Could coconut oil be more environmentally-damaging than palm oil?

The researchers say this disparity in impact and perception highlights the difficulties of ‘conscientious consumption’ and note consumers lack objective guidance on the environmental impacts of crop production

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Could coconut oil be more environmentally-damaging than palm oil?

A new report from Borneo Futures and the University of Exeter suggests coconut oil threatens more species per ton produced than palm or other vegetable oils, despite the issue of tropical forests being cut down for palm oil production being more widely known about.

Its findings show the production of coconut oil affects 20 threatened plant and animal species per million tonnes of oil produced, whereas palm oil affects 3.8 species per million tonnes, olive oil 4.1 species and soybean 1.3 species.

The researchers suggest the high number of species affected by coconut oil is because it is mainly grown on tropical islands with rich biodiversity.

The researchers say this disparity in impact and perception highlights the difficulties of “conscientious consumption” and note consumers lack objective guidance on the environmental impacts of crop production.

Co-author Dr Jesse F. Abrams from the University of Exeter, said: “Consumers, especially those striving to be more responsible in their consumption, rely heavily on information that they receive from the media, which is often supplied by those with vested interests.

“When making decisions about what we buy, we need to be aware of our cultural biases and examine the problem from a lens that is not only based on Western perspectives to avoid dangerous double standards.”

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