CANBERRA: Malaysia raised its objection to Australia’s Truth in
Labelling-Palm Oil Bill yesterday, saying it is based on misleading
claims and aimed at harming its largest agricultural export – palm oil.
Malaysian Palm Oil Council chief executive officer Tan Sri Dr Yusof
Basiron, who appeared at a public hearing together with other officials,
said the biggest impact of this bill will be to single out palm oil as
the only product in Australia to mandatorily be labelled for reasons
other than health or nutrition.
“It will also hinder the
Malaysian government’s attempts to utilise palm oil as a means for
alleviating poverty in our country,” he said at the consultation
regarding the Truth in Labelling – Palm Oil Bill here yesterday.
“I wish to object to this bill firstly because it seeks 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 purpose of the
bill,” he said in a testimony to the Community Affairs Legislation
Several questions on deforestation practices in Malaysia as well as
palm oil certification were raised by members of the committee, which
included independent senator Nick Xenophon, who moved for the bill in
The committee is due to report back to the parliament on June 16.
According to the bill, some of the principal issues include allowing
palm oil to be listed as a vegetable oil on food packaging, which is
considered misleading to Australian consumers.
The impact of
palm oil production on wildlife and sustainable production of palm oil
as well as the use of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO), are also
the areas up for consideration under the bill.
Yusof, who is
also representing the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities,
said: “Truth in labelling should be driven by health issues, not
political expedience, which is behind some of the campaigns revolving
around this bill,” in reference to moves by Greenpeace and World
The bill and the campaign, which has been
associated with it, can potentially lead to a loss of jobs and the
livelihoods of some 570,000 Malaysians.
As pledged at the UN Rio
Earth Summit two decades ago to keep at least 50 per cent of its total
land area under forest, Malaysia has exceeded the target with 56 per
cent of its land under forests. For every hectare of oil palm, the
country preserves 4ha of permanent forest.
The Sabah and
Sarawak state governments have gazetted a number of forest areas known
to contain higher populations of orang-utans as wildlife sanctuaries,
national parks or forest reserves.
On the bill’s recommended use
of sustainable palm oil or CSPO marking to indicate sustainable oil as a
differentiating factor between countries or modes of production, Yusof
said it would be highly costly for smallholders.
Currently, 43 per cent of oil palm plantations are owned by smallholders.
Apart from Yusof, other Malaysian officials were High Commissioner
Datuk Salman Ahmad, Datuk Carl Bek-Nielsen from United Plantations and
Datu Vasco Sabat Singkang of the Sarawak Land Consolidation and