Over a period of a few decades around 1850, 95 per cent of the two million acres of Redwood forest in California were cut and destroyed. What kind of men would cut down these ancient irreplaceable giant trees? Each of them was over one thousand years old.
Oil palm smallholdings and plantations meet the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change which defines a forest as an area of 0.5 to one hectare having more than 30 per cent canopy cover and having a potential height of two to five metres. To accuse the industry in Malaysia and Indonesia of contributing to global warming is sheer nonsense. In fact oil palm trees just as with other forest species, produce oxygen for us to breathe and act to counter coal and oil emissions which are the major cause of global warming.
Environmental activist groups such as World Wildlife Fund, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have launched many campaigns alleging that the expansion of oil palm plantations have destroyed forests, threatened endangered wildlife and robbed indigenous people of their land. Many of their arguments are not based on fact but are sensationalized from a small number of cases.
The anti-oil palm lobby in the west includes pro-soya bean and rapeseed groups who see oil palm as a major competitor and have recruited food lobbyists to play on fears of the health hazards of palm oil consumption. Together with environmental activists, these well-funded groups have created trade barriers to the global oil palm trade under the pretext of environmental activism.
In a fair contest amongst competing vegetable oils, palm oil will win hands down. The oil palm tree is the world’s most efficient oil crop because one can harvest five tonnes of oil per hectare. This is 10 times more productive than soya bean planted in the West, including United States and five times more productive than rapeseed, Europe’s main oil crop.
It is an undeniable fact that palm oil is the cheapest and most popular form of cooking oil for consumers, including many poor families in the west. Should trade barriers to benefit rapeseed farmers who are already heavily subsidised by the European Union (EU) government be successfully implemented, this will hurt consumers all over the world.
Also should alternatives to oil palm be grown, more land would be needed to produce an equivalent volume of oil to replace palm oil, resulting in more deforestation and problems for Mother Earth.
Finally, the western environmental activists’ campaign against oil palm plantation expansion, in the name of “saving rainforests”, is a violation of international norms and Malaysia’s and Indonesia’s sovereignty.
Koon Yew Yin