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––––– v –––––Though labor issues have largely been ignored, the punishing effects of palm oil on the environment have been decried for years.

(AP/Gemunu Amarasinghe)A woman sprays pesticide at a palm oil plantation in Sumatra, Indonesia.

“This has been the industry’s hidden secret for decades,” said Gemma Tillack of the U.S.-based Rainforest Action Network, which has exposed labor abuses on palm oil plantations.

When asked for comment, some product manufacturers acknowledged the industry’s history of labor and environmental problems, and all said they do not tolerate any human rights abuses, including unpaid wages and forced labor.

Eliminating tainted palm oil is difficult, however, because labor problems are so endemic and most big buyers are dependent on a tangled network of third-party suppliers.

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