The palm oil industry is the main cause of rainforest destruction in Indonesia and Malaysia. 88 percent of the world’s palm oil is produced in these two countries, including palm oil for the Norwegian market. Palm oil is an edible plant oil and is derived from the mesocarp of the fruit of the oil palm. Naturally reddish in color because of a high beta-carotene content, palm oil, along with coconut oil, is one of the few highly saturated vegetable fats. It is semi-solid at room temperatures.
Norwegian food producers used 15,000 tons of palm oil in 2011. A successful campaign mobilizing public pressure has reduced consumption by two thirds. Last autumn, Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) launched a campaign with two aims; to reduce Norwegian palm oil consumption and to expose the link between deforestation and the production of this vegetable oil. The campaign, which was developed in collaboration with the organization Green Living, targeted all major food producers in Norway. Major food companies had to disclose their palm oil use and whether palm oil was certified under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an eco-certification initiative. Following the survey, the environmental groups published a ‘palm oil guide’ where consumers could look up the palm oil content in the products they buy. The effort went beyond traditional labeling which allowed palm oil to be listed generically as ‘vegetable oil’ or ‘vegetable fat’.
The outcome: Eight major producers have cut their consumption with some 9,600 tons – a reduction of nearly two thirds of the total consumption of 15,000 tons. In 2011 every Norwegian inadvertently consumed three kilos of palm oil through food products. From now on they will only consume one kilo per year. Norwegians demonstrated that it is possible to cut down on Palm oil use and fight the war against deforestation. Palm oil is a common cooking ingredient in the tropical belt of Africa, Southeast Asia and parts of Brazil. Its increasing use in the commercial food industry in other parts of the world is buoyed by its lower cost and the high oxidative stability (saturation) of the refined product when used for frying. The successful trial run in Norway demonstrates that other global consumers can survive by minimizing palm oil consumption in the and deforestation.