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Palm oil: The government is promoting a dangerous monoculture

The history of palm oil production in Mizoram, North East India, shows that it’s a two-edged sword

Palm oil: The government is promoting a dangerous monoculture

The history of palm oil production in Mizoram, North East India, shows that it’s a two-edged sword

Palm oil: The government is promoting a dangerous monoculture

The history of palm oil production in Mizoram, North East India, shows that it’s a two-edged sword

Palm oil: The government is promoting a dangerous monoculture

The history of palm oil production in Mizoram, North East India, shows that it’s a two-edged sword

Palm oil is big business. Yet it destroys biodiversity, and can have a damaging impact on local cultures, small-scale farming, and women’s rights.

In August 2021, PM Narendra Modi made a speech on development in the North East of India. “There is a huge potential in the fields of tourism, adventure sports, organic farming, herbal medicine, and oil palm in the North East. We have to fully harness this potential and make it a part of the development journey of the country,” he said.

Shortly afterwards, the government approved a scheme to promote the production of palm oil in India, worth Rs 11,040 crore. The scheme will see the increase cultivation of oil palm trees from the current 3,50,000 hectares to one million hectares within the next decade.

Palm oil can generate huge revenues, and is the most used form of cooking oil in the world. Almost all processed foods, from ice cream to chocolate bars, as well as many toiletries such as soap and shampoo, contain palm oil. It’s big business.

But very little of it is produced sustainably, in a way that benefits both the environment and people in the region. A look at the current state of palm oil production in India tells a worrying story that could become infinitely worse unless the government also changes the way that oil palms are farmed.

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