The Oil Palm

Anti-Palm Oil Activists Fail the Kosher Test

As Malaysia works to improve palm oil industry practices, from developing biogas facilities and finding new uses for oil palm biomass, environmental activists continue to pressure our industry to conform to misguided constraints on our operations.

This is nothing new – Malaysia has been forced to defend against campaigns by competing market providers of oils ever since we began to challenge the supremacy of Western vegetable oil producers. As a result, soybean producers in the Americas and rapeseed producers in Europe and Canada have for decades been forced to compete with a more efficient, high-yielding and low-cost vegetable oil.

Recently, anti-palm oil activists have taken their efforts to an even more bizarre level – claiming that palm oil should not be contained in Kosher food and arguing that the crop somehow defies Jewish values.

But in an excellent article by Dr Jeffrey Stier of the National Center for Public Policy Research in the US, Dr Stier illustrates how it is the environmental activists who should have greater concern with the impact of their campaigns. Considering the question of sustainability from the standpoint of Kosher laws (which align closely with laws governing Halal foods), Dr Stier warns against misrepresentations of the industry, and that the Kosher distinction should not be allowed to be overtaken by environmental campaigners.

Green groups have been speaking ill of palm oil farmers and producers for years, claiming they put profits ahead of people and planet, and it would be unwise for Jewish leaders to begin parroting these claims. In addition, Jews should never interfere with one’s ability to earn an honest living. The palm oil industry enables some of the most impoverished people on the planet to earn an honest and living wage. This is no small thing in a world where billions of people continue to live on a dollar a day.

Rather than attacking the palm oil industry, environmental activists would be well served to consider the impact of their misguided attacks and distortions on the people who rely on our industry for food and employment. After all, activists are only visitors – it is our citizens who know what is best for their communities and Malaysia’s future.