New light on the sustainability of palm oil

It all appeared very clear. The production of palm oil is harmful to the environment and species such as the orangutan, due to deforestation, fires and cultivated peatlands. If we must consume plant-based oils, it would be better to use crops such as olive, sunflower, rapeseed and soybean. A new study by researchers from seventeen countries across six continents published in the scientific journal Nature Plants shows it is not that simple. ‘In the Netherlands, we are quick to point at other countries’.

The publication in the journal Nature Plants provides an overview of the environmental and biodiversity effects of palm oil and compares these to other oil-rich crops such as rapeseed, soybean, cotton and sunflower. The research team’s most striking conclusion is that while we are relatively well-informed about the impact of palm oil production, we know very little about that of the other crops. As a result, discussions on the comparative sustainability, and relative merits, of plant-based oils are moot unless we have better insight into the effects of their production.

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