Malaysia tries to woo EU on palm-oil safety

Malaysia has agreed to nominate palm-oil specialists to sit on a European Commission group to assess the role of the controversial product as a European biofuel.

Primary Industries minister Teresa Kok said the consultation process on indirect land use change was important as it might prevent palm oil from being discriminated against.

She is leading a palm oil mission in Switzerland, Spain and Belgium along with agricultural representatives and members of the Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council and Forest Research Institute of Malaysia.

The delegation held meetings with the European environmental commissioner Karmenu Vella.

While in Madrid, Kok met Indonesian Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita to discuss palm-oil exports to Europe with both countries agreeing that “no palm oil” labels on European products and other campaigns amounted to discrimination.

There is an 85-per-cent loss of biodiversity in an ecosystem when plantations are created from the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems. Orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants (pictured) are losing their habitats and becoming increasingly endangered or extinct.

“An expert panel from the European Commission will be visiting Malaysia at the end of this month to hold discussions with Malaysian experts on these issues. Our experts will sit in the panel,” said Kok.

The minister claimed that many land change assumptions made by the anti-palm-oil lobby were based on inadequate evidence.

She said it was vital for the European delegation to understand Malaysian palm-oil cultivation and processing practices so it appreciated efforts to produce sustainable palm oil.

“Malaysia will use various international fora and trade negotiations to secure a just outcome for our palm oil exports,” the minister said.

Nestlé pressure

Under pressure to prove the rigour of its standards, Nestlé said it was opting for transparency and planned to make satellite monitoring data, including evidence of deforestation, available online from next year.

The Swiss-based firm said it used Starling satellite monitoring to observe palm-oil suppliers and address deforestation linked to their mills. From March, the suppliers’ adherence to Nestlé’s no-deforestation policy would be available on its website.

The Elaeis guineensis tree only grows in the equatorial regions, with Malaysia and Indonesia accounting for almost 85 per cent of global palm-oil supplies.

“Our motto is to have a dialogue first with the aim to convince our suppliers to improve. At the same time, if they say ‘no’ we will blacklist them,” said Benjamin Ware, Nestlé’s responsible-sourcing chief.

The world’s largest food producer said it had identified and blacklisted 10 of its palm suppliers this June who were removed from its supply chain last month: DTK Opportunity, Korindo Group, Indonusa, Olmeca REPSA, Pacific Inter-link HSA, PTT Green, Salim Group/Indofood, Noble, Posco Daewoo and Cilandri Anky Abadi.

High-resolution radar and optical satellite imagery were used to detect forest cover loss of up to 1 hectare, Nestlé claimed.


Elephants on Borneo are becoming increasingly endangered. Picture credit: Wikimedia