Why We Use Palm Oil

Monique van Wijnbergen
4 min readAug 23, 2021

Early summer my attention was drawn to an article with the title “How palm oil became the world’s most hated, most used fat source”, written by Jonathan E. Robins, associate professor of global history at Michigan Technology University. The article was published right after the launch of his book Oil Palm, covering ten years of research of the crop’s history. This was only a month after Jocelyn C. Zuckerman’s book Planet Palm was launched. Two impressive books that narrate in detail how palm oil became so omni-present in the world and how it is linked to many of the big challenges of our time.

Both authors attest that banning palm oil is not the answer to overcoming the challenges in the sector. According to Jonathan there are “more just and sustainable ways to make palm oil’, versus simply banning it. I decided to reach out to him and learn more about his perspective as a historian of commodities.

Replacement crop
“Why are we using palm oil?”, asks Jonathan at the beginning of our call. When people talk about palm oil, there is little discussion about what it replaced. “What people don’t know, is that palm oil has always served, at least in the US and EU markets, as a replacement for something else. It was never a product that stood entirely on its own”, explains Jonathan.

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Monique van Wijnbergen

Palm Done Right Spokesperson | Organic, Deforestion- Free, Wildlife Friendly, Fair & Social Palm Oil | Natural Habitats | www.palmdoneright.com