Palm oil, an ingredient used in about 70% of cosmetic products, has been the topic of much discussion lately. This edible oil is derived from palm fruit, a plant native to Africa that can thrive anywhere with plenty of heat and rainfall.Today, palm oil is made in Africa, North America, South America, Indonesia, and Malaysia, 85% being exported from the latter two.
The problem with palm oil is the impact that production has been having on the environment. The establishment of palm oil plantations has largely been linked to deforestation, climate change, and habitat degradation.
Ten years ago, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was created to provide sustainable certification to products that meet the following criteria:
- Commitment to transparency
- Compliance with applicable laws
- Commitment to long-term economic viability
- Use of appropriate best practices by growers and millers
- Environmental responsibility and conservation of natural resources and biodiversity
- Consideration of individuals and communities affected by growers and mills
- Responsible development of new plantings
- Commitment to continuous improvement
However, one bioproducts company claims to have answered this problem by genetically altering algae cultures to create a new type of oil. Solazyme says that the algae oil does not contain any genetically engineered ingredients, but the algae producing the oil has been altered. The process would convert low-cost sugars into oils that could be used by the cosmetics industry.
For more information about this technology, check out this article on Cosmetic Design.