Making peace with oil palm

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Science  12 Jul 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6449, pp. 112-115
DOI: 10.1126/science.365.6449.112

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Oil palm is one of the most controversial crops today, because the plantations often replace tropical rainforests rich in biodiversity. Vast swaths of Indonesia and Malaysia are given over to the crop. But a growing number of scientists say it's time to work with oil palm companies to make the best of a bad situation. Researchers have accepted industry funding to study habitat fragmentation and advised oil palm companies on how to best manage the surviving wildlife in their concessions. And a long-term ecological experiment is testing whether the plantations can host more biodiversity without affecting yield. Some critics call the approach naïve. By accepting industry funding, scientists risk losing their independence, they say, and legitimizing the oil palm business by giving it a veneer of sustainability.

  • * Dyna Rochmyaningsih is a journalist based in Deli Serdang, Indonesia.

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