Palm oil is a commodity that generally evokes images of mass deforestation, human-rights violations and dying orangutans. In Indonesia and Malaysia, where some 85% of the world's palm oil is produced, more than 16 million hectares of land — rainforest, peat bogs and old rubber plantations — have been taken over by oil palm, and there is no sign of the industry slowing down.
Despite its bad reputation, oil palm is the most productive oil crop in the world. ... But oil-palm plantations still aren't getting as much as they could out of their plants.
The main problem is that genetic and epigenetic variables can cause some palms to underproduce.
In theory, growers can squeeze as much as 18 tonnes of oil in a year from one hectare of oil palm, but currently they are attaining only about 4 tonnes per year on average....
“I don't see any other crop that can satisfy the world's needs,” says Raviga Sambanthamurthi, a biochemist and former director of the MPOB's Advanced Biotechnology and Breeding Centre. “We don't have much more land to open up, so we have no choice but to make oil palm more productive.”
The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: A makeover for the world's most hated crop
For more background on the Genetic Literacy Project, read GLP on Wikipedia