Earth Balance products are highly praised by many vegans because it offers a tasty substitute to eating dairy. The company has recently added new additions to their faux-dairy products, such as vegan Mac & Cheese, vegan cheddar kettle chips, and vegan aged white cheddar flavor popcorn, to name just a few.
Earth Balance claims on their website that all of their products are “plant-based, vegan, made without artificial ingredients or hydrogenated oils, and are free of lactose and eggs.” Some of their products are also labeled as organic, or having no genetically modified ingredients (GMOs).
Earth Balance’s most famous product, and the one that put them high on the list of favourites by people following a plant-based diet, is their vegan buttery spread. It spreads like butter, and almost tastes like butter, but it is dairy-free. All this sounds great, except that palm oil is mentioned in the list of ingredients and not all of their spreads are organic. Products which are not listed as GMO-free often contain ingredients that are grown from laboratory created seeds, especially if soya and canola are included in the list.
Palm Oil is a globally traded oil that appears in over fifty percent of consumer goods in North America. It is found primarily in processed foods, cosmetics, and soaps. In addition to consumer goods, it is being used as a biofuel. The global demand for palm oil has increased dramatically in recent years, leading to a host of problems.
Over eighty percent of palm oil is cultivated in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papau New Guinea, where it is the primary cause of rain forest destruction. The use of palm oil supports the logging and destruction of some of the world’s most ecologically important rainforests, and destroys the last remaining habitat for many endangered species, including the orangutan and Sumatran tigers which are currently facing extinction, and the endangered Malayan tapir.
Earth Balance has attempted to minimize the impact of its use by only using so-called sustainable palm oil. Seventy-percent of the palm oil Earth Balance procures has been certified as sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which is is a voluntary organization comprised mostly of self-interested palm oil processors and traders, growers and consumer good manufacturers.
Greenpeace UK’s website states that:
“Industry efforts to bring this deforestation under control have come through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). It was set up in 2004 to establish clear ethical and ecological standards for producing palm oil, and its members include high-street names like Unilever, Cadbury’s, Nestlé and Tesco, as well as palm oil traders such as Cargill and ADM. Together, these companies represent 40 per cent of global palm oil trade.
But since then forest destruction has continued. Many RSPO members are taking no steps to avoid the worst practices associated with the industry, such as large-scale forest clearance and taking land from local people without their consent. On top of this, the RSPO actually risks creating the illusion of sustainable palm oil, justifying the expansion of the palm oil industry.”
As for their new faux cheese products, they are constant reminders of authentic dairy products, which does nothing to change the mind-set of people. The word cheese is automatically associated with dairy and cows. It is the same as someone who substitutes herbal cigarettes (the one’s you buy in the health food store), for nicotine-based cigarettes. The need for holding and wanting a cigarette still continues, regardless if the drug was removed. Until, everyone changes their vocabulary and looks for alternatives, rather than substitutes, the risk of a return to actual dairy products is as high as a smoker is to light up again.
Earth Balance targets and markets specifically to the ethical vegan community, who oppose animal exploitation. Ironically, this is precisely what palm oil cultivation, and faux dairy products does. Vegans are spending their money on a products that are harmful to both animals and the environment, and which does nothing to remove authentic dairy products from the overall consciousness of consumers.
Photo Credit: Facebook: Earth Balance