyond RSPO’?
    Pressure the EU to tighten up import regulations?
    Or boycott palm oil altogether?”

  6. mightily unimpressed with just-v, in particular Linda McCartney’s no-show and the co-located free from show with no clear division.. a vegan friend I was there with ended up accidentally eating chicken as a result, and I overheard a number of other people having had similar experiences.

    and what was with the hoover stall and the liposuction stall in the middle of the vegan food stands?

    oh well. at least the ticket was free!

  7. Palm oil production in Africa will be no different in the future to that in Asia, largely because of the links between Asia and Africa. Large scale production is already underway and is wreaking as much damage as in Asia. http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/media-center/reports/Herakles-Farms-in-Cameroon/

  8. Unilever is one of the founding partners of the RSPO, so that leaves me with zero trust in the efficacy of that organization’s oversight. I think it’s just another bogus marketing tool to try and assuage people into continuing to purchase palm. I try to stay away from palm and products that have it as an ingredient. It’s heartbreaking that Africa is being targeted next for the devastation of palm production.

    I also try to stay away from coconut oils, because in the countries that supply the majority of the world’s coconuts, monkeys are exploited to pick the coconuts (google coconut monkey school).

    Cashews are another product I’m in the process of getting away from due to the huge amount of waste of the, so far unusable, cashew apple, as well as the toxic and extremely low-paid working conditions of harvesting and processing these nuts.

    These are complicated situations, indeed, and only scratch the surface with regard to other types of products, but I think it’s the demand side that needs to go away before the production side will. If we continue to buy (demand) even “sustainable” palm, we’re, in effect, requesting ever more production. And we’ve seen time and time again how the big corporations swoop in and buy up the smaller operations. So, buying even from a small coop, if it is in actuality a small coop, and that’s not just a cover, lets the big producers know that the demand is still alive and well.

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