Point - Counterpoint
With my blog focusing solely on the negative aspects of palm oil, I think it is necessary to explain why some people are in support of its mass production.
POINT: Palm oil does not come from genetically manufactured plants, unlike other vegetable oils like soy and corn.
COUNTERPOINT: Oil palm trees are not a product of genetic manipulation. However, in Southeast Asia they are a botanical alien. Researchers argue that monocultures cannot support an entire ecosystem of fauna, claiming the cultivations to be “green deserts” rather than forests. Ecosystems are created around biodiversity, not similarity.
POINT: Palm oil is the center of Indomalayan agriculture, providing jobs for millions of people.
COUNTERPOINT: Palm oil is the main agricultural export of Indonesia and Malaysia. Indonesia alone employs 8.4 million people in the palm oil industry. As explained in one of my past blog posts “Chains Under the Label”, the industry is reliant upon indentured servitude boarding on slave labor, supported on human trafficking and child labor. In Malaysia a stagering 84% of those employed in palm oil are undocumented laborers.
POINT: Palm oil is much more environmentally friendly than other vegetable oils.
COUNTERPOINT: It is true that oil palm is a productive crop; a single hectare of oil palm is 6-10 times more productive than soy, sunflower, or olive oil. Many fail to realize that oil palm is a tropical crop that thrives in areas with tremendous heat and humidity… rainforest conditions. Rainforests make up roughly 50% of the species on this planet while only covering 2% of the earth. Indonesia sadly has the second most endangered species of any nation, and the most endangered mammals. These biological melting pots are becoming more minute as the days pass and deserve to be conserved. It would be wiser to focus production in vegetable oils that could be grown in less biologically active areas.
Palm oil has many positive aspects, but the negative aspects that lie beneath the surface make it an unethical choice for mass production.