07.12.2018 change 07.12.2018

University of Life Sciences in Poznań campaign "I do not eat palm oil - I protect orangutans"

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

As part of the campaign "I do not eat palm oil - I protect orangutans", students and employees of the University of Life Sciences in Poznań want to educate residents about palm oil issues and limiting the consumption of products containing this ingredient.

According to the University of Life Sciences in Poznań spokeswoman Iwona Cieślik, the idea for the campaign was born during the university`s "Forests of the World" scientific expedition. The project organizers want to increase awareness of the negative health impact of hardened fatty acids and global environmental changes, consisting in replacing tropical forests with oil palm plantations.

Dr. Paulina Nowaczyk from the Institute of Human Nutrition, Faculty of Food Sciences and Nutrition, University of Life Sciences in Poznań, noted that consumers should choose food products consciously.

"High content of saturated fatty acids is controversial when it comes to nutritional and health value of palm oil, and for partially hardened vegetable oils, including palm oil, so is the content of unsaturated fatty acids. These acids may, for example, adversely affect the cardiovascular system" - she explained.

Experts emphasize that due to the growing population, only palm oil has the potential to meet the increasing demand for food and energy. Where it is not required - outside the EU and the US - food manufacturers are reluctant to provide information about the presence of palm oil in products, because many consumers are aware that it is associated with cardiovascular disease and environmental problems. For the same reason, even manufacturers who use environmentally friendly, certified crops do not put this information on their products.

"Therefore, when shopping, consider choosing products that do not contain palm oil. This way, you can not only protect your health, but also avoid contributing to the destruction of tropical forests" - argue the organizers of the campaign "I do not eat palm oil - I protect orangutans".

The campaign coordinator Dr. Andrzej Węgiel from the Department of Forest Management at the Faculty of Forestry, University of Life Sciences in Poznań pointed out that large oil palm plantations can now be called the green deserts, not only because of the progressing desiccation of the soil cover, but also due to low species diversity within the areas they occupy. According to Węgiel, while about 300 species of birds live in the rainforests of Borneo, no more than 12 species can be found on palm plantations.

"The two largest palm oil producers are Indonesia and Malaysia, which together cover over 85% of the global demand for this material. Unfortunately, the large-scale production of palm oil causes the felling of large forests, conversion of wetlands and arable land, increase of carbon dioxide emissions, increased risk of fires and floods" - he stressed.

"Sewage generated in the production of oil causes acidification, contains toxic compounds that pollute aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and release greenhouse gases. In Indonesia, the transformation of forests into plantations also generates social problems, resulting in conflicts related to land ownership and limiting the local population`s access to resources, forest products they traditionally use in daily life" - he added.

Węgiel emphasized that for farmers deciding in favour of this type of cultivation, economic revenues, low labour intensity of running the plantations and the lack of seasonality of crops are more important than the environmental impact. Palm oil plantations are an important element of development for many tropical countries, where labour costs and land costs are low. In turn, deforestation associated with palm oil production is the reason for the decline of biodiversity and threatens the extinction of many species of plants and animals. Conversion of forests into palm oil plantations significantly reduces the usefulness of the habitat for large mammals, especially the sensitive, extremely vulnerable ones, such as orangutan, Sumatran tiger or Indian elephant.

Specialists emphasize that further, "even avalanche" increase in demand for palm oil is expected in the perspective of 2050.

PAP - Science in Poland, Anna Jowsa

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