03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

How Green is Your Palm Oil?

Used in everything from cookies to lipstick, palm oil is a common ingredient in many everyday items. Its use has doubled
in the United States over the past four years -- mostly because its lack
of trans fats makes it easier to label processed foods as “healthy.”
Unfortunately its popularity has led to extensive destruction of
tropical forests, which are being cleared to make way for oil palm

Choosing organic palm oil is a good step, but that label simply means that chemical fertilizers and pesticides weren’t used on the trees. Rainforests may have been chopped down and ecosystems destroyed to make room for the organic palms.   

To combat this problem, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, (RSPO) an international organization set up to define sustainable palm oil standards, put 1.3 million tons of certified-sustainable palm oil on the market last year. As of May, only 1 percent, or less than 15,000 tons, of that oil had been sold. Most buyers just won’t pay the extra cash for sustainable palm oil.

To encourage buyers, the World Wildlife Fund
(WWF) plans to assess the major palm oil buyers, including major
supermarkets, cosmetics and food manufacturers, over the next six
months and publish a Palm Oil Buyer’s Scorecard
ranking them. The WWF also asks that these major global retailers,
manufacturers and traders of palm oil commit to using 100 percent
certified sustainable palm oil by 2015.

What do you think? Would you give preference to WWF-sanctioned palm oil in your next purchase?