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Digital Subscriptions > Psychologies > December 2019 > The palm oil question

The palm oil question

The use of palm oil at the expense of forests and their inhabitants is an environmental and social issue we cannot ignore, says Ellen Tout

Palm oil is found in half of all packaged products, including 71 per cent of food and 24 per cent of other goods, such as soap and cosmetics. It is often disguised as ‘vegetable oil’, ‘sodium lauryl sulfate’ or ‘palmate’.

It’s so widely used because palm yields more oil per hectare than any alternatives. Sadly, it has accounted for eight per cent of global deforestation between 1990 and 2008. In Indonesia, where it’s largely produced, a third of all mammal species are critically endangered as a consequence of unsustainable farming. The demand affects people too, with families displaced to clear land or feeling compelled to work in harsh conditions.

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