This post was originally published on May 1, 2015 and updated on February 25, 2021.

Have you noticed that all of the supermarket produce is labeled with its country of origin? That’s in part because so many of us are concerned about buying fruits and vegetables produced by sustainable agriculture. In simplest terms, sustainable agriculture addresses the ecological, economic and social aspects of agriculture. Malaysian palm oil is a good example of how this works.

Respecting our planet and its people

From conserving natural resources to ensuring that farmers are getting paid a fair wage, sustainable agriculture aims to feed the world’s growing population without harming our planet or the people who grow our food. In Malaysia, palm oil is produced using sustainable agricultural practices.

Malaysian sustainable palm oil also meets the U.S. criteria for sustainable agriculture, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture 1990 Farm Bill. That bill states that sustainable agriculture should:

  • Satisfy human food and fiber needs. Palm oil is the world’s most produced, affordable and consumed edible oil. It is enjoyed by more than three billion people in 150 countries. And as the world’s population increases, Malaysia is poised to help meet the growing demand for this nutritious food.
  • Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends. The Malaysian palm oil industry is committed to the conservation of land, protection of wildlife and biodiversity. The Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund provides support for land preservation, and undertakes programs to ensure that oil palm cultivation does not cause deforestation or loss of wildlife.
  • Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls. Malaysian palm oil is the most efficient edible oil crop in the world. Of the world’s largest oil crops (palm, soybean, sunflower and canola), the perennial oil palm tree yields the largest amount of oil while occupying the least amount of land. Malaysia’s palm oil cultivation also uses sustainable practices such as integrated pest management and biomass recycling.
  • Sustain the economic viability of farm operations. Growing oil palm has improved the standard of living for many Malaysian farmers. This success is acknowledged in a World Bank case study on poverty reduction.
  • Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole. Palm oil is a major contributor to Malaysia’s economy. In addition to directly employing more than 570,000 people, the Malaysian palm oil industry’ sustainable agriculture policies support the greater community by building roads, schools and health care facilities. By its actions, the Malaysian palm oil industry is also teaching the world how to satisfy the growing demand while taking care to preserve the environment, wildlife and resources.
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