EUROPE, in reducing palm oil usage in its food supply chain, blames oil
palm planting for widespread tropical deforestation and peatland
France’s largest frozen food maker Findus said it is
removing palm oil from its products in favour of rapeseed oil. French
retailer Casino, too, said more than 200 food products would be palm
oil-free by the end of the year. This policy would apply to its other
retail divisions like Franprix, Leader Price and Monoprix.
Another food retailer Auchan said it was working on ways to guarantee
all its products are palm oil-free. Carrefour, the world’s
second-largest retailer, said it will replace palm oil in several
British retail chain Marks & Spencer started
a campaign against palm oil by putting up five-foot displays in its UK
stores stating: “We think that destroying rainforests for palm oil is
too high a price to pay for a biscuit.”
Two weeks ago, Greenpeace campaigners abseiled into Nestle’s annual
shareholders meeting in Switzerland and demanded that the food giant
stop using palm oil. They hung a banner with the slogan “Nestle, Give
the orangutans a break!” and claimed Nestle’s use of palm oil in KitKat
chocolate bars was harvested at the expense of the rainforests.
These developments have hit a raw nerve among Malaysian lawmakers.
Kanowit Member of Parliament Aaron Ago Dagang said there’s a lot of
talk linking oil palm planting to deforestation and climate change but
until now there’re no empirical evidence.
“We need to look at
it from all angles,” Dagang said in an interview at the Parliament lobby
in Kuala Lumpur recently.
He drew attention to a recent news
report from Jakarta where World Growth chairman Alan Oxley said several
environment non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have strong
connections with the European Commission.
Oxley pointed out
that up to 60 per cent of WWF Europe’s revenue is funded by the EU
government. Europe can also prioritise environmental issues over
economic growth because they are already wealthy, Oxley said.
A quick check on the European Commission’s website
revealed the Directorate-General for the Environment had, in the last 10
years, handed out over ?66 million (RM211 million) to green NGOs. In
1998, the EU funding to environmental NGOs was just over ?2 million
(RM6.4 million) but last year, the amount nearly topped ?9 million (RM29
Mambong MP Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit said he is not
surprised by the EU government funding these NGOs as propaganda
“Politicians in the EU are using political solutions,
disguised as environmental concerns, to protect trade interests of their
local farmers,” he said.
Mamit pointed to an independent think
tank report released from Brussels, Belgium admitting the EU Renewable
Energy Directive discriminates against imported biofuels, such as palm
The EU Renewable Energy Directive is a law that provides
the guidelines for European countries to draw up their own biofuel
The GlobEcon report titled “European Policies
Towards Palm Oil: Sorting Out Some Facts”, admits the Renewable Energy
Directive’s foreign biofuel greenhouse gas calculations as faulty and
intentionally discriminate against palm oil.
demonstrates that the default assumptions embedded in the Directive
about the ecological impact of foreign biofuels are based on politics,
not scientific or economic reality.
While the use of biofuels
across the EU is rising, so too is the chorus of environmental activists
opposing their use. Sadly, many of the claims that foreign biofuels,
specifically palm oil, are a threat to the environment are seriously
flawed, some even completely unfounded, GlobEcon director Dr Gernot
Standing before lawmakers at the European
Parliament, Pehnelt explained how the oil palm industry drive economic
growth to alleviate poverty in developing nations like Malaysia and
Indonesia. He also urged EU lawmakers to acknowledge the sufferings in
low-income nations that palm oil critics continue to perpetuate.
Mambong MP Mamit concurred with Pehnelt that the EU Renewable Energy
Directive restricts biofuel imports by rejecting forest land conversion
and mandating compliance to greenhouse gas emission standards that are
Mamit, who is an environmental expert,
explained that conversion of degraded forest to oil palm plantations is
just like establishing pine tree plantations in Europe and North
“In fact, oil palm trees are better at sequestering
carbon dioxide than pine trees. Herbs, bushes and shrubs in oil palm
plantations thrive underneath the canopy and trunks of oil palm trees,”
In Europe and North America, prescribed burning is
carried out in pine tree plantations every spring to eliminate pests
like pine-bark beetles and fungi. Yet, such destruction of plant
biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions is often ignored.
Mamit then highlighted the hipocrisy of the EU renewable energy
directive that dictates developing countries to protect the environment
to a far greater degree than Europeans did at the same stage of
development but refuses to recognise the high opportunity cost of
“If our oil palm planters fail to conform
to EU’s definition of ‘sustainable standards’, we are denied access
into their market,” said Mamit. “It clearly is a political trade barrier
meant to protect EU rapeseed oil producers.”
green NGOs’ calls to reject oil palm planting on Sarawak’s peat soil and
the imposition of unrealistic greenhouse gas criteria on palm oil
exports, Julau MP Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum said, “We need to take a
more balanced view, based on logic and facts.”
seemed more targetted at killing the growth of oil palm plantings and
blocking palm oil shipments into developed nations like Europe. Such
trade barriers only serve to perpetuate poverty in rural Malaysia,” he
Gandum said oil palm planting has allowed Malaysia to
supply affordable cooking oil and margarine to billions of people in
other developing nations like China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and
Vietnam. He cited numbers from Oil World and Malaysian Palm Oil Board
(MPOB) reflecting the growing global palm oil consumption and
significant value addition of the palm oil industry to the nation’s
According to Oil World trade journal, Malaysia and
Indonesia collectively export the bulk of 36.8 million tonnes of palm
In the last two years, Malaysia earned between RM50 billion
and RM65 billion (or US$15 billion-US$20 billion) a year from palm oil
exports. Indonesia Palm Oil Commission reportedly said the republic
earns US$10 billion (RM32 billion) annually from palm oil shipments.
Malaysia’s annual US$20 billion (RM64 billion) palm oil exports
support some two million jobs and livelihoods along the sprawling palm
oil value chain.
The industry’s stakeholders range from food
engineers, bankers and cargo surveyors to manufacturers, traders and
MPOB’s data also show more than 330,000 smallholder
families, working on 1.6 million hectares of oil palm plots, produce a
quarter of the nation’s palm oil exports.
“The numbers speak
for themselves. The final frontier of Malaysia’s oil palm planting
expansion is in Sarawak. Many who live on native customary land stand to
uplift themselves from poverty through sustainable oil palm planting,”
“When I say sustainable, I mean better enforcement
of the laws governing land boundary rights, good agriculture practices
and workers’ rights that had already been enacted by Parliament,” he
Source : Business Times