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Palm trees are a very efficient source of vegetable oil that is widely used for cooking, in food products, personal care products and in the production of biodiesel.
Most of the palm oil that is consumed around the world originates from countries in South East Asia, Africa and Central America. These countries lie in heavily forested regions that are environmentally important both for the trees that grow here and act as carbon sinks as well as for the diverse range of plants and animals that inhabit the forests. Clearing of forests has caused large scale destruction of bio-diversity. Large tracts of land processed to cultivate palm oil lie on peat bogs which are an important store house of green house gases and store billions of tons of carbon dioxide.
A sustainable way to ensure that palm oil farming causes as little environmental damage as possible would be to increase awareness and ensure that creation of fresh farm land does not cause damage to forests or peat bogs. Corporations that buy large amounts of palm oil for their products should ensure that sources where farming is done in an environmentally friendly way are preferred. More research should be carried out to find ways to increase the efficiency of production and reduce environmental damage.
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