Palm oil is an edible oil which is extracted from the fruit of palm trees. It is extremely versatile, and is in nearly half of all the packaged products available in our supermarkets. The majority of the world’s palm trees are in Indonesia and Malaysia (although they are native to Africa), but there are increasing numbers of palm tree plantations in Africa and South America. The high use of and demand for palm oil is a driver of deforestation – large swathes of the most biodiverse forests are being destroyed in order for palm trees to be grown. This is destroying the habitats of a number of endangered species.
Unfortunately simply boycotting palm oil is not necessarily the solution to this problem. Palm oil is very efficient, and other oils which replace it would use larger areas of land to grow. Therefore the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil has been established to agree criteria for Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) to help minimise the negative impact of palm oil cultivation. However some groups still advise avoiding palm oil. Unfortunately there is no easy answer.