The endless palm oil debate: Science-based solutions beyond controversies

Rival Alain. 2017. The endless palm oil debate: Science-based solutions beyond controversies. Modern Nutrition Today (2), 13 p.

Journal article ; Article de synthèse ; Article de revue sans comité de lecture
Published version - Anglais
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Rival _ModernNutritionToday _02_2017_engl.pdf

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Abstract : Opinionated and controversial debates currently dominate the public discourse on oil palm cultivation. The outstanding economic potential for the palm oil industry, from large plantations to small producers and for the development of poor countries stand in stark contrast to social and environmental impacts together with threat on sensitive tropical ecosystems. The present article focuses on the objectification of the sometimes ideological and irrational discussions on the cultivation of oil palm. Scientists are encouraged to participate in order to avoid the dissemination of simplified correlations and to promote a public discourse based on verified sources and evidence. The direct connection between oil palm plantations and deforestation belongs to this category of quick and simple statements. Various industrial and agricultural sectors, including palm oil, as well as several illegal activities share the responsibility for deforestation and environmental degradation in tropical areas. In order to ensure that the palm oil sector's share of deforestation is reduced to a minimum will be soon lowered to zero, several sustainability initiatives have been launched in recent years, most notably the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) and national approaches by the two largest palm oil producing countries, namely Indonesia and Malaysia. An increasing number of stakeholders are taking part in these mostly voluntary initiatives and are pushing them further, based on even clearer and more stringent criteria. These are for example POIG (Palm Oil Innovation Group) and RSPO Next. To simply boycott palm oil will not solve any of the most urgent problems. First, this would promote the cultivation of alternative crops, which on the one hand provide less oil yield per hectare and on the other hand do not necessarily have a better ecological and social balance. And second, the demand for sustainably produced palm oil on the world would collapse, because only western markets actually demand certified sustainable palm oil. Indeed a boycott of palm oil would promote the emergence on non-certified palm oil thus having the opposite effect to what is actually urgent to be achieved. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés Agrovoc : Elaeis oleifera, Elaeis guineensis, Déboisement, Plantations, certification, Réglementation, Développement durable, protection de la forêt, Protection de l'environnement, Petite exploitation agricole, agroécologie, Intensification, Marché, Durabilité

Mots-clés géographiques Agrovoc : Monde

Mots-clés libres : Palm oil, Challenges, Sustainability

Classification Agris : K10 - Forestry production
E14 - Development economics and policies
K70 - Forest injuries and protection
P01 - Nature conservation and land resources

Axe stratégique Cirad : Axe 1 (2014-2018) - Agriculture écologiquement intensive

Auteurs et affiliations

Source : Cirad-Agritrop (

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