Palm oil is an increasingly controversial commodity derived from the African oil palm tree. Palm oil has emerged as a highly profitable and desirable source of vegetable oil due to its comparatively high yields and cheap price, coupled with the fact that it only grows in tropical forest regions that boast cheap land, cheap labor, weak regulation, and often corrupt governments. National Wildlife Federation found that as of 2007, palm oil comprised the largest share of world production followed by soybean and canola oils. Due to the massive jump in global demand for this oil, there is steadily increasing pressure on tropical forests, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia, which produce the vast majority of global output. The U.S., while a relatively small market player at this time, has nevertheless seen a fourfold jump in palm oil imports in the last four years.
Palm oil expansion is a leading cause of forest loss in Indonesia and has a devastating impact on biodiversity, forest-dependant peoples, and the climate. About one third of Indonesia’s peatlands have been allocated to logging, pulp wood and oil palm concessions. Palm oil is used in roughly half of packaged goods found at the grocery store.
Read more: The Problem With Palm Oil: