The Case of Vegetable Oils

The third year of Research

What has happened during the third year of research?

The third and last year of research has been dedicated to summing up the work done over the years by the SNSB and contributing to a Situation Analysis with the IUCN Oil Crops Task Force for a joint publication focused on Vegetable Oils.  The research deep dives into the often controversial environmental, social, economic, and nutritional impacts of vegetable oil crops, which occupy 37% of global cropland.

The research shatters the myth that crops like oil palm, soybean, or rapeseed are inherently good or bad. Instead, the report reveals it’s all about how these crops are grown, processed, and traded. With global vegetable oil demand projected to rise, reaching 288 million tons by 2050, the need for sustainable production practices is urgent. It’s the practices, not the plants, that make the difference. 

There are no good or bad oil crops, only good and bad practices

Published in May 2024, the report “Exploring the Future of Vegetable Oils” discusses the production, trade, and consumption of vegetable oils, which are associated with various concerns and challenges. Positive environmental outcomes can be achieved with all oil crops. The future production of oil crops has huge implications for people and the planet. There’s the need to shift the focus from what’s planted to how it’s grown, traded and marketed.

The study makes an important contribution in understanding the meaning and implications of sustainable nutrition, a powerful concept that sits at the core of the SNSB’s mission.

The global population is increasing, and fats are essential in healthy diets, while many people in the world experience a fat gap, therefore, the report finds broad patterns on how that fat gap needs to be addressed, the way fats are produced and brought to those most vulnerable to undernutrition is crucial.

There are also major unknowns which are problematic. The report shows that public opinion is shaped by social media discussion, but if that discussion is disconnected from scientific evidence, then it can result in unjustified polarization. The report fills some of these gaps but recognizes those blind spots.