), The unique chemistry of palm oil give it a high melting point and make it high in saturated fats, meaning it is hugely versatile (Credit: Getty Images). If you used butter and milk, the cow those came from was probably fattened on it too. His research into the genetics of Chloroidium, a microscopic alga common in Abu Dhabi suggests it could be a viable alternative to palm oil. People are animals. It’s a texture thing. “One way this alga does that is by producing this oil.”, Oil can be extracted from algae but growing it on a scale that could compete with palm oil is proving difficult (Credit: Getty Images). Palm oil keeps chocolate bars from melting, works as a stabilizer and emulsifier in ice cream, and gives supermarket bread a longer shelf life, to name a few of its many applications. In 2017 ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics announced they had created a strain of algae that produced double the amount of oil as its predecessor. Trans fat consumption raises low-density lipoproteins (LDL, a.k.a. “The short answer is no, we are not closer. These aren’t the only recipes that could be tweaked to dispense with the palm oil. “But that has led to a huge loss in the tropical forest habitat and the animals that live there. A synthetic alternative then may only make a small dent in natural palm oil's global production. Sure. Turns out, instead of being explicitly labeled in the ingredients list, palm oil goes by around 200 pseudo names. But Nelson says it may require a major shift in the market for it to take off. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Worklife, and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday. New process makes palm oil alternatives possible, which is good news for our health and the health of the planet By Christine Sismondo Special to the Star Mon., Nov. 9, 2020 timer 5 min. Even the electricity that powers the device you’re reading this on may have been generated in part from burning oil palm kernels. Palm oil, like all fats, is composed of fatty acids, esterified with glycerol.Palm oil has an especially high concentration of saturated fat, specifically the 16-carbon saturated fatty acid, palmitic acid, to which it gives its name.Monounsaturated oleic acid is also a major constituent of palm oil. The most common approach is to find other vegetable oils that offer similar properties. Pies will never be the same. However, the babassu does have a lighter feeling on the skin and it absorbs quickly. Talk with Shara Ticku, the co-founder Speed read. “Mandatory labelling of trans fat content in foods became law in Canada and the United States in 2006, and you had to declare the amount of trans fatty acids on your food labels. Here are 10 easy vegetable oil alternatives, including olive oil, butter, applesauce, and more. Palm oil’s unique chemistry can also survive the high temperatures involved in cooking, and it’s very resistant to spoilage, bestowing a long shelf life upon products it is in. The British Veterinary Society recently concluded that insect-based pet food would be better for animals than top quality steak, and better for the environment too. It’s almost certain that you’ve used palm oil today. palm fruit oil. The most controlled and efficient way to grow them is in large closed vats, but in this arrangement algae and yeast need to be fed sugar to grow, and lots of it. Palm oil alternatives The closest substitute for palm oil is babassu oil, which comes from a native Brazilian palm tree. It is a wonder product used in everything from confectionery to construction. Olive Oil:A no-brainer, olive oil goes great on toast, pasta, you name it. Fortunately, Marangoni and his colleague, Reed Nicholson, graduate researcher in food science, also at the University of Guelph, started working on the problem a couple of years ago and discovered an easy fix: just add enzymes. Palm oil is the world’s most popular vegetable oil. But oil palm plantations have unmatched production efficiency. Newspapers Limited, One Yonge Street, 4th floor, Toronto, ON, M5E 1E6. Join one million Future fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter or Instagram. It means it would need processing to achieve similar properties. Orangutans are losing their homes in Borneo and Sumatra thanks to Indonesian palm oil production and much of Malaysia’s rainforest has been converted to palm plantation over the past decade or two. Copyright owned or licensed by Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. • Why the world is running out of sand• How do you bring a forest back to life?• The wall holding back a desert. to colleagues, clients or customers, or inquire about By partially hydrogenating and blending these “exotic oils”, a blend with similar properties to palm oil can be created. Farmers produced 77 million tonnes of palm oil for the global market in 2018, and that is expected to grow to 107.6 million tonnes by 2024. Normally, tobacco leaves contain less than 1% vegetable oil, but Reynolds’ plants boast up to 35%, meaning they yield even more vegetable oil than soy bean. They’ve already fielded calls from people looking for advice about which oils work best; some do better than others. (Find out more about saturated fats. It might have been in the bread you toasted for breakfast, or the margarine you smeared on it, or in the creamer you stirred into your coffee. Harvested from the seeds of the West African oil palm, it’s pale in colour and odourless, making it a convenient food additive. Two of them really stand out to me: 1. rights reserved. According to Global Forest Watch, Indonesia lost 25.6 million hectares of tree cover between 2001 and 2018, an area almost as large as New Zealand. area turned over to growing this crop rapidly increase, massive deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. The EU’s Renewable Energy Directive set an ambitious target for 10% of road transport energy to come from renewable sources by 2020, and biodiesel made from palm oil had been a major contributor to reaching that goal. Meanwhile, food and cosmetic scientists are making concoctions with even more exotic alternatives, such as oils from shea, sal, jojoba, kokum, illipé, jatropha and mango kernels. Some firms are also investigating whether yeasts can be engineered to produce the kinds of oils demanded by the food and cosmetic industry, although work here is at an even earlier stage than algal oil farms. As well as being highly calorific, palm oil is rich in essential fatty acids and aids the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter, called “The Essential List”. Oil palms are also easy to grow in the tropics and highly profitable for farmers, even in difficult soils, which has seen the area turned over to growing this crop rapidly increase in recent years. Among other approaches, startup biotech business C16 Bioscience is developing a method of brewing a synthetic alternative to palm oil using microbes, though the viability at scale of this process is … Looking for the best substitute for vegetable oil? The title makes it sound complicated, but the process is simple and it’s really just about rearranging molecules, Marangoni said over the phone last week. Nicholson and Marangoni published the results of their research, “Enzymatic glycerolysis converts vegetable oils into structural fats with the potential to replace palm oil in food products” in the October issue of the journal Nature Food. “We’re not going to necessarily eliminate the palm oil industry,” he said, “But the palm industry, along with the beef industry, is in expansion mode and on the verge of destroying what’s left of tropical rainforests. Clearing of the rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia is destroying the last remaining habitats of endangered species like Orangu-tans (Credit: Getty Images), “Oil palm can’t grow too far south or too far north, it’s very much a tropical crop,” says Reynolds. Saturated fat is different, in that it raises both types of cholesterol, which is still not good — it’s just not as bad. Palm plantations are also on the rise in Central America, South America (Colombia and Ecuador) as well as west and central Africa. The problem remains economics and commercial algal oil production for the commodity market is still far on the horizon,” he says. Despite its ubiquitous presence in larders and bathrooms, more than half of the palm oil imported to the European Union in 2017 was used for something else – fuel. But plenty of it makes it into our food, since it’s one of those hidden ingredients that’s managed to quietly find its way into dozens of processed foods, from chocolate bars to instant ramen. The market for sustainable palm oil is already over-supplied, leading to producers selling certified oil unlabelled on the wider market. Marangoni is a fan of rice bran and tiger nut oils, the latter of which, he advises, makes a great shortening. Like soya – another crop blamed for driving the destruction of rainforests – a major destination for palm oil is livestock feed and including pet food. His research into the genetics of Chloroidium, a microscopic alga common in Abu Dhabi suggests it could be a viable alternative to palm oil. Using Metschnikowia pulcherrima, a yeast historically used in the South African wine industry, scientists believe they can develop a truly versatile and planet-friendly alternative to palm oil! Some of … biofuels derived from palm oil and other food-based crops would have to be phased out, suggests it could be a viable alternative to palm oil, created a strain of algae that produced double the amount of oil, experimental algal farm at its Ohio plant, high rates of oil production into leafy plants such as tobacco and sorghum. *For more information about coconut oil and it’s properties in skincare, refer to our recent article from Stephensons. Alternative oils. “While we have looked at this in the past, palm oil provides very unique physical performance characteristics that are highly challenging to duplicate,” says spokesperson Mollie Wulff. palm stearine. All that’s required is the will to make that change happen – and for that will to become as ubiquitous as palm oil itself. But in 2019, the EU announced that biofuels derived from palm oil and other food-based crops would have to be phased out because of the environmental damage associated with their production. Researchers at the Poznań University of Life Sciences in Poland have been investigating whether palm oil in chicken feed can be replaced with a more sustainable source of nutrition: insects. The destruction of rainforest to make way for oil palm plantations turns rich, vibrant habitats packed with species into desolate monocultures (Credit: Getty Images). But the rapid expansion of oil palm plantations is blamed for massive deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia, and destroying the habitat of endangered native wildlife there, such as the orangutan, and increasing their risk of extinction. “We’re not changing the molecular composition of the oil in terms of its fundamental nature, we’re just redistributing the molecules and making ‘partial glycerols,’ similar to the way that we digest fats in our body. But when it comes to the efficiency and beneficial qualities of the Oil… Palm oil production is a valuable source of income in some developing countries and the issue of balancing human need while safeguarding animals and the environment is complicated. Digesting partial glycerols have been shown to lower our total cholesterol. Republication or distribution of this content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Toronto So what can we do while we wait? Palm-Free Alternatives . This might not be as strange as it seems: the majority of oil fields around the world are the fossilised remains of algae. C16 Biosciences is using fermentation to produce a palm oil alternative that avoids pollution, deforestation and habitat destruction. If we can’t replicate palm oil, perhaps we can limit its environmental impact by changing the way it’s produced. This has put governments and businesses under pressure to find alternatives to palm oil. This was known by food companies before and the transition to palm oil had mostly taken place by then.”. These have passed the hurdle of technical feasibility but still present challenges in terms of affordability, acceptability, and sustainability. Supermarket chain Iceland won praise in 2018 when it announced it would phase out palm oil from all its own-brand products (even releasing a heartrending Christmas advert featuring a homeless orangutan that was banned for being overtly political). “It should be possible to produce palm oil in a non-palm oil plant. Given the crisis, Nicholson and Marangoni decided to play the “altruism card” and give the technology away for free, instead of patenting and licensing it. We have so few of these rainforests left and they’re home to so much biodiversity.”. Only this is free from palm oil, not the variant in a plastic Cup. On an industrial scale, bio-fertilisers from palm oil empty fruit bunches should be promoted as an alternative to the widespread use of chemical fertilisers in Malaysia. Scientists in Canada create a low-cost alternative to palm oil that uses a simple enzyme to turn liquid vegetable oils into solids. Palm oil’s ubiquitous presence in our lives is, in part, down to its unique chemistry. Most companies in the West purchase palm oil that is certified by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RPSO). And by releasing their discovery into the world with no strings attached, Nicholson and Marangoni have made it possible for fat manufacturers to make the switch, quickly. presentation-ready copies of Toronto Star content for distribution But it is possible to grow oil palm in a way that limits its impact on the environment. Workers are misled i… It’s hard to fathom the number of species at risk. In 2013, Ohio University began a pilot algal farm, but the man in charge, mechanical engineer David Bayless, confesses that he had little progress to show in the six years since. Video of the Week. It was probably in the shampoo you used this morning, or the soap you scrubbed yourself with, the toothpaste you brushed with, the vitamin pills you swallowed or the make-up you applied. As well as its unique chemistry, palm oil is cheap. Take palm oil, for instance. All Thus, ironically, a ban on palm oil would lead to a catastrophic increase in deforestation, as anything we replace it with will need much more land to grow on. Most other vegetable oils need to be partially hydrogenated – where hydrogen atoms are chemically added to the fat molecules – to achieve the same consistency, a process which results in unhealthy trans-fats. It’s in 50% of consumer products, as well as playing a central role in a slew of industrial applications. However, a hybrid of the two plants is sometimes used in palm oil production. palm olein. The shells can be crushed and used to make concrete, and the ash left after burning the palm fibres and kernels can be used as a replacement for cement. Oil from certain species of algae can be turned into a “biocrude” that can then be distilled into a range of fuels that could replace diesel, jet fuel and even heavy shipping oil. Looking at different oils on the same chart, you could use any of the following without changing the recipe: Sweet Almond Oil Cottonseed Oil (which is a primary ingredient in shortening) Grapeseed Oil Lard Tallow Venison Fat Olive Oil Rice Bran Oil … Oil palm only grows within 20 degrees of the equator – an area which also happens to be where rainforests grow and is home to 80% of all species in the world. C16 Biosciences was founded to create an environmentally conscious and sustainable palm oil alternative product to disrupt the current market. Even the vehicle you travelled in today – bus, train, or car – ran on fuel containing palm oil. Food giant General Mills – one of the biggest purchasers of palm oil in the US – has encountered similar trouble. Oil palms are hugely productive and cheap to grow, which has been largely responsible for their rapid proliferation (Credit: Getty Images). This move toward palm-free products creates an opportunity for vegetable oil producers in developing countries. But none of these ingredients are as cheap or readily available as palm oil. And, best of all, the new product can actually lower our bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise our good cholesterol (HDL) — sort of a reverse trans fat. It’s still the cheapest oil around and, therefore, important to people experiencing food insecurity around the globe. This makes it difficult for people wishing to avoid palm oil (for dietary, allergy or ethical reasons) to know whether the product they wish to buy contains palm oil or a palm oil derivative. Anything with the word “palm” in it (even if it’s not written as “Palm Oil”) “The new monoacylglycerols and diacylglycerols (the partial glycerols) produced by glycerolysis have a higher melting point than the original triaglycerols (the molecules that make up fats and oils) so, just by doing that, we can turn an oil into a fat without changing the overall composition of the oil,” he explained. Is this the end of palm oil? Even if it’s around the corner, it’s not on the shelf yet. Yet removing palm oil from some of the products proved so difficult that in the following year, the company removed its name from the branding instead. read Alternatives to palm oil. That’s been called a “double whammy” when it comes to heart health. The company offers palm oil production and interrelated consumption parties, such as producers, refiners, traders, and consumers, an opportunity to invest in a sustainable bio-based palm oil alternative. Palm kernel oil is actually chemically more similar to coconut oil than palm oil, which is why we use both palm and coconut oils in our soaps, as both give different properties. Know the Dark Truth of Palm Oil and Get Its Alternatives. As a vegan, it’s normal not to want other people to suffer, even if cows and pigs are the typical animals that come to mind when thinking about veganism. The oil has a high melting point and is high in saturated fats, which is ideal for creating melt-in-the-mouth creams and confectionaries. The move has left the EU searching for an alternative. But replacing a miracle product isn’t easy. Oil palm plantations linked to deforestation and biodiversity loss. To do that, we have to take a step back and see what ultimate drives demand for palm oil. “The best way to make money off a palm oil plantation is to take virgin forest, cut down the trees, sell them, then use that money to establish a palm plantation,” said Marangoni. Read about our approach to external linking. The plants can be crushed and the oil harvested from their leaves. But the scientific potential is there to mediate our impact on the world by developing more sustainable ways to meet our food, fuel and cosmetic needs. But getting these products to the point where they can compete economically and at scale with palm oil is a major hurdle. palmate. But maybe we can curb this; I mean, at the rate that we’re going, we’re going to be left with nothing.”. And it’s cheap because oil palm is something of a wonder crop – it grows relatively quickly, is easy to harvest, and is spectacularly productive. And the oil produced by the tobacco is “quite a long way” from palm oil, as the fatty acids that make them up are longer and more unsaturated. What if we could reduce the pressure on tropical rainforests by creating a plant that was just as productive as oil palm, but could grow anywhere? palm oil. It’s nearly impossible to avoid, and just as difficult to replace. Well, that might be a bit of an oversimplification of the researchers’ “enzymatic glycerolysis” process, which uses a natural enzyme, glycerin, and mild heating to transform liquid oils into solid fats without altering the nutritional properties of the oils. That sugar has to be grown somewhere, so the environmental impact of the end product is simply moved elsewhere. The team fed chickens a diet supplemented with mealworm oil instead of palm oil, and found that they grew just as well, and showed improvements in the quality of their meat. It adds the same firming and moisturizing properties as coconut and palm. palm kernel oil. “If politicians say ‘No, we’re not going to take palm oil’, then there’s a really open and good market for algal palm oil,” he says. “Ever since the demise of hydrogenated fats and partially hydrogenated fats, people immediately switched to palm oil as the solution,” said Alejandro Marangoni, professor and Canada Research Chair in Food, Health and Aging at the University of Guelph. In both food and non-food products there are 1000’s of palm oil derivatives (ingredients derived from palm oil) as it is a very versatile ingredient. 27 Jun 2018 --- A new report examining palm oil says its production is a disaster for tropical rainforests and trashing the habitats of orangutans and tigers – but alternatives like soy, corn and rapeseed could be even worse because these crops are much more land-hungry. Marangoni doesn’t think that’s in the cards, unfortunately. A similar oil palm known as Elaeis oleifera is found in South America, but it’s rarely grown commercially. permissions/licensing, please go to: www.TorontoStarReprints.com. Alternative vegetable oils include soybean, rapeseed, and coconut as well as less common jatropha and jojoba. But demand for sustainable palm oil, and the willingness to pay a price premium for it, is limited. “I wish I had better news for you.”. Ecover’s experience highlights just some of the difficulties of finding a viable palm oil alternative. “Something that has high biomass should be more adaptable, able to grow in multiple climates.”, At their laboratory in Canberra, CSIRO researchers have inserted genes for high rates of oil production into leafy plants such as tobacco and sorghum. A hectare of oil palm can reliably produce four tonnes of vegetable oil every year, compared to 0.67 tonnes for rapeseed, 0.48 tonnes for sunflowers, and just 0.38 tonnes for soy beans. As if that weren’t enough good news for one story, this could also have massive environmental implications — palm oil isn’t just bad for heart health, it’s also terrible for rainforests around the world and the species that call them home. “We have an interesting climate here, not a lot of rain, it can be hot in the summer, so anything that grows has to be able to cope with that,” says Nelson, who is based at the New York University Abu Dhabi. However, Reynolds says that creating a new and improved oil-producing tobacco could take around 12 months – if someone is willing to invest in the research necessary. (Find out more about the environmental impact that palm oil is having around the world.). Those two nations alone boast around 13 million hectares of oil palm plantation, almost half the world’s total. Right now, just 4% of all of the world’s cane sugar is certified as sustainable under Bonsucro. Palm oil report: Alternatives would be environmentally even worse. The oil can also be burned for fuel, as can the palm kernels left over after processing. Even though we know saturated fat is bad for us, that hasn’t seemed to slow down our consumption of it. According to not-for-profit certifier Bonsucro, only 4% of the sugar in the world is grown under sustainable conditions. The use of palm oil in Beauty Care has long been criticized for the negative environmental and ecological impacts surrounding the industry—specifically deforestation, biodiversity destruction, animal cruelty and socio-economic violations. It’s clear that for now, palm oil isn’t going anywhere. Only recipes that could be tweaked to dispense with the palm kernels left over after processing jatropha jojoba! Include Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the oil harvested from their.. Simply moved elsewhere the environment non-palm oil plant join one million Future fans by liking us on Twitter or.. Times as much as we did in 2008 in Canada and 20 times as much as in the –! 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