CANBERRA: A team of top officials from the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) has appeared before a public hearing of the Australian senate community affairs legislation committee to testify regarding the Food Standards Amendment (Truth in Labelling Palm Oil) Bill 2010.
The MPOC team which was headed by chief executive officer Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron also included United Plantations Bhd‘s Datuk Carl Bek-Nielsen, Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority’s (Salcra) Datu Vasco Sabat Singkang and Malaysian High Commissioner to Australia Datuk Salman Ahmad.
The team appeared before the committee to voice concerns and the implications of the legislation on the Malaysian palm oil industry.
In his testimony, Yusof said yesterday the Bill was based on misleading claims, erroneous statistics and was aimed at harming the Malaysian economy and palm oil.
“The Bill actually will have no benefits to the environment, forests ororang utan population in Malaysia. It is unfortunate that the orang utanshave been used or more accurately misused in this debate.”
However, the greatest impact of the Bill would be to single out palm oil as the only product in Australia to mandatorily be labelled for reasons other than health or nutrition, and to severely hinder Malaysia’s attempts to utilise palm oil as a means of alleviating poverty.
There are a number of claims that regard palm oil as a generic product, which are completely unfounded.
He objected to the Bill because it sought to classify palm oil as a single generic product based on the environmental impact of production methods without differentiating between country of origin.
“This is extremely misleading and defeats the stated purpose of the Bill, which is to protect the environment.” He pointed out that oil palm cultivation did not cause deforestation in Malaysia.
Malaysia had pledged at the United Nations Rio Earth Summit in 1992 to retain at least 50% of its total land area under forest and that plantation crops would only be permitted on the land set aside for agriculture.
“Malaysia has greatly exceeded this target considering that 56% of its land is still under forests. Palm oil cultivation does not threaten the orang utan population in Malaysia.
“For every ha of oil palm, the country preserves four ha of permanent forest, which is a very healthy balance in terms of land use policy. Even the habitats of the orang utans are preserved as Sabah and Sarawak maintain about 50% or more of their land area under permanent forest,” explained Yusof.
In addition, palm oil has significant health benefits.
“Palm oil is trans-fats free.
“In Malaysia, 43% of oil palm plantations were owned by smallholders. Palm oil companies too have invested significantly in schools, roads, piped water and hospitals for their workers, he said adding that the palm oil industry directly employed over half a million Malaysians.
“I note that the Bill recommends the use of sustainable palm oil or Certified Sustainable Palm Oil marking to indicate sustainable oil as a differentiating factor between countries or modes of production.
“I would, however, note to the committee that the process of being certified under the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is highly costly for smallholders.”
Source : The Star by Hanim Adnan