Prior to the 9th annual meeting of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil that took place last week in Malaysia, Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron, CEO of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, published on his blog a prediction that environmental organizations would use the event as an opportunity to further their campaigns against the crop, at the expense of Malaysia, palm oil producers, and the hungry and poor throughout the world.
The Malaysian palm oil industry has been criticized for being a leading contributor to climate change, despite accounting for less than 0.1% of global agriculture land and only 0.019% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. To provide perspective, the airline industry’s share of global emissions (2 – 3%) is a 105 times greater than the Malaysian palm oil industry. However, all those environmental activists and RSPO auditors flying into Sabah appear more interested in their visit to Malaysia than to their contribution to global warming.
But these facts hold little sway over a movement that has harnessed environmental concerns to advance their opposition to agriculture development in developing countries. Why else would these organizations stand in opposition to the most efficient vegetable oilseed in favor of crops that require 10 to 20 times more land area, and as a result more deforestation? Or crops that are produced in affluent economies over those alleviating poverty in developing countries? Perhaps it has more to do with the realization that Malaysian palm oil producers are not so willing to donate to their campaigns. In light of the criticism of palm oil’s sustainability, as reflected in WWF’s annual “Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard”, it would appear that only palm oil certified under the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) can be considered sustainable . Would palm oil produced under the standards of a Malaysian national scheme meet WWF ’s approval ? It begs the question, ‘is WWF interested in demonstrating sustainable palm oil, or controlling the palm oil supply chain?’
If the criticism against the rate of uptake of “green” palm oil from buyers by WWF is any indication from this year’s RSPO meeting, the organization hasn’t been getting a lot of donations from retail and processing firms either.