PETALING JAYA, Malaysia, June 17 – The decision by the Australian Senate Community Affairs Legislative Committee to reject mandatory labelling of palm oil is a significant victory for Malaysia in the fight against the unjust and misleading anti-palm oil campaigns.
This victory against the anti-palm oil lobby follows a public appeal by the Malaysian palm oil industry before the Committee in April of this year, which included testimony and statements by: His Excellency Dato Salman Ahmad, High Commissioner of Malaysia; Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron, Chief Executive Officer, Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC); Dato Carl Bek-Nielsen, United Plantations; and Datu Vasco Sabat Singkang, Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (SALCRA). At the time of the hearing, Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron, Chief Executive Officer of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, remarked, “…Truth in labelling should be driven by health issues, not political expedience, which is behind some of the campaigns revolving around this Bill.”
Despite the unsubstantiated allegations against the industry routinely leveled by NGOs and the Australian Zoos, the Committee concluded that “almost every argument [in support of mandatory labelling] presented to the committee was countered by alternative evidence from other witnesses” and “the committee is not convinced that the issues surrounding the presence of palm oil in food products justify circumventing the existing food regulatory framework in the manner envisaged in this Bill.”
With smallholders accounting for 39% of palm oil production in Malaysia, and producers enjoying incomes 4 times above the national poverty level, the industry has been a pillar of economic growth and societal advancement in Malaysia. And the industry continues to demonstrate its commitment to conservation, through initiatives like the Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund (MPOWCF). All this has been accomplished despite constant attacks by environmental organizations and the imposition of trade barriers by industrialized nations against Malaysian palm oil.
While the Australian Senate Committee’s report will be seen as a significant repudiation of environmental NGOs’ anti-palm oil campaigns, the Malaysian palm oil industry must continue the fight against efforts globally to require mandatory labelling, that our producers retain market access across the globe and consumers such as those in Australia continue to benefit from the use of a lower-cost vegetable oil.