This Sunday, the Easter Bunny will send thousands of children of all ages into egg-shaped-chocolate-induced sugar comas. And who can blame them? Easter candy is . What is less discussed than the cult of the Cadbury Egg, however, is the common use of palm oil in many popular Easter candies (as well as in run-of-the-mill chocolates, and other goods — over half of the products on U.S. supermarket shelves contain palm oil).
What’s wrong with palm oil?
Aside from being high in saturated fat, palm oil raises environmental concerns. “In Indonesia and Malaysia, where 90% of the world’s certified palm oil is produced, an estimated 7m acres of rainforest and peatlands have been cleared and drained, destroying habitats for wildlife and indigenous people.” Additionally, palm oil farming contributes to pollution, and often involves worker exploitation.
Working toward a solution
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), founded in 2004, has created a set of standards to certify palm oil as sustainable, and many large companies are seeking to use certified oil. Some critics, however, say the RSPO standards don’t go far enough. For instance, they don’t include greenhouse gas emissions, and large amounts of carbon are released when peatlands are cleared for palm plantations.
Boycotting palm oil entirely is also unlikely to be a solution, because Malaysia, Indonesia, and other developing countries rely on the oil as a major source of income.
But consumer awareness is growing, and more and more advocacy groups are lobbying the RSPO for stricter standards. Adam Harrison, senior policy officer for food and agriculture at WWF, says his organization wants to see the RSPO get tougher on reporting, and to ensure that member companies are meeting the goals they set for themselves, and not just greenwashing. So perhaps palm oil production is moving closer to a more sustainable future.
– Hannah Shtein, Intern, Curren Media Group