Charges are without merit

TAN SRI DR YUSOF BASIRON CEO, Malaysian Palm Oil Council

The letter from Sean Whyte of the London-based non-governmental organisation Nature Alert (“Palm oil industry must get out of denial mode” — NST, Oct 23) contains several baseless and erroneous accusations about the palm oil industry.

Whyte claims the palm oil industry is responsible for an alarming degree of environmental degradation and destruction, harming the habitats of orang utans and other forms of wildlife.

The charges are without merit and so far removed from the truth as to be insulting to the people, government and businesses of Malaysia.

Whyte describes the industry as “the most environmentally destructive in the world”. But the facts are otherwise.

Malaysia has wisely pledged to protect 50 per cent of its land as natural forest. This was a pledge made over 15 years ago at the landmark Rio Earth Summit.

No other nation in the world can boast as ambitious a goal to protect its natural forests, including Whyte’s home country, Britain. And Malaysia has succeeded astonishingly well, as 56 per cent of the country remains under permanent forest.

In addition, Malaysia plays an important role in a green-energy future.

Our land-use policies, coupled with the additional tree cover due to the oil palm, rubber, cocoa and coconut industries mean that the nation is a net carbon sink.

This stands in stark contrast with many nations in Europe that are net carbon dioxide emitters.

The Malaysian palm oil industry has been an enthusiastic supporter of its nation’s efforts to protect its natural endowments while helping the nation to grow and raise living standards. Indeed, Malaysia could not have realised its environmental goals without the cooperation of the industry.

Meanwhile, the palm oil industry remains an important driver of sustainable economic growth and job creation.

The industry now employs over 400,000 people — up from 80,000 in the 1980s — even as the majority of the nation’s forests remain protected by the government.

If this is not the very model of sustainable development and responsible environmental stewardship, then no such example exists in this world.

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