RECENT attacks against palm oil by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth (FOE) were motivated by politics and trade, rather than genuine concern for environmental conservation, says the head of the country’s palm oil promotional body.
Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) chief executive officer Tan Sri Yusof Basiron said Western NGOs like Greenpeace and FOE have vehemently blamed farmers in developing countries for deforestation, but remained silent on forest fires and rampant pollution in developed nations.
Lately, they went as far as to recommend rival vegetable oils that are of lower yield to consumers.
Cadbury New Zealand was reported last month to have decided to remove palm oil from its chocolate, following consumer outcry over the environmental impact of palm oil plantations.
Yusof said in pressurising Cadbury New Zealand to use cocoa butter instead of palm fat in chocolates, Greenpeace and FOE have revealed their hypocrisy.
“Are these ‘so-called greenies’ aware that 10 times more land needs to be allocated for planting of cocoa trees just to produce the same amount of palm fat?” Yusof said in a recent interview with Business Times.
In another related event, Greenpeace had also attacked dairy giant Fonterra for using palm kernel animal feed, which the former claimed results in deforestation. The NGO had singled out Fonterra for criticism because the dairy giant owns half of RD1, a New Zealand-based importer of palm kernel expeller for animal feed.
New Zealand’s Federated Farmers had responded to the claims saying that palm kernel oil is a by-product with almost no commercial value and that its use does not cause the destruction of tropical forests.
Its biosecurity spokesperson John Hartnell was quoted as saying that not a single millimetre of forest was being cleared just to feed dairy cows.
“Palm kernel extract is a waste by-product left over from the processing of palm oil for consumer products,” he said.
Yusof said Greenpeace and FOE’s demand for New Zealand farmers to stop using palm kernel meal for dairy cows will cause milk yield to decline.
That’s because cows that consume palm kernel meal produce more milk than those on corn or soya meal diet.
“Without the high protein palm kernel meal, dairy farmers will need to enlarge grazing areas. This means more land will need to be deforested in New Zealand,” he said.
“In the last 200 years, New Zealand temperate forest is already mostly wiped out by settlements. Trees were logged to make way for grazing land, to produce milk, meat and wool which now make up the main exports of New Zealand.
“Why are these agricultural products, produced out of deforested land in New Zealand, acceptable to Greenpeace but palm oil, an agricultural product from Malaysia, demonised?” Yusof asked.
Both countries cleared land for agricultural purposes long ago, and the extent of deforestation was much more extensively carried out in New Zealand compared to Malaysia. Yet, no questions were raised on this matter.
“Why are these NGOs selectively criticising developing countries when the land clearance is starkly obvious in developed countries like New Zealand?” Yusof said.
Forest, be they temperate or tropical, are valuable in cleaning up carbon dioxide to prevent global warming.
“Why are tropical forest the only target for preservation? Why are these NGOs ignoring the over-deforestation that had taken place in developed countries that continues till today?” he added.
Yusof said if the intention of the NGOs is to reduce carbon emission, let the focus be on the real culprit. “Fossil fuel usage contributes up to 80 per cent of global carbon dioxide emission and this is happening in developed countries. But guess who gets the blame – China and India.”
He said palm oil, a significant export earner for Malaysia and Indonesia, is planted on legitimate agricultural lands, just like competing soyabean or rapeseed oils.
“To climb out of the poverty trap, many farmers plant oil palms, earning US$20 per day (RM69.60). Greenpeace and FOE’s anti-palm oil campaign only serves to threaten the livelihoods of farmers in developing nations,” he added.