The Oil Palm

Palm Oil Bread

Bread has become a staple in diets across the globe. This week, we’re featuring a bread with a unique look and taste that is simply delicious. 

3/4 cups warm water

1 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons dry yeast

1/6 cup palm oil

1/4 cup cane sugar

2 cups whole wheat flour

1.5+ cups all purpose flour

1 pinch tablespoon salt

Put warm water in a large mixing bowl and add two teaspoons sugar. Sprinkle yeast over water and let sit for about ten minutes until bubbly. Then add in the rest of the ingredients in the order given, adding more flour as needed. Knead dough until smooth and elastic, then put back in bowl, greased or floured, and let rise until double, about 45 minutes. (Depending on where you live it might take longer or less time.)

When risen, punch down dough, then let rest while you grease two loaf pans OR two cookies/baking sheets. Shape loaves and place in/on baking pans or sheets. Let rise until double, about 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees when loaves are nearly double. When risen (if doing loaves on sheets, score the top) bake for about half an hour, until the tops are a nice brown color. Remove from oven, then loosen sides of loaves then let cool 5 minutes. Then remove them from the pans to prevent a soggy crust. Let cool completely before slicing.

The Oil Palm

New orang-utans populations discovered and protected in Malaysia

Malaysian government authorities have committed to protect a population of newly discovered orang-utans. The commitment highlights Malaysian conservation initiatives which effectively protect the country’s orang-utan populations and biodiversity.

The announcement calls into question accusations made by Western campaigners that orang-utans are threatened with rapid extinction in Malaysia, and that the palm oil industry is responsible for driving the alleged extinction.

While some forest lands zoned for agricultural development have been converted to plantations, Malaysian agricultural development has been carefully orchestrated to ensure the country protects biodiversity and ample habitat for orang-utan populations. Over 50% of Malaysia remains forested.

International conservation group, the Wildlife Conservation Society, has praised the recent efforts of the Malaysian authorities in “protecting a globally significant orang-utan population”.

Researchers from the Sarawak Forest Department, assisted by Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Borneo Adventure discovered the new population of orang-utans in February 2013.

The government of Sarawak subsequently announced it would protect the newly discovered orang-utan population and their habitat. The population was found near Batang Ai National Park and Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary in Sarawak, throughout an area of about 14,000 hectares.

The recent discovery and subsequent conservation initiative demonstrates efforts taken by Malaysian authorities to protect orang-utan populations. The species are formally protected under Malaysian conservation regulations, while the country has an extensive network of national parks dedicated to protect biodiversity.

The recently discovered population is reportedly a subspecies of the Borneo orang-utan. Scientists have identified two species of orang-utans, with the Borneo species are more abundant than the Sumatran variety. There are significant populations of Borneo orang-utan located in Malaysia, with an estimated 50 000 – 60 000 Borneo orang-utans in the wild.

Despite the recent discovery, reliable data and research quantifying orang-utan populations is largely lacking. Local Iban communities had reportedly been aware of the existence of orang-utans in the area, but populations were not officially known until a population survey was undertaken.

The discovery of new populations raises further possibilities that significant undiscovered population of orang-utans reside in remote Malaysian forested areas. Given the unreliable population data, orang-utan numbers may increase further as new populations are ‘recovered’ or indigenous knowledge of local forests is incorporated into conservation databases.

A survey of a nearby area in 2012 also found a significant population of orang-utan, which may have increased the orang-utan population of Sarawak by as much as 15% according to reports at the time.

The field surveys conducted in February found a total of 995 orang-utan nests in the area. Nests were also discovered in the remote areas analysed through aerial surveys.

The Oil Palm

Allegations Against Malaysian Palm Oil Industry on Orang-utans Unfounded; Disruptive to Conservation Efforts

The Malaysian government and palm oil industry today mark the start of the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Colloquium (SWCC 2012), which aims to highlight conservation efforts undertaken in the Borneo. The conference underlines the efforts of the Malaysian government and the palm oil industrywith regards to biodiversity conservation and CSR programs, and to highlight conservation studies by reputable research institutions and conservation NGOs. In addition, three State Action Plans will be released at SWCC for the Bornean orangutan, the Bornean elephant and the Sumatran rhinoceros.

The Sabah state is blessed with more than 10,000 orang-utans, 6,000 proboscis monkeys and 2,400 elephants. Three State Action Plans will be released at SWCC for the Bornean orangutan, the Bornean elephant and the Sumatran rhinoceros, which will provide a platform for a better protection of these three flagship species.

It is therefore most unfortunate that environmental organizations have chosen this important venue as part of their campaign to harm the palm oil industry in Malaysia and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend on it, as they continue to make unfounded allegations that the industry is a leading threat to orang-utan conservation and that orang-utan in Malaysia are endangered. Neither claim is true.

In a response to these allegations, the Malaysian Environment Ministry, finds accusations by Nature Alert against the Malacca Zoo “baseless” and clearly showed “deliberate attempts to mislead the public”. Invitations to Nature Alert to visit the Zoo were “refused”. The Ministry stressed that the orang-utan is a protected species in Malaysia and should not be manipulated to tarnish the image of Malaysia.

Facts on Orang-utans in Malaysia\n

For every hectare of land developed for palm oil production, four hectares are preserved as permanent forest, including orangutan habitats in Sabah and Sarawak (the two original states in Malaysia with orangutan populations), where 50 percent or more of their land is preserved under permanent forest.

This ensures a healthy balance between preserving tropical habitats and meeting domestic and international food requirements.

A conference was held in 2009 in Borneo to address the risks and challenges facing the future of orangutans. At the conference, experts noted that the primary threat to orangutans was not the legitimate agriculture expansion of the palm oil industry, but poachers, hunting by local peoples, poor enforcement of existing laws and mining.

The Sabah and Sarawak State governments have identified a number of forest areas known to contain higher populations of orang-utans as wildlife sanctuaries, national parks or forest preserves. Ulu Segama – Malua Forest Reserve in Sabah, spanning over 0.236 million hectares, has been shown to be inhabited by about 6,000 – 7,000 orang-utans, the most populated orang-utan area in Sabah. The Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary in Sarawak has been shown to be inhabited by about 1,400 orang-utans. All these areas are permanently protected from development.

The Malaysian Palm Oil Council Wildlife Conservation Fund (MPOWCF) was launched in 2006 with an initial funding of Ringgit Malaysia (RM) 20 million of which RM10 million is a grant from the Malaysian government and the balance of RM10 million is provided by the palm oil industry. The Fund is administered by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, which has the overall responsibility to manage the various conservation projects funded through MPOWCF. Funds are provided for execution of projects and studies on wildlife, biodiversity and environmental conservation. The MPOWCF also accepts contributions from independent donors. For every ringgit contributed by an independent donor, MPOC will top it up with another ringgit, that is, on 1:1 basis.

The Oil Palm

Kelewele – Spicy Fried Plantains

Originally from Ghana, these flavorful fried plantain cubes are now served around the world. Consider adding nutmeg, cinnamon or red pepper flakes to give it your own twist!


4 -6 plantains, bananas, ripe, but not past ripe, peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper

1/2 teaspoon peeled grated fresh gingerroot

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons water

palm oil for frying


Grind together grated ginger root, pepper, and salt, then mix with water.

In a glass bowl toss together the plantain cubes and spice mixture.

In a deep skillet, heat oil (just deep enough to allow plantains to float) to 350 degrees F. Fry plantains, turning once, until golden brown on both sides. (Don’t try to fry them all at once; they should not touch each other while frying.).

Drain on absorbent paper, keep in warmed oven until all the plantains are fried. Serve kelewele immediately.

The Oil Palm

Interview with Dr. Jean Graille

Dr Jean Graille is a scientific expert of biotechnology with a focus on fats and lipids. Dr Graille completed his studies at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Marseille [National Chemical Engineering Institute of Marseilles]. He began working as a researcher at the Institut des Corps Gras [Institute for Fats and Oils] (ITERG) before continuing his extensive scientific career in the Agribusiness Program of CIRAD where he managed the team for “Food and Non-Food Substances – Lipid Technology Sciences.” Dr Graille won the Chevreul medal in 1997 and went on to receive the Kaufmann prize in 1999; he was the first French person to be awarded this prize. He is a renowned authority on fats and oils in France, Europe, and around the world.

In his first interview with The Oil Palm, Dr Graille discusses the poor understanding of fats and oils in France and Europe more generally, and the “unfair demonization” of palm oil. Dr Graille also emphasizes that palm oil does not contain trans fatty acids and addresses the issue of disseminating incorrect information, as in the case of recent statements by three Belgian senators and Swiss MP Dominique de Buman. He concludes by showcasing the importance of palm oil for the food industry and consumers in Europe and the need to promote correct scientific information on this healthy and nutritious product.

1. In your opinion, do the French have an adequate understanding of oils and fats?

Absolutely not! Like all global consumers, the French are far from having a good understanding of foods that are commercially available to them, and fats and oils are no exception.

Two statements that are often made to illustrate this point:

  • Butter contains more fat than sunflower or canola oil. Not true! Butter contains 20 per cent water. It is a “water-in-oil” emulsion containing 80 per cent fat, whereas sunflower and canola oils contain 100 per cent fat.
  • Olive oil contains more fat than hazelnut oil. Wrong! Both consist of 100 per cent fat.

However, it is interesting to note that both beliefs come from sensory perceptions and have to do with the appearance of these products and how they feel in our mouths. Beliefs based on sensory perceptions have nothing to do with scientific evidence. Tobacco and alcohol are deadly; it is dangerous to consume too much sugar; you need to exercise and eat 4 to 6 servings of fruit or vegetables per day and avoid over eating too much fat; oils containing omega 3 and 6 are healthy, etc – these are accurate claims supported by scientific research.

The following two beliefs are not backed by scientific evidence and lead us toward misinformation:

  • Palm oil is responsible for cancers and cardiovascular diseases because it contains a lot of saturated fat.
  • Palm kernel oil is also responsible for this type of disease.

Unfortunately, consumers assimilate this information and although few of them read the labels on food items on the shelves, these types of claims grow to unfairly demonize an entire segment of the agro-food industry.

The idea that something may damage your health is a powerful factor in the spread of false information.

2. Two Belgian Senators, Sabine de Bethune and Cindy Frassen, have proposed to limit the content of palm oil in food products to 2g per 100g. They have argued that using palm oil is as dangerous as using trans fats. Is there any evidence for this claim? What negative effects could there be from the Senators’ proposal to limit palm oil?

There is no scientific evidence that support the Honorable Senators’ comments. However, there is plenty of research and global scientific literature that demonstrates that the regular consumption of trans fatty acids is dangerous. Scientific studies all lead to the same conclusion, the consumption of trans fats induces cardiovascular disease and cancer, particularly breast cancer. Conversely, palm oil is completely free of trans fats. Palm oil contains a balance of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids and its consumption is not linked to any forms of cancers.

When the Honorable Senators proposed to limit the content of palm oil to 2 per cent, they were undoubtedly confused with the decision by several EU Member States to limit the content of trans fats in fats and oils; in fact, Denmark has set this limit to 2 per cent.

Note that palm oil is a natural product that does not cause health problems given its unique chemical structure. Furthermore, palm oil contains Vitamin E, and is the most significant source of tocotrienols, which offer protection against cancer, and pro-Vitamin A.

Finally, do not forget that we need saturated fats as our cell membranes must be very fluid in order to allow waste to exit and nutrients to enter our cells. Mother nature designed the lipid composition of cell membranes to include a precise and smart ratio between saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

These simple reminders show how sorely mistaken these two Honorable Senators are in tabling such proposals and engaging in scare mongering.

3. Another Belgian senator Muriel Targnion recently stated that the consumption of palm oil increases the risk of breast cancer. Is this true?

Absolutely not! Senator Targnion makes an erroneous statement when citing the joint report by the Institut national de la Santé et de la Recherche médicale (Inserm) and the Institut Gustave Roussy. The joint report published by these two research bodies finds that trans-oleic acid and trans-palmitoleic acid are suspected of causing cancer – especially breast and colorectal cancers – but Senator Targnion erroneously claims that these fatty acids are found in palm oil. This is completely false! Like all common vegetable oils, palm oil does not contain these trans fatty acids and it is in fact completely free of all trans fats. Only partially hydrogenated (i.e. processed) soy and canola oils contain trans fats in significant amounts.

It should be pointed out that the trans fatty acids referred to by Senator Targnion are found in products of ruminant origin, in particular in dairy products such as butter, creams, and cheeses, as well as in the fat found in meat. These trans fatty acids are a result of natural hydrogenation caused by the anaerobic microbial flora inside the stomach of ruminants.

What Senator Targnion should have pointed out was that palm oil is the only oil that contains tocotrienols, which are believed to offer strong protection against cancers, especially breast cancer. Many medical research studies have been performed on tocotrienols from palm oil and all have demonstrated good protection against cancers, including breast cancer. Some studies have even shown a clear association between palm oil consumption and cancer remission.

4. Swiss MP Dominique de Buman claims that rapeseed oil produced in Switzerland is healthier than palm oil. Is this true? MP de Buman believes that rapeseed oil and butter could easily replace palm oil in food products in Switzerland. What are the benefits of using palm oil, and what are the potential risks for Swiss consumers of replacing palm oil in their food?

Swiss MP Dominique de Buman’s statement is not scientifically acceptable. The best option for consumers is to make use of a range oils and fats to ensure a balanced intake of saturated fats as well as omega 9, omega 6 and omega 3 fats.

In fact, all fats are not equal and all have their advantages and disadvantages. Rapeseed oil contains all types of fatty acids and in particular linolenic acid (omega 3), which is also found in soy and oils derived from nuts. However, this makes it sensitive to oxidation and heat. This is why scientists advise to consume this oil fresh because the combinations of oxidative and thermal effects generate unnatural toxic molecules. This is also why it is recommended to use a far more stable oil, like palm oil, for frying and to prolong the shelf life of foods. Palm oil also has numerous other qualities; it is a “naturally hydrogenated” oil that is free of trans fatty acids and is also GMO-free. In addition, palm oil’s unique physical properties make it very attractive for a wide range of food application to accentuate the taste and texture of foods.

The preparation of margarines containing suitable quantities of sunflower, rapeseed and palm are a perfect example of products that offer a balanced intake of the four types of natural fatty acids.

Regarding MP de Buman’s comments on butter, on the nutritional level, butter contains many short fatty acids that are quickly metabolized to make energy, but also very long chain fatty acids that have been found to cause cardiovascular problems. The complete replacement of palm oil in food products is unwelcome because it will change the taste of foods and it will also lead to Swiss consumers consuming more dangerous trans fats. It seems that while MP de Buman wants to stop using certain types of imported products in order to further promote its rapeseed and dairy industries, he has not fully considered the implications of his erroneous statement on the health of Swiss consumers.

5. In light of the remarks made by Belgian Senators de Bethune, Frassen and Targnion and Swiss MP de Buman, do you think that certain people may be guilty of making alarmist claims regarding palm oil?

Unfortunately, yes. Certain people have taken advantage of their own position to make alarmist claims while certain members of the anti-palm lobby have an interest in denigrating the image of palm oil so that other vegetable oils or dairy fats may benefit.

However, this is a dangerous game and may ultimately result in more damage to competing vegetable oils, if a malicious campaign were to be launched against these oils evoking the dangers of GMOs and their inferior yields resulting in the need to deforest 10 times more land to produce comparable amounts. Specifically, soy has resulted in the loss of 10 times more biodiversity in the Amazon than the cultivation of oil palm trees.

6. What are trans fatty acids? How do they relate to palm oil?

Let us start by reiterating that palm oil does not contain trans fats. Trans fatty acids in their natural state can be found in the fats of ruminants and therefore in milk and dairy products, butter, cream, cheeses, etc. However, they are present in small amounts. They are formed through the partial hydrogenation of unsaturated fatty acids in the rumen of cattle by the microbial flora inside this organ.

Trans fatty acids are also found in partially hydrogenated oils – but in significant amounts. Thanks to the use of naturally hydrogenated oils like palm oil – which is entirely trans fat free – we have been able to develop a wide range of margarines and spreads and cooking fats that do not contain hydrogenated oils.

7. You wrote a scientific paper entitled “Palm oil, another point of view.” Could you give us a brief summary?

The key point in this paper is the observation by biochemists and organic chemists, applying their knowledge of living systems they have studied for more than half a century.

Vegetable oils such as palm oil and cocoa butter, which are widely consumed and rich in saturated fatty acids, are not unhealthy under normal consumption conditions.

Oils known as lauric oils, such as palm kernel oils (from the nut of the oil palm fruit) contain 90 per cent saturated fatty acids, 80 per cent of which are short chain fatty acids and they are a special case in terms of digestion. Because of their short chain fatty acids, they cross the intestinal wall very quickly and are transported directly to the liver by the portal vein to make energy. Thus lauric oils have a neutral impact on cardiovascular diseases and cancers.

8. Regarding the myths surrounding palm oil, what are the key points that French consumers need to remember about palm oil and its effects on health?

Consumers need to remember that scientific researchers consider refined palm oil as having a neutral or positive effect on health; its saturated fatty acids are not dangerous; it contains a small amount of compounds such as carotenes, tocopherols and above all tocotrienols that have a powerful protective effect against cancers and cardiovascular diseases.

Palm oil is a valuable ingredient for the European food industry because it enables an enormous range of manufacturing processes at a lower cost and at no health risk to the consumer.

9. In your scientific paper, reference is made to anti-palm oil lobbies and the ridiculousness of the current debate. What is your opinion on the demonization of palm oil by certain players in the retail sector?

Palm oil has been targeted unfairly in a campaign to demonize it, primarily through the activities of anti-palm oil lobbies that can be clearly identified, namely: sunflower and canola for Europe. In fact, palm oil is the most popular vegetable oil in the world with global production in 2012 reaching 51 million tons (MT) compared to 41 MT for soy, followed by canola at 23 MT and sunflower at 14 MT. This supremacy in the global vegetable oil market has not pleased producers of competing vegetable oils.

Anti-palm oil lobbies know that it is very easy to make false claims on a certain topic and target these claims at uninformed consumers who quickly assimilate them to become accepted beliefs. Once they have been disseminated, these claims can only be countered and eradicated by a laborious process of education centered on the promotion of scientific facts.

Communication professionals know very well how this works and, in an age where correct and false information can circulate globally in real-time thanks to the Internet, television, and newspapers, it has become extremely easy to reach out and cause alarm among a great number of consumers by providing them with ‘information’ on a particular subject. This is particularly effective when a supposed health-risk is emphasized and associated with the consumption of a particular product.

In the case of the anti-palm oil lobbies, their misinformation activities reach their apex when major television channels decide to address a topic like “the effect of palm oil on human health and the environment” and provide a platform for doctors who are self-professed “nutritionists” or to environmentalists who try to educate us on how ‘healthy living’ or how to be responsible citizens.

In France, the success of such communication or misinformation campaigns did not go unnoticed by players in the retail sector who ultimately distribute products containing palm oil. Given the significant financial interests at stake, they saw the attacks on palm oil as an opportunity to promote their own range of ‘palm oil-free’ products. Under the pretext of consumer health, which remains paramount, certain brands took “social action” by declaring that they would no longer offer any products containing palm oil to their customers. In doing so, the brands believed that they had regained their credibility and increased their influence on customers through cheap, opportunistic advertising.

10. France is famous for having banned GMO agriculture from its territory. Do you think that most French consumers know that palm oil does not contain GMOs?

Palm oil actually has the advantage of not containing GMOs. The oil palm has been improved through traditional breeding selection techniques.

In Southeast Asia, the palm species Elaeis guineensis, originally from West Africa, has been successfully cultivated. There are extremely high yields per hectare, often exceeding 4 tons per hectare in certain areas.

To this day, palm oil has never been produced from transgenic crops. On the other hand, soy, canola and corn oil from both the North and South American continents likely come from transgenic crops.

11. Why do food producers like palm oil so much?

Palm oil is a key ingredient for many food producers because it has many desirable qualities. For instance, it is used to give certain foods a specific textures and consistency. In addition, palm oil is popular because, not only does palm oil require limited processing, but it stands up well against the thermal and oxidative stress that is encountered during cooking and frying, due to the fact that it contains few polyunsaturated fatty acids which are very sensitive to heat and oxygen. Finally, palm oil gives foods a longer shelf life as its tocopherols (vitamin E) and tocotrienols (vitamin E analogs) protect against thermo-oxidative degradation.

12. Why do food manufacturers prefer palm oil and its derivatives to hydrogenated oils (soy and canola)?

Producing goods with palm oil or its derivatives results in products that are more stable without any off flavors or unpleasant odors when cooking or reheating, which is not at all the case when shortenings manufactured from liquid oils are used.

In essence, industrial manufacturers prefer palm oil and its derivatives because they provide a broader range of applications at a lower cost – for instance, very specialized stearins are obtained through fractionation of palm oil. For example, cocoa butter equivalents (CBE) are produced with thermoplastic characteristics identical to cocoa butter. CBEs costs 5 to 10 times less than cocoa butter and are very important from a technical point of view. The European Union has authorized the use of CBE in cocoa butter by up to 5 per cent maximum. Excellent 100 per cent CBE chocolate can be found in Malaysia, which is not surprising because the cocoa is what gives the flavors, not the fat, which only provides the “melt in the mouth” sensation due to the properties of cocoa butter or CBEs.

13. What do food manufacturers and retailers need to do in order to prevent the spread of misinformation on fats and oils in France?

Unfortunately, the spread of incorrect information and misinformation is a serious problem. While it is true that it is more complicated to provide information on a formulated food that contains 10 to 20 different ingredients than on a basic product; producers can counter the spread of misinformation by providing scientifically accurate information on their labels.

The Oil Palm

Emerging Western Defenders of Palm Oil

Palm oil has been a golden crop for Malaysia, supporting societal advancement that has benefited hundreds of thousands of rural workers, supporting domestic and regional food security and giving the world a healthy, sustainable vegetable oil source.

Despite all these benefits, Western NGOs  including those funded by Western governments have sought to shame palm oil based on false environmental allegations. And some Western governments have been a party to this discrimination, through protectionist policies such as the Renewable Energy Directive and food labeling regulations.

Defenders in the West have begun to raise awareness about the WENGOs misguided campaigns. MPOC’s most recent Global Oils and Fats Business Magazine highlighted two of these contributions from more enlightened Western intellectual organizations:

A report released December 2010 by the United Kingdom’s Taxpayers Alliance (TPA) chronicled the support provided to environmental NGOs by the EU and UK governments begging the question: who do these NGOs represent? Friends of the Earth Europe, a frequent critic of the palm oil industry, received 52% of its 2008 income from the EU, while 46% of its funding for that year was dedicated to lobbying the EU.

Meanwhile, the Washington, DC-based Heritage Foundation examined shortcomings in US and European development and trade policies, directly undermining the potential prosperity and economic growth of developing communities. The World Bank, the primary institution for development-lending established following the Second World War, has also become implicated in undermining international development policy. According to the Heritage Foundation report, the implications of the new World Bank lending framework for the palm oil sector demonstrate an elevation of sustainability criteria above the need to reduce poverty bringing into question the World Bank staying true to its intended purpose.

It is heartening to see such reasoned thinking from within the very communities where Western NGO propaganda has become engrained. They recognize that despite the accusations, our industry demonstrates the highest standards in environmental stewardship and labour standards, while bestowing prosperity to thousands of previously poor. It is time for Western government policies to recognize this as well.

The Oil Palm

Exclusive Interviews with the Win a Trip to Malaysia Competition Winners!

The Oil Palm held exclusive interviews with the three lucky French consumers who recently won the trip of a lifetime to Malaysia. Mimoun Zeghdad, Patrick Lombard and Stephane Levy were invited to talk about their participation in the competition and why palm oil is important to them as French consumers.

Mimoun Zeghdad, from Hérault in southern France, told The Oil Palm that palm oil was as important to Malaysian small farmers as cheese and wine were to French farmers. He said he could not wait to get to know Malaysian small farmers and to learn about the role of oil palm cultivation in their daily lives. When asked about the image of palm oil in France, Mr Zeghdad explained that people had been provided with negative information and that they needed to be better informed. Mr Zeghdad said that he had always wanted to visit Malaysia and that he would invite his brother to experience this adventure with him.

Stephane Levy, from Cernay in eastern France, discussed his competition entry, which highlighted palm oil’s central role in our everyday lives. Turning to the debate on palm oil in France, Mr Levy said that consumers were misinformed about palm oil and welcomed the opportunity to visit Malaysia and see what was the reality on the ground. Mr Levy said that he could not wait to meet the small farmers, see the orang utans and discover all the fauna and flora Malaysia had to offer.

Patrick Lombard, from Beaufort-sur-Duron, in south-east France, said that his entry was structured as a recipe to give it a more humorous tone and to showcase the social, environmental and health attributes of  palm oil. Mr Lombard pointed out that in Europe, consumers have difficulty understanding palm oil because it is a foreign product. Yet, the industry provides employment for more than 600,000 people in Malaysia and accounts for around 10 per cent of the country’s GDP. In his interview, Patrick also discusses the misunderstanding regarding palm oil in France, which, in his view, results from negative messaging transmitted by the media. Mr Lombard said he could not wait to travel to Malaysia and get to know the local people, culture and agriculture!

The Oil Palm

Red Palm Oil Bell Pepper Rice (with tomatoes and onions)

This is a traditional West African dish. Locals recommend serving the stew with rice to soak up the delectable sauce!


1/4 cup red palm oil

3 cups brown rice

3 large cloves garlic

1 small onion (or half a large one)

1 medium tomato

1 ground black pepper

3 tsps. sea salt

6 cups water

1-2 medium-large bell peppers, chopped and steamed


Brown rice in red palm oil, then add in veggies and spices. Pour water in all at once and turn to high. When it is boiling, turn down to low and simmer until the rice is tender, about 45 minutes. When done, serve up the rice piping hot with a side of red beans. Top with steamed bell pepper.

Servings: 20

Recipe courtesy of

The Oil Palm Unclassified

Response to the Written Question from Senator Muriel Targnion

On December 24, 2012, the Belgian Senator Muriel Targnion tabled a parliamentary question which suggests a link between the consumption of palm oil and the development of breast cancer. Dr. Jean Graille, a Montpellier-based scientist specialized in the biotechnology of oils and lipochemistry, responded to the Senator, explaining that these statements were incorrect and that it was important to fully understand the scientific facts before making observations which could harm public health.
As a scientist, I am aware of the importance of providing accurate information that is useful for the public. Scientific questions are often very complex and technical in nature and need to be simplified to make them comprehensible for the public. However, this must not be at the expense of scientific fact. This is particularly true when it comes to findings on health, which can trigger unwanted anxieties.
Unfortunately, this approach is rarely followed. Senator Targnion’s parliamentary question, which linked palm oil to the development of breast cancer, has possibly frightened several Belgian citizens – but it is not based on scientific facts.
In her question, the Senator made reference to a scientific study which does not mention palm oil, but which identified two trans-fatty acids linked to the development of breast cancer. Palm oil contains no trace of trans-fatty acids.
For the benefit of the Senator and all those who are under a cloud of uncertainty, I will present you with the facts concerning the use of palm oil.
Refined palm oil is indeed widely used in the food industry for various technical reasons. Until the 1960s/1970s, food manufacturers used refined animal fats such as lard, beef and mutton tallow and even horse fat (hippofrite – northern France and Belgium) for industrial frying, preparing specialized fats for pastry making and producing industrial and table margarines which were significantly cheaper than butter. During the 1970s, researchers showed that these fats contained too much saturated fatty acid and could lead to cardiovascular diseases and, gradually, alternatives were sought.
The arrival of hydrogenation allowed fluid oils from soybeans, sunflowers, and rapeseeds to be transformed into the equivalent of animal fats, which were particularly useful for their plasticity. Technically it was a success but consumers quickly realized that hydrogenated oils generated “off flavors and room odors ” which lead, for example, to the characteristic odors found in fast food restaurants such as McDonalds. Researchers then discovered that hydrogenated oils contained high levels of harmful trans-fatty acids which can trigger cardiovascular diseases, colorectal cancer, and breast cancer. After a period where research focused on selective hydrogenation processes to limit the quantity of trans-fatty acids, food manufacturers sought a less expensive and more satisfactory solution on a medical level.
This period, between 1975 and 1985, corresponds to the rise in the production of solid tropical vegetable oils such as palm, copra/coconut and palm kernel oils. Rapidly food manufactures realized that these oils were stable and resisted well to oxidation and heat during cooking, two parameters which cause the toxic degradation of chemical compounds. Refined palm oil, in particular, makes it possible to produce the usual, above-mentioned products with financial and stability gains because this oil is the cheapest on the market, “the icing on the cake” being that this oil does not contain any trans-fatty acids; its high percentage of saturated fatty acids is not a problem since they are not or are only very slightly assimilated by the intestinal wall, unlike those provided by animal fats, thanks to the biochemical structure of their triglycerides. In addition, refined palm oil contains provitamin A, tocopherols, and above all is a dominant source of tocotrienols, which offer excellent protection against cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Virgin red palm oil would be much more satisfactory on a nutritional level because it is considered to be the tropical equivalent of virgin olive oil by certain researchers.
Using refined palm oil makes it possible to produce cocoa butter equivalents that are 10 times cheaper than cocoa butter. Over the past 10 years the EU has authorized the use of up to 5% cocoa butter equivalents in cocoa butter without altering the sensory quality of chocolate.
Due to the multiple probable causes of breast cancer, many researchers have implied, without providing any formal evidence, that trans-fatty acids are involved in this pathology, especially trans-vaccenic, trans-palmitoleic, and (trans-oleic) elaidic acids. However, refined palm oil does not contain any of these acids, despite what may have been heard.
On the other hand dairy fats (butter, milk, cheese), like fats from ruminant meat, contain small amounts. This is due to the natural microbial hydrogenation reactions which take place, especially in the rumen of cattle. If palm oil were to suddenly disappear from industrial formulations, consumers would lose a lot in terms of quality, and food manufacturers would be forced to go back to expensive solutions, a bad development at a time of economic crisis.
To finish, could the Senator please consider the composition of sunflower-based margarine spread which contains 30% water and 70% non-hydrogenated vegetable oils including 36% sunflower, 14% rapeseed, 15% palm and 5% palm kernel oil – this is a good blend between developed and emerging countries, is it not?
In relation to the clearing of the tropical forests, let us not forget that man has always cleared land to plant his food crops. Keep in mind that the world’s population has reached almost 7 billion and everyone needs to be fed…
However, let us note that the palm tree produces ten times more oil per hectare than soybeans (and more than seven times more than sunflower), which makes it easy to understand that soy is responsible for the disappearance of ten times more biodiversity-rich areas than the palm tree, especially in the Brazilian Amazon.
In France much land has been cleared and continues to be cleared for grain crops and vineyards and nobody seems concerned by the disappearance of such a rich biodiversity and in particular the disappearance of small animals.

The Oil Palm

Strong potential for Malaysian biodiesel exports to US market

Commentators have highlighted the growing competitiveness of Malaysian biodiesel exports, leading to expectations that sustainable Malaysian biodiesel exports into the US market will increase over the coming year.

This could have significant positive environmental impacts. Substituting US fossil fuel consumption with cost effective Malaysian palm oil biodiesel that are shown to emit fewer greenhouse gases can help reduce global GhG emissions.

However, US policy may yet restrict imports of sustainable Malaysian biodiesels, and could threaten the positive environmental effects of substituting fossil fuels with biodiesel imports.

According to recent media reports, the US market appears to offer significant growth potential for Malaysian biodiesel exports. Reuters has reported that a US blending tax credit for alternative fuels has improved the attractiveness of palm biodiesel exports into the United States.

The tax credit, combined with lower palm oil prices, has led to increasing competitiveness of palm oil-derived biodiesel compared with soy oil, the dominant US biodiesel feedstock. The reinstated tax credit in the US also appears to have made palm biodiesel from Southeast Asia competitive with conventional petroleum diesel.

According to Reuters, palm-based biodiesel can be imported into the US at approximately US$1,100 per tonne; cheaper than US soy oil derived biodiesel at about US$1,200 per tonne. Reuters claims that when the US$1 per gallon tax credit is factored in, palm oil-derived biodiesel may become potentially cheaper than the US conventional diesel, which has ranged from US$910 to US$1,020 per tonne in 2013.

Palm oil-based biodiesel appears increasingly attractive to US consumers on a cost basis, but it also results in positive environmental impacts. Palm oil derived biodiesel is an environmentally sustainable fuel option, produced from a renewable resource as opposed to conventional fossil fuels. Palm oil biodiesel has been scientifically assessed and shown to have significant greenhouse gas savings compared to conventional fuels and other biofuel feed stocks.

The EU has traditionally been Malaysia’s key biodiesel export market. However, demand for Malaysian biodiesel is now expected to pick up in the US.

Unfortunately the environmental benefits derived from substituting fossil fuels with Malaysian biodiesel are not guaranteed. There is still a possibility that US policy will restrict Malaysia’s sustainable exports from entering the US market.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reconsidering its ruling to disqualify Southeast Asian palm oil-derived biodiesel from receiving biofuel subsidies under US policy. The current ruling that palm oil is an ineligible feedstock under the Renewable Fuel Standard adds difficulties for Southeast Asian biofuels exports entering the US market. The EPA’s ruling can be reversed. However, if it decides not to, the policy would unfairly penalise growers in developing countries such as Malaysia, and could potentially be challengeable under WTO rules governing free trade.

The EPA’s ruling could also jeopardize the development of a politically significant regional trade agreement. Malaysia and the US are among several parties negotiating a regional trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  The Obama administration has made multiple commitments to negotiate a TPP. However, Malaysian access to US markets, including biofuel markets, should be a key part of any agreement signed by Malaysia.

Restricting market access for biofuels entering the US has adverse environmental implications; but it also has consequences for Malaysia’s economic development. Palm oil cultivation is a key driver of rural development and poverty alleviation efforts in Malaysia, with hundreds of thousands of smallholders participating in palm oil cultivation. Similarly, biodiesel production is a value added industry, and creates investment and growth in Malaysian processing and manufacturing sector. This too is under threat by US policy which will could potentially restrict market access and unfairly penalise sustainable biofuel producers.