The Essential Nutritional Role of Palm Oil in Developing Countries: A Compelling Argument in Favor of Sustainable Palm Oil Cultivation

Although the cultivation of palm oil can be linked to devastating environmental impacts, the oil is an essential dietary component in many developing countries. In an op-ed piece in The New York Times in which he critiques the World Bank’s position on funding palm oil cultivation, Public Policy Analyst Thompson Ayodele notes that palm oil accounts “for almost 40 percent of the world’s vegetable oils,” and that “it is an indispensable source of vitamins and calories.” Ayodele continues to elucidate that large portions of the global population depend on palm oil, pointing out that “The developing world is heavily reliant on palm as a source of nutrition because the plant
thrives in tropical climates and yields significantly more fats and calories than other
options. It gives the developing world — where hundreds of millions of men and women
still live on a few dollars a day — the most caloric bang for the buck.” (A19)
     Ayodele’s insights underscore the need for sustainable palm oil cultivation practices. Because so many people are dependent upon palm oil, and as Ayodele points out, palm oil provides more necessary nutrients than alternative vegetable oils, it seems that more efforts should be focused on the development of sustainable agricultural practices rather than turning to less viable options. Ayodele acknowledges the adverse environmental impacts of exploitative palm oil agriculture, but maintains that “any new regulations should not impede poverty alleviation in the developing world, as poverty is the biggest driver of ecological harm.” (A19) Although Ayodele’s opine is aimed directly at the World Bank, his supporting evidence in favor of palm oil cultivation is quite compelling.

Ayodele, Thompson. "The World Bank’s Palm Oil Mistake." Editorial. New York Times 16 Oct. 2010, New York ed., sec. A: 19. 16 Oct. 2010. Web. 25 May 2011.