Palm-Free Palm Oil Can Alleviate Environmental Destruction

Palm-Free Palm Oil Can Alleviate Environmental Destruction

There is palm oil in nearly everything, and its demand is devastating rainforests. The American company C16 Biosciences has developed a microbial oil to replace palm oil.

Published: Mar, 8, 2024

Palm oil is the world's most popular vegetable oil. It is found in almost 50% of products on store shelves - from ice cream to baby food, from shampoo to lipstick. The demand for palm oil is increasing worldwide, creating significant environmental problems in the countries where it is produced.

The extraction of palm oil involves large-scale deforestation, primarily in Indonesia and Malaysia, the two countries that account for 85% of palm oil production. Land use in these two countries emits 500 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.

However, the situation is far from hopeless. The American biotechnology company C16 Biosciences has launched a bio-based alternative to palm oil, called Palmless. Palmless has similar functional attributes to palm oil but is created through fermentation with yeast instead of harvesting palm plants in the rainforest. After identifying a type of yeast that creates an oil resembling palm oil, C16 used adapted laboratory development and strain technology to improve the strain's performance and profile.

Currently, C16 is focusing on partnerships with skincare and cosmetics brands but also hopes in the long run to replace palm oil in food products with its product. However, regulations and prices mean that dream is still a few years away from being realized.

At C16 Biosciences, the initial focus is on palm oil, but the company has a broader vision focused on the entire spectrum of oils and fats and finding different ways to alleviate emissions from consumer product supply chains.