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To stand in the heart of an oil palm plantation in Colombia is to begin to understand the meaning of an industry-proclaimed “environmentalism” that doesn’t take social justice or true sustainability into account. At least that’s how I felt when I visited the Chocó region in the summer of 2007 and traveled into sweeping expanses planted with this “biofuel” crop. For miles around, everything looks green. But for miles around, land that once was lush rainforest and small farms is now rendered arid by the monocrop and stinking of pesticides; and few things, not birds nor animals – nor indeed, small farmers – can live for long.

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Palm oil is, allegedly, big, bad business in parts of Colombia. Multinational companies that grow, process and sell the oil there are forcing peasant farmers off their lands through deceit, intimidation and even murder, according to Eustaquio Polo Rivera, a keynote speaker at the April 5, 2008, Food for Maine’s Future Local Foods Conference in Unity.

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