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Banning palm oil would shift biodiversity loss to countries producing other vegetable oils
It is well known that conversion of tropical rainforest into oil palm plantations leads to massive losses of biodiversity, due to the enormous diversity of South East Asian tropical rainforest. At the same time, the oil palm has a yield many times that of other vegetable oil crops. If palm oil was to be replaced with other vegetable oils, more land would be needed for cultivation, and this could have adverse effects on biodiversity in other parts of the world where these crops are grown. Currently, oil palms produce 35% of the world’s vegetable oil on less than 10% of the land.
These are some of the findings in a new report on Palm Oil and Biodiversity published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The report is part of the organisation’s work towards finding constructive ways of increasing sustainability in the palm oil industry. ASE’s Asst. Prof. Janice Lee, who’s research includes sustainable certification of agro-commodities, has contributed to the first chapter of the report.
Sustainable production of palm oil is, according to the report, better than conventional production, but has potential for improvement. The authors also point out that not using palm oil for non-food purposes such as biofuel would help limit the demand. Future reports from the organisation will look at the social and economic impacts of palm oil production.