The UK Independent newspaper has recently published a report to reveal the presence of the ever popular palm oil in food products in the country. The report does not reveal anything new. It has always been known that palm oil is widely used in numerous food products that we use or consume everyday . In fact, credit should be given to the UK for promoting the use of palm oil in food products since the beginning of the 20th century because the British were among the early pioneers to cultivate oil palm in the Far East and import palm oil to supplement the chronic shortages of oils and fats in the country.
What is new in the report is the vengeance with which the Independent took it upon itself to demonise palm oil with the accusation that this ever popular palm oil causes "catastrophic impact on the wild life of Malaysia ...",... " whose rainforests are being cleared to grow the crop". Many other unfounded statements taken without close scrutiny for accuracy from NGOs environmental campaign reports are used by the Independent to justify its call on the food industry to stop using palm oil.
I actually analyse every sentence on the front page of the lead article:"An oil shock we cannot ignore" by the Independent on 1st May. Almost every sentence on the page is not true and therefore a lie. How is it that newspapers like the Independent are resorting to telling lies to make a sale nowadays. Is it that bad in the UK? True, these dramatic sentences were already mentioned by NGOs in their past reports, but that does not qualify them to be taken as truths.
We all know that the culture of lying was developed into a fine art by President Bush and PM Blair when they tried to make a case for invading Iraq. Look at where they are now after their own people rejected their brand of leadership. Unfortunately, the Independent sees it fit to propagate this new culture of lies, under the guise of going green. I can therefore predict that the Independent newspaper will soon loose credibility and go out of print for propagating lies. How long can one lie to the public even if they are vulnerable during these difficult times of gloom and doom.
Attacking the agricultural produce of developing countries using fabricated lies manufactured by the Greenpeace and other UK led environmental NGOs is uncalled for as our farmers have been growing oil palm on their legitimate agricultural land long before the Independent was established. Why it it that all of a sudden our palm oil that feeds billion of people round the world is projected as undesirable. Palm oil was not denied its role in the food industry when the British owned most of the oil palm plantations in Malaysia in the 1960s and 70s. Malaysia has not deforested its land in the way portrayed by the Independent. Our permanent forests are intact and protected by law and cannot simply be converted for oil palm cultivation. This is why we still maintain more than 55% of Malaysia under permanent forest cover compared to just 11 % of forest left in the UK. World deforestation is occuring at the rate of 10 million hectares per year. Oil palm is not to be blamed as the deforestation rate is totally uncorrelated to the combined oil palm area of Indonesia and Malaysia of only slightly over 10 million hectares created after being in existence for about 100 years.
We live in a world that is littered with half truths, many of which are propagated by intelligent people. Have they ever wondered on the implications of their actions which may affect the livelihood and families of oil palm farmers in distant countries. Many of these farmers are probably living from hand to mouth on a daily basis and struggling to feed their families with a sustainable source of decent income. Terrorizing the oil palm industry by publishing blatant lies can be likened to the Somalian pirates who live on immoral earnings by attacking defenseless ships passing their waters.
The writers responsible for the Independent controversial articles are either very ignorant about deforestation in Malaysia or they are simply cashing in on the readers appetite for dramatic stories even if they betray the public trust on them to report factual truth. We have often opened our doors by inviting the UK media and NGOs to dialogue but they resort to using the printed media to tell blatant lies on palm oil sustainability. For example, a palm oil sustainability seminar was held in London in March 2009, but the media and some relevant NGOs failed to show up despite many of them having registered to attend. I would encourage these misguided writers to be brave enough to visit a real oil palm plantation in Malaysia and tell our oil palm farmers why the palm oil that they produce is not as acceptable as the olive oil produced by the EU farmers.
In my assessment, oil palm plantations in Malaysia are anytime better farm models than olive plantations in Europe, or any large scale farm operations in the UK. Why must the Independent newspaper "attack" our well managed agricultural oil palm farms and not "attack" the inferior and subsidised farms operated in Europe. For example, olive plantation farms in the EU (I saw some in Spain and Portugal while on holidays) use too much water or need irrigation; they are proned to desertification and soil erosion by wind; they have almost no biodiversity, and contribute minimally in combating global warming. The olive plantations are so inferior in environmental sustainability compared to oil palm plantations in Malaysia that it is a shame that the NGOs and Independent newspaper decided to pick to denigrate palm oil and not olive oil.
If the argument is against deforestation that took place long ago to create these olive and other farms around the world including oil palm cultivation, let it be known that the land used for oil palm cultivation in Malaysia is only 0.09% of total world agricultural area. Surely 0.09 % of world agricultural land is not responsible for world deforestation or global warming; it is more logical to focus the blame on the rest of the 99.91 % of the world agricultural areas which reside mostly in the developed countries. What the Independent is doing is like blaming the Malaysians for global warming because we use a few cars when in fact the developed countries are the ones using cars more intensively and should be blamed for global warming.
The Independent article still talks of raising money in the West to give to Malaysia to help save rainforests and such a move apparently will be proposed at the coming climate change meeting in Copenhagen in December. It is a good idea if the West can "bail out" the rainforests (in addition to their banks and car firms in financial trouble) from being decimated especially for areas in the tropics where forests are truely being removed. But focusing on Malaysia as a location of deforestation is the wrong target and attributing the blame to palm oil is truely cruel as contrary to the allegations, palm oil is likely to help save forests by indirectly preventing clearing of forests for planting soyabean and rapeseed to overcome world shortages in oils and fats. This is termed the "deforestation avoidance" effect of high yielding oil palm when palm oil from Malaysia is imported to meet world shortages (see previous blog article).
It would be even better if the Independent proposes to promote reforestation to combat climate change by allowing more trees to sequester green house gases (GHG),and the UK is the best place to start the initiative as it is also the one with the least percentage of forest left and so far no effort to reforest is announced yet. I was also informed that the UK had only two species of frog left and yet the Prince Charles Rainforest Initiative is using the frog (toad) as an icon in the hope of saving frogs in the tropics. Could this be another wrong target of focus due to misinformation? (I will talk of the 'frog trap' set in Brazil in my next article in this blog).
Yet another relative (sister-in-law) of the present Prime Minister is reported in the Financial Times (May 6, 2009) to be secretely filming the Penans of Sarawak to raise Western sympathy to save rainforests from the logging industry. This apparently is setting the stage for supporting the Prince Charles Rainforest Initiative which was launched the previous day. Actually, the Penans have chosen to cultivate their land with oil palm (being the most viable agricultural crop as an alternative to rubber)and some are already becoming millionaires; why is it that Ms Rewcastle (The PM's sister in law) is not keen to interview these progressive Penans and learn of their plans and aspirations. She should ask the Penans as to who among them do not wish to be wealthy like the successful (wellknown Penan millionaire) oil palm plantation owner.
I hope the Prince Charles Rainforest Initiative will stumble onto my Blog and discover that the rainforest destruction report submitted by unscrupulous NGOs are false generalizations, especially for Malaysia. The Independent newspaper may not want to publish counter viewpoints from Malaysia as they have editorial control over what can be published in their own papers and seem to monopolise the media. But with the Internet nowadays, one cannot stop other people from telling the truth, or pointing out the inferior standards of olive farms in the EU when compared to oil palm farms in Malaysia.