Claim – The University of York has blamed oil palm plantations for restricting the movement of butterflies in Malaysia, based on research undertaken in Sabah.

Palm oil is no different to any other crop. Research on species movement and agriculture has been undertaken on all kinds of agriculture and forestry activities, covering any number of species and in a range of countries, including Europe. But studies on biodiversity and farming in Europe don’t try to blame any particular crop. The University of York attempts to do so clumsily and without justification. Is this problem unique to palm oil? No. Is it unique to Malaysia? No.

Do cities and urbanisation stop the movement of butterflies? Yes. But there isn’t a movement of anti-population campaigners in Europe calling for less building in developing countries.

This leads to a bigger question about sustainable development.

Are the butterflies threatened? Not according to the study. But there’s a message here that oil palm should be stopped because butterflies can’t fly where they used to.

If every agricultural development was halted because of the movement of a species, it would be even more difficult for developing countries to climb out of poverty.

This is a lazy attempt to blame palm oil for a wide-ranging global question. We could call this the ‘Academic Butterfly Effect’. A butterfly flaps its wings in Malaysia, which leads to a university publicity department unjustly smearing palm oil in the UK.

Smacks of British Colonialism.