Can boosting yields slow the global palm oil expansion and ease its environmental impacts?

Over the past two decades, global palm oil production has increased rapidly to meet rising demand from the food, energy, and industrial sectors. Palm oil is a common ingredient in many food products including bread, cereal, peanut butter, chocolate, and margarine; in personal products such as shampoo, cosmetics, and cleaning products; and a source of biodiesel fuel. Unfortunately, the global palm oil expansion has also exacted a high price on the environment: In some areas, oil palm plantations have displaced forests and peatlands, resulting in biodiversity losses and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Finding a solution may be a challenge, but not impossible.

Photo credit: Miguel Pinheiro/CIFOR