Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Palm oil

Image: Alex Dunkel, Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur catta) at Berenty Private Reserve in Madagascar, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
29 October 2018

This paper searched for areas of land in Africa where palm oil could be cultivated productively with minimal impact on primate populations. The results showed that such areas are rare: the areas that are suitable for growing palm oil also tend to be areas where primates are highly vulnerable.

Image: sarangib, Oil Palm Tree, Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons
17 July 2018

A recent paper assesses the carbon implications of converting Indonesian rainforests to oil palm monocultures, rubber monocultures or rubber agroforestry systems (known as “jungle rubber”). It finds that carbon losses are greatest from oil palm plantations and lowest from jungle rubber systems, in all cases being mainly from loss of aboveground carbon stocks. The paper points out that, “Thorough assessments of land-use impacts on resources such as biodiversity, nutrients, and water must complement this synthesis on C but are still not available.”

Image: Craig, Oil palms in Malaysia, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain
21 May 2018

This paper outlines the difficulties of governing the complex global palm oil supply chain, examines the narratives around the environmental and social sustainability of palm oil and analyses how power dynamics create a fragmented governance structure for palm oil. The author concludes that the palm oil industry has created a narrative in which only “unsustainable” palm oil production is to blame for negative environmental and social effects, and in which “sustainable” palm oil - and an increase in its production - is presented as being beneficial for conservation and local communities.​

Image: Feelphotoz, Palm oil, Flickr, Creative Commons CC0
15 May 2018

Last year, members of the European Parliament voted to ban palm oil in biofuels in Europe by 2020, citing concerns over deforestation (read more about the environmental impacts of palm oil production here). The Guardian spoke to palm oil farmers in Malaysia who are worried they will lose their livelihood. Some of the farmers were given land by the government in the 1980s and do not use recently deforested land. “Our whole community here totally depends on palm oil… everybody is scared of what is going to happen to us in two years time,” said farmer Hussain Mohamed.

Image: Adcro, The exterior of an Iceland supermarket in Horwich, Bolton, Greater Manchester, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
24 April 2018

Frozen food supermarket Iceland has pledged to remove palm oil from all of its own-brand lines by the end of 2018, citing concerns over collapsing orangutan populations and deforestation. The initiative - the first of its kind among major UK supermarkets - should reduce demand for palm oil by over 500 tonnes a year.

Image: Alistair Kitchen, Orangutan Baby, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
23 April 2018

A study shows that 100,000 orangutans in Borneo have been lost between 1999 and 2015 - around half of the population. The results show that this precipitous decrease is not just due to deforestation, since numbers of orangutans also declined in selectively logged and intact forests.

Image: Tristantan, Palm oil fruit, Pixabay, Creative Commons CC0
26 March 2018

A report from the European Commission Directorate-General for the Environment reviews environmental, social and economic aspects of palm oil production and consumption, and evaluates existing palm oil sustainability initiatives.

Photo credit: Steve Slater, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
29 November 2016

This article evaluates the impact of voluntary crop sustainability standards on biodiversity protection. The authors reviewed the 12 major crop standards (such as Organic cropland (IFOAM), Fairtrade and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil), and found that only two of these prohibited all deforestation (Rainforest Alliance/Sustainable Agriculture Network and Proterra). 

Photo credit: Scion_cho, Junked, Flickr, Creative Commons licence 2.0
24 October 2016

A key ingredient in junk food is vegetable oil. 60% of this oil is from oil palm and soybean, production of which has been expanding in Southeast Asia and South America, resulting in widespread deforestation and biodiversity loss. In this article, the authors calculate the amount of current deforestation due to vegetable oil consumption (through junk food) and extrapolate vegetable oil demand to predict the deforestation future consumption patterns would cause by 2050.

Photo credit: James Anderson, photo-oil-palm-fruit-original, Flickr, Creative Commons licence 2.0
24 October 2016

The largest share of agricultural land in tropical landscapes is managed, not as large-scale industrial plantations, but by smallholders. This Nature Communications article integrates the interdisciplinary research of more than 20 research groups, and seeks to address gaps in our understanding of the ecological impacts of this smallholder-managed agricultural land. The study uses a multifaceted approach to investigating the crop choices that farmers make and how these choices impact on ecological and economic outcomes.

17 October 2016

In this letter, over 100 researchers and practitioners argue that media coverage of the 2016 International Peat Congress (the first to be held in the tropics) was dangerously misleading in its assertions that peatland management under palm oil plantations was sustainable (see for example this news article by BorneoPost). They argue that such articles, by downplaying the issues imposed on peatland ecosystems by agriculture, undermine recent real and promising advances in tropical peatland management.

Photo: Marufish, palm oil mill, Flickr, Creative Commons licence 2.0
20 September 2016

Strong demand for vegetable oil has led to a boom in the Indonesian and Malaysian palm oil industries since 1990. Typically planted in extremely large monoculture plantations, the crop has been implicated in biodiversity loss and human rights issues.

Photo: glennhurowitz, Palm oil plantation encroaching on forest, Flickr, Creative commons licence 2.0
1 August 2016

This study warns that converting Africa's tropical forests into monoculture palm plantations will cause a significant spike in carbon emissions and highlights that regulation can assist in achieving net-zero carbon while meeting production goals.

Photo: Dick Culbert, Acrocomia aculeata, immature Grugu Nuts, Flickr, Creative commons licence 2.0
24 July 2016

The neotropical macaw palm (Acrocomia aculeata) is increasingly promoted for large-scale cultivation as a sustainable biomass feedstock in Latin America. This paper warns however that a crucial proportion of areas predicted to be suitable for cultivation are located in areas of high conservational value. The paper also points to climate change scenarios which predict a substantial reduction of suitable areas in coming years.

16 February 2016

This report by a partnership comprising the International Trade Centre, the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and the International Institute for Sustainable Development summarises the recent market trends and growth in voluntary sustainability standards (VSS), for nine commodities.

Pages