Read out

"Red Gold": palm oil at the end of the production chain. The fruits of the oil palm have been used by humans for a very long time. In an Egyptian tomb from around 3000 BC. Archaeologists discovered palm oil as an accessory.

„Rotes Gold“: Palmöl am Ende der Produktionskette. Die Früchte der Ölpalme nutzen Menschen schon sehr lange. In einem ägyptischen Grab aus der Zeit um 3000 v.Chr. entdeckten Archäologen Palmöl als Beigabe.

"Red Gold": palm oil at the end of the production chain. The fruits of the oil palm have been used by humans for a very long time. In an Egyptian tomb from around 3000 BC. Archaeologists discovered palm oil as an accessory.

Palm oil is the most widely produced vegetable oil worldwide. For oil palm fruits can be recycled much more efficiently than, for example, soybeans or rapeseed. This arouses greed: Plantations are repeatedly criticized for illegally expanding their land, forcibly displacing the rural population and destroying precious tropical forests. Often the plantation workers also suffer from bad working conditions. But there is another way: The owners of the Tequendema plantation in Colombia pursue a sustainable approach.

70 percent of the world's palm oil is processed by the food industry. The red oil is very rich in vitamins A and E and is often used in sweets as it is solid at room temperature and melts at body temperature. Thanks to its good oxidation and heat stability, it is also suitable as cooking oil for cooking and frying. The vegetable oil is also used in the energy sector, for example as an additive for biodiesel. In addition, palm kernel oil is extracted from the kernels of the fruits and used to produce surfactants. These are necessary to increase the water solubility of detergents and cleaners.

Palm oil is also a rainforest killer. For plantation areas, the operators are not only clearing away hectares of forest, but are also often violating the indigenous population. But the industry is also pursuing sustainable approaches - for example the Tequendema plantation in Colombia. Author Edith Luschmann and photographer Ronald Frommmann were invited by the NGO Rainforest Alliance to get an idea of ​​the company.

The consumer is responsible

With 1, 000 hectares, the Tequendema plantation is relatively small: 900, 000 hectares of oil palms are ordered throughout Colombia, while the Southeast Asian market leader cultivates 700, 000 hectares alone. However, very few palm oil companies are managed sustainably. At the Trequendema plantation, care is taken to work as ecologically as possible. The fertilizer is easier compost, buffalo carts take over many transports and specially bred molds serve as pesticides. Instead of "cleaning" the fields with herbicides from other plants, nature's operators are taking their course. Mowing is done only in densely vegetated areas, so that the workers can see if even single fruits have fallen from the palms - a sign that the fruit stands are ripe for the harvest. Contaminated water produced during production is completely cleaned and returned. The resulting biogas helps to keep the energy balance of the plantation positive.

There are still too few organic farms

This approach is commendable, but not the rule. Currently, just under 20 percent of palm oil on the world market is from sustainable production. So far only a few industrial sectors attach importance to sustainable oil. In addition, the origin and production of palm oil often need not be specifically declared on the final product. The problem does not even come with the consumer. Consumers are in demand to make the vegetable oil industry more sustainable. Because only when the demand for organic palm oil increases will more farms switch to organic farming methods and the depletion of tropical forests will recede. display

Read the full report on organic palm oil from Colombia in the January issue of bild der wissenschaft.

.De science.de - Maximilian Erbach
Recommended Editor'S Choice