Dr. Oz is an influential figure who advocates healthy living to the Amerian public. Recently he has promoted red palm oil for its " incomparable, powerful nutritional virtues" without talking about the negative impacts of its production both socially and environmentally. As with most things Dr. Oz promotes, a buying frenzy from his millions of viewers of palm oil was promted from this.
Palm Oil is an oil that comes from the African Oil Palm plant. The African Oil Palm plant needs tropical conditions to grow. It is a widely favoured ingredient in both the food and cosmetics industry and is now the second largest oil crop. It can be in anything from the blush you use to the licorice you eat. Recently, it has been experimented for use as a biofuel, regardless of the fact that studies have shown that using palm oil-based diesel actually increases green house emissions. Due to extreme demand, tropical forest in Borneo, Sumatra, Indonesia, and the Amazon are cleared to be made into large oil palm plantations. According to Say No to Palm Oil, an area the size of 300 football fields is cleared every hour in Borneo and Sumatra to create more palm oil plantations. To clear these lands, the forests are usually either burned, or cut down for timber to sell for a hefty dollar as fine hardwood. Burning these lands releases a massive amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the trees and peat in the area do a fantastic job of absorbing them, but unfortunately when they are burned, all this good is undone. The water table and local waterways are also effected by palm oil plantations as harmful pesticides and herbicides are heavily used. The Amazon Rainforest is one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet, housing exotic and rare wildlife and plants. Once this bountiful area is converted into a plantation, it can only be used for 20 years as it will turn into desert land without the canopies of the massive trees.
The palm oil industry also affects the local people as many rely on the forests for their livelihood. Also, land for oil palm plantations is usually not compensated for fairly or just taken from the local peoples. Though the industry creates more jobs, it is questioned as to if it provides fair wages, if they actually employ local people, and if working conditions are suitable. Most of those questionable factors, highly unlikely.
More than 90 of the endangered Orangutans' habitat has been demolished to be turned into land for palm oil plantations. According The Sumatran Orangutan Society, over the past hundred years the number of orangutans living in Sumatra has gone from 315,000 to less than 7,000. Orangutans only have one baby every seven years, making this issue of vast importance to save this endangered species.
In 1997-1998, an estimated 8000 orangutans were killed from massive forest fires in Borneo set to clear land for palm oil plantations.
SOS reports that orangutans may be extinct within 50 years due to the rapid pace of lost habitat.
Other animals such as the Asian Rhinoceros, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Sun Bear, Pygmy Elephant, Proboscis Monkey, and Sumatran Tiger have also been heavily impacted by the palm oil industry.
Unfortunately, it is not currently required for companies to label palm oil on their products. Roughly 50% of packaged foods contain palm oil, so start reading your labels! Palm oil can be disguised by other words in the ingredient list, common other names for palm oil include: palmitate, cetyl palmitate, palmate, hydrated palm glycerides, and sodium lauryl or laureth sulphates. It can also be hidden behind a more generalized ingredient name such as vegetable oil.
Future generations, as close as my children, might not get to see orangutans, or tigers, or polar bears for that matter as the destruction of the rainforest releases massive amounts of carbon emissions contributing to global warming further. We need to take a stand on this issue, before it is too late.
If Dr. Oz does believe palm oil is such a great product that people should be using, he should promote only sustainable palm oil and talk about the issues associated with unsustainable sources. He is a very influential person in the health & wellness sector, and offers great healthy living information so he holds a huge role in ensuring people are also making environmentally sound choices. His show on the benefits of palm oil influenced millions to buy it. If he had talked about the sustainability aspect, that would have been millions compelled to buy it from a sustainable source, and have the knowledge on this important topic.
The Best Ways to Take Action Against Palm Oil:
- Be an informed consumer, known what names to look for on labels.
- Look specifically for cosmetics and foods that don’t contain palm oil, they’re out there, you just have to look for them.
- Spread the word. Inform friends and family, most people don’t even know what palm oil is, never mind is impact on the planet and their health!
Dear Dr. Oz,
I am a big fan, and have watched many episodes, as you offer great healthy living advice and I think today it is so important that there is someone like you offering alternatives to conventional medicine. Recently you had a show promoting the use of red palm oil. Palm oil has various negative impacts both socially and environmentally that are important to consider when promoting such a product. I'm sure you have been notified by now of the destruction of the rainforest, endangerment of animals, and harm on the indigeneous peoples that this product's production causes. Being such an influential person, it is vastly important that your viewers understand these implications associated with unsustainable practices. Sustainable palm oil is available, and if the millions of people compelled to buy this product from your show were aware of these implications, they would have been compelled to buy a sustainable version, making a demand on sustainable palm oil, not its nasty counterpart. I'm sure you have read countless letters outlining this same information, and encourage you to set your viewers straight. I can only make a difference in my friends and family when it comes to environmental and ethical issues. You can make a difference with millions of viewers that value your opinion and support your show. Support us back and give your viewers the information to make positive healthy living choices that are also sustainable. I understand its a television show, and talking about the sheer horror of burning orangutans and such is not what drives ratings, but a small heads up about choosing sustainable and mentioning that there are negative impacts associated with unsustainable products is important when promoting certain products. I can guarantee that some people jump off their couch and go buy what you have just promoted on your show immediately, people listen to you and trust your every word, therefore it is imperative to just let them know during that particular show about buying this product, but only if its certified as sustainable. I hope you consider this, and thank you so much for reading this letter. I think it is great what you are doing with your show, and I think it would be invaluable if you made this small change.