Food labelling provisions have become the latest cause by the Western environmental movement to mischaracterize and cast doubts on Malaysia’s thriving palm oil industry. Having seen the issue advance in Australia, Western environmental NGOs have promoted their cause at the European Parliament in Brussels to implement regulation that would mandate the labeling of vegetable oil sources and restrict Malaysia’s palm oil trade for food producers, retailers and consumers.
Despite the regulation’s focus being on enhanced health and nutritional information for consumers, a left-green coalition of MEPs are seeking to insert the provision to label vegetable oil sources specifically targeted at palm oil. Their justification is based purely on environmental considerations, motivated by the anti-palm oil WENGOs. The amendments fail to make any case for enhanced nutritional value and have been recognized by the European Commission and the Council as representing substantial additional cost burdens to business and consumers.
The Malaysian Palm Oil Council has issued a position statement urging the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee to reject the provision to label the specific origin of vegetable oils.
- Malaysia produced more than 17 million tonnes of palm oil in 2010, with more than 2 million tonnes exported to the EU. This has ensured a low-cost, sustainable vegetable oil source for the EU while contributing to low food costs.
- New amendments ignore how vegetable oils are integrated into the food supply, and the flexibility required for businesses to maintain their supply products to the market. This is confirmed by the EU’s Oil and Protein Meal Industry (FEDIOL) and the International Margarine Association for the Countries of Europe (IMACE).
- Consumers are unlikely to benefit from vegetable origin labelling as nutritional information labelling requirements contained in the proposal will already sufficiently inform consumers of the saturated fat, total fat and vitamins contained in packaged products.
- With palm oil accounting for 5% of Malaysia’s exports to the EU, this labelling requirement directly undermines the spirit of cooperation necessary to ensure free and open trade.
Persuaded by WENGOs, Europe refuses to acknowledge that Malaysia conserves more than 50 percent of its forests from commercial development, in contrast to European countries like Belgium, which only conserves 22.4% of its forest land. Malaysia has set an example for economic development and environmental leadership.
Mandatory vegetable origin labeling is bad for palm oil producers, European businesses and consumers. The question is, who can supporters of the measure point to that will benefit?