Palm Oil at a Glance

The Good:
The controversies surrounding the cultivation of palm oil are rich with complexity. Palm oil plantations have brought prosperity to rural, impoverished areas of Indonesia, Malaysia and other tropical nations. Palm oil is also cheaper to produce than other vegetable oils, which is beneficial for consumers. In addition, palm oil carries with it a handful of health benefits when consumed in lightly processed food products. The oil is also used in biodiesel fuels, which are helping western nations steer energy needs away from petroleum.

The Bad:
The problem with palm oil is not an issue with the plant itself but with the methods that are used to cultivate it. Vast areas of rainforest, rich in biodiversity are clear-cut to make way for oil palm plantations. It is difficult if not impossible for many species that call the rainforest home to adjust to these palm oil monocultures. Many species (including some that are endangered) have been displaced. In Columbia it is not just wildlife that is displaced; rural farmers have been brutally ejected from their land.  The health benefits are often diminished due to over-processing the oils.

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