iD magazine - - Current Events -

Not many peo­ple around here know what an oil palm looks like. But palm oil is found in the in­gre­di­ent list of one out of ten food prod­ucts, and though its use has thus far been lim­ited in the U.S., palm oil is in high de­mand in places like China, In­dia, and through­out the Euro­pean Union. Since the FDA has or­dered trans fats to be phased out in the U.S., ex­perts think de­mand for palm oil will grow. Af­ter all, it’s cheap and keeps dishes pleas­antly creamy at room tem­per­a­ture. Palm oil is a mas­sive busi­ness be­cause it has many uses. In con­trast with the 700 mil­lion tons of wheat pro­duced world­wide ev­ery year, the 60 mil­lion tons of palm oil pro­duced an­nu­ally around the world con­sti­tute just a small cog in the mas­sive ma­chine of an enor­mous in­dus­try. Palm oil also has draw­backs: In In­done­sia alone 32 mil­lion acres of rain for­est were trans­formed into an im­mense palm plan­ta­tion within just a few decades. An­other ex­am­ple: Palm oil pro­ducer Wil­mar In­ter­na­tional is the big­gest agri­cul­tural cor­po­ra­tion in Asia, and ac­cord­ing to the data from a num­ber of en­vi­ron­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions it is en­tan­gled in more than 100 con­flicts re­lat­ing to ac­qui­si­tion of new land. Pri­mary oil con­sumers are the ma­jor food com­pa­nies. In In­done­sia there are rows upon rows of oil palms— on an area the size of Mis­sis­sippi…

Global con­sump­tion of palm oil, pri­mar­ily pro­duced in In­done­sia and Malaysia: 60 mil­lion tons per year.

BLOODY SEEDLINGS The prob­lem of land ac­qui­si­tion does not only ex­ist in In­done­sia, but also in Brazil (shown here) and the fer­tile re­gions of Africa. The rain for­est (vis­i­ble in the back­ground of the photo), along with its in­hab­i­tants, must make way:...

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