Y8 Deforestation for Palm Oil

Ever heard of palm oil?  do you ever use it?  do you know where it comes from? 

Palm oil is used by virtually every one of us in one form or another.  In its basic form it is used in processed or prepared foods such as bread, cakes, breakfast cereals and ready meals, as well as ice cream, margarine and crisps.  Unlike oil seed rape and sunflower oils palm oil is valued because it is solid at room temperature.  Palm oil is also cheaper than other types of oils. 

The vast majority of the worlds palm oil comes from Malaysia and Indonesia  where the expansion of the industry has destroyed millions of hectares of rainforest.  This deforestation is said to be far greated than the rate of deforestation due to logging in the Amazon rainforest. 

In the past the majority of palm oil production has been for food and cosmetics but now the European Union have agreed to cut greenhouse gasses by 20%  by 2020 we are having to find a new source of fuel for our transport.  The answer is said to be bio-fuels however this will mean that Indonesia and Malaysia will produce more palm oil which will result in further destruction of some of the most valuable rainforest on the planet. 

The effect of this destruction will mean that many species of plants and animals that live in these rainforests  will be lost forever.  Examples of species that will be lost are the Sumatran tiger, Asian Elephant and the Orangutans of Borneo.

The FOE (Friends of the Earth) have highlighted how the palm oil industry is having a devastating impact on the orangutans of Sumatra and Borneo.  The orangutans like eating the palm oil fruit in the plantations and the farmers don’t like this so they have been killing the orangutans even though they are protected under national laws.  The rate of the forest clearance along with the killing of the orangutans by farmers is happening so quickly it is said that orangutans could be extinct within 15 years.  98% of the Indonesian forest is expected to be destroyed by 2022.  At the moment there are between 55,000 and 60,000 Orangutans in Borneo but 5,000 to 10,000 orangutans are killed each year.


The weeks homework is to find out which products in your home have palm oil in them.  This is quite difficult because often it is not labelled as palm oil but vegetable oil and it is often called numerous names.  Below are some of the names Palm oil goes by.  Download the worksheet below to help you collect your findings. 

  Click here to download the homework sheet

 Click here to open up a google earth file to show where Borneo is and also some overlays showing distributions of Orangutans in 1930, 1999 and 2004.  You can also watch the youtube video below in google earth.

 Names under which palm oil and its derivities appear.

Cety alcohol
Dicetyldimonium chloride
Elaeis guineensis
Isopropyl palmitate, octyl palmitate, potassium palmitate, retinyl palmitate.
Vit A Palmitate
Palmitic acid
Palm kernel oil
Palm kernelamide DEA and MEA
Palm oil
Palm olein vegetable oil
Steareth-2, Steareth-20
Sodium palm kernelate
Vegetable oil

Find out more

Below are some other links that will help you with next lessons task

Palm oil biofuel of the future – guardian article 

Friends of the earth link for more info about palm oil

Born to be wild – a web site looking at the impact on the orangutans

Roundtable on sustainable palm oil -this is an organisation that aims to promote the use of sustainable palm oil use.  Many companies and supermarkets are now signing up to this. 


Watch this video to find out more about the impact on the forest

A sky news report on the effects of Palm Oil production on the Orangutans



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