Activists and industry competitors have gone to great lengths to mischaracterize the palm oil industry. A critical source of healthy calories for the world and a potential source for sustainable low-carbon energy, critics have consistently placed self-interest above the needs of developing world communities and global food security.
Unfortunately, a recent report released by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) illustrates yet another attempt at denigrating a global industry, while mischaracterizing EU policy that has harmed communities throughout the world.
The report, released at European Development Days, accuses the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive for driving expansion of palm oil plantations. However, analysis released by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) found that expansion is being driven by increasing demand for food, not European energy demand.
Meanwhile, the report’s assertion that palm oil is a main source for biodiesel ignores the fact that 6 million hectares of rapeseed in Europe is devoted to biodiesel, 1 million more hectares than Malaysia’s entire palm oil sector.
Rather than promoting policy prescriptions that benefit local communities in Malaysia and throughout the developing world, the SEI authors are advocating for policies that would restrict food production and poverty reduction. In Malaysia, innovation is driving the development of biomass based energy sources, a carbon neutral solution that would ensure that more palm oil is directed to food uses.
While expressing concern for the needs of developing world producers, the SEI report risks undermining the very industry that offers a solution to food and poverty challenges throughout the developing world. In Africa and Latin America, communities are looking to Malaysia to emulate our development model – while decrying European trade policies that limit market access and distort agriculture trade. Unfortunately, this fact is ignored in SEI’s report – as by many supporters of European protectionism.