The Oil Palm

Former Bill Clinton Adviser Warns Over Australia Palm Oil Labelling Law

The ongoing debate in Australia over the imposition of mandatory labelling of palm oil in food and consumer goods products has elicited strong reaction from a number of global experts. Just this past week, Dr Robert Shapiro, a former adviser to U.S. President Bill Clinton, published an editorial criticizing the Australian legislation for the detrimental impact it would have on one of Malaysia’s most important industries.

Dr Shapiro commented, “The Australian proposal also misconstrues several important environmental issues. The principal cause of deforestation in Malaysia and elsewhere is not palm oil development, but poverty and subsistence farming which force desperate people to consume forests for fuel. Malaysia’s current programme for palm oil development has confronted this problem head on, with measures that have enabled thousands of landless farmers to establish their own farms to cultivate oil palm, cocoa and rubber. Moreover, the average income of palm oil industry workers is now four times the national poverty level. These successes in improving the standards of living of landless farmers and other palm oil industry workers have been publicly recognised by the United Nations and the World Bank.”

Dr Shapiro’s comments lend further credence to the warnings of incompatibility of the legislation with WTO rules – warnings that have been reiterated by the Malaysian Ministry for Plantation Industries and Commodities, MPOC, and several Australian government ministries. Meanwhile, estimates of the cost of the labelling legislation to Australian businesses are estimated to exceed AUD 150 million.

To read the full editorial, please click here: Aussies Wrong On Palm Oil Labelling.