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How has our rising palm oil consumption affected the communities where it comes from? Guest post by Ryan Edwards

This is the seventh in our series of posts by Ph.D. students on the job market this year
The tripling of area planted with tropical oil crops since the 1990s represents the largest transformation of global food and agricultural systems since the Green Revolution. The area planted for oil crops since the 1970s has expanded by over 150 million hectares, three times that of all cereal crops in the same period (Byerlee, Falcon, and Naylor, 2016). Tropical oil crops feature in most agricultural and food policy debates: genetically modified organisms, food versus biofuels, small farmers versus agribusiness, mono- versus inter-cropping, land grabs, and the environmental footprint of food consumption. The most prominent debates concern clearing forests across the tropics to plant oil crops, particularly oil palm, and the haze that regularly blankets Southeast Asia. Palm oil is the world’s most consumed vegetable oil—ubiquitous in everyday products from food and drink to soap and cosmetics—and one of the world’s most socially contested industries.