Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Palm oil

10 February 2020

This report from NGO Friends of the Earth Europe examines how European demand for beef, soy (as animal feed) and palm oil is linked to deforestation in the Global South. It outlines the limitations of sustainability certification schemes, and makes policy proposals that focus on food sovereignty.

3 February 2020

In this podcast from the World Resources Institute, Andika Putraditama (sustainable commodities and business manager at WRI Indonesia) discusses how buyers have responded to certified sustainable palm oil. Some prefer to avoid palm oil altogether. Putraditama argues that encouraging certified palm oil would incentivise the palm oil industry to change its practices.

Image: feelphotoz, Olio Di Palma, Pixabay, Pixabay Licence
9 December 2019

According to this study of oil palm plantations in Colombia, converting pasture to oil palm plantation is almost carbon neutral, because declines in soil organic carbon are offset by gains in oil palm biomass over a period of several decades. The authors argue that planting oil palm on former pasture land is preferable to converting rainforest to plantations, as regards greenhouse gas emissions.

2 December 2019

This podcast, part of the BBC programme The Food Chain, explores initiatives that hope to change how palm oil is produced. It outlines some of the environmental and social issues associated with conventional palm oil production, and discusses a smallholder certification scheme in the Sabah region of Malaysian Borneo.

Image: glennhurowitz, Recently planted palm oil plantation on rainforest peatland, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic
11 November 2019

The initial results of an experiment on palm oil plantations in Sumatra, Indonesia, suggests that using less fertiliser on palm oil plantations and controlling weeds through mechanical weeding instead of herbicide use could be beneficial both ecologically and economically.

Image: Orientierungslust, Palm oil palm, Pixabay, Pixabay licence
8 May 2019

The impacts of palm oil plantations on human wellbeing depend on context and are neither uniformly negative nor positive, finds this study of villages in Indonesia. Oil palm plantations are more likely to lead to improved basic, physical and financial well-being in villages with relatively low existing forest cover and where most people make a living by producing goods for market, compared to villages with higher forest cover and where most people have subsistence-based livelihoods.

16 April 2019

This report explains several trends and issues impacting the edible fats and oils system, including increasing demand, land use, public health, climate impacts, restrictions on trans fats, the search for alternatives to palm oil and soy, and supply chain transparency.

16 April 2019

FCRN member Samuel Smith of international sustainability non-profit Forum for the Future has contributed to this report, which sets out the case for organisations to act on the sustainability of all the fats and oils in their supply chains, including but not limited to 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.

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