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Would You Give up Nutella to Save Our Planet’s Forests?

The race to produce palm oil, a key ingredient in the popular spread, is leading to massive deforestation around the world.

Photo by Flickr user Janine.

The French ecology minister pissed off Nutella-lovers and Nutella-makers this week when she suggested that people stop eating the chocolate-hazelnut spread, saying that it’s destroying our forests. The company that makes Nutella, Ferrero, uses palm oil, and sources 80 percent of it from Malaysia. But ecology minister Ségolène Royal says they should use a different ingredient.

“We have to replant a lot of trees because there is massive deforestation that also leads to global warming. We should stop eating Nutella, for example, because it’s made with palm oil,” said Royal. “Oil palms have replaced trees, and therefore caused considerable damage to the environment.”

Oil palms are trees indigenous to Western Africa, but oil palm plantations are grown all over the world now in order to accomodate growing demands for the precious oil. In recent decades, Indonesia and Malaysia have become the largest producers of palm oil in the world.

Manufacturers don’t just use it in Nutella—they also use it in shampoos, soaps, ice cream, make-up, as well as butter and margarine, among other goods. This demand contributes to deforestation—in order to grow oil palms, large expansions of forests and lands must be cleared first. According to the World Wildlife Fund, palm oil expansion in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea between the years 1990 and 2010 culminated in the destruction of 3.5 million hectares of forest land.

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