The rapid development of oil palm cultivation feeds many social issues such as biodiversity, deforestation, food habits or ethical investments. How can this palm be viewed as a ‘miracle plant’ by both the agro-food industry in the North and farmers in the tropical zone, but a serious ecological threat by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) campaigning for the environment or rights of local indigenous peoples?
In the present book the authors - a biologist and an agricultural economist- describe a global and complex tropical sector, for which the interests of the many different stakeholders are often antagonistic. Oil palm has become emblematic of recent changes in North-South relationship in agricultural development. Indeed, palm oil is produced and consumed in the South; its trade is driven by emerging countries, although the major part of its transformations is made in the North that still hosts the largest multinational agro industries. It is also in the North that the sector is challenged on ethical and environmental issues.
Public controversy over palm oil is often opinionated and it is fed by definitive and sometimes exaggerated statements.
Researchers are conveying a more nuanced speech, which is supported by scientific data and a shared field experience. Their work helps in building a more balanced view, moving attention to the South, the region of exclusive production and major consumption of palm oil.