Trade barrier behind Greenpeace & FOE's anti-palm oil lobby

RECENT attacks against palm oil by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth (FOE) were motivated by politics and trade, rather than genuine concern for environmental conservation.

Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) chief executive officer Tan Sri Yusof Basiron said Greenpeace and FOE, have vehemently blamed farmers in developing countries for deforestation, but remained silent on forest fires and rampant pollution in developed nations.

Lately, they went as far as to recommend rival vegetable oils that are of lower yield to consumers.

Last month, Cadbury New Zealand announced it will remove palm oil from its chocolate, as it succumb to the pressure group and their affiliates' well-strategised attacks.

In demanding Cadbury New Zealand to use cocoa butter instead of palm fat in chocolates, Greenpeace and FOE have revealed their hypocrisy. "Are these 'so-called greenies' aware that 10 times more land needs to be allocated for planting of cocoa trees just to produce the same amount of palm fat?" Yusof said in a recent interview with Business Times.

In another related event, Greenpeace had also attacked dairy giant Fonterra for using palm kernel animal feed, claiming that it results in deforestation. The NGO had singled out Fonterra for criticism because the dairy giant owns half of RD1, a New Zealand-based importer of palm kernel expeller for animal feed.

In response, New Zealand's Federated Farmers said palm kernel is actually of very little value that the alternative to recycling it into animal feed is to burn it. Therefore, it is misleading to suggest that using the waste to create animal feed is damaging to the environment.

Federated Farmers' biosecurity spokesperson John Hartnell said, "not a single millimetre of forest was being cleared just to feed dairy cows."

"Palm kernel extract is a waste by-product left over from the processing of palm oil for consumer products," he said, adding “oil palm plantations aren’t created just to generate a waste by-product, just as newspapers don’t exist solely to support recycling.”

On the 16th of September, fifteen Greenpeace protesters boarded the Hong Kong-registered freighter East Ambition, lashing themselves to cranes and the anchor, to prevent the ship from docking. They were protesting Fonterra's palm kernel imports for use as animal feed. The New Zealand police removed them once the ship docked that night. They were 'charge with illegally boarding a vessel' and will appear in the Tauranga District Court this week.

Fonterra's rural merchandising company RD1 dismissed Greenpeace's protest as a dangerous publicity stunt that "potentially damage New Zealand's reputation as a law abiding country," said chief executive John Lea.

RD1 respects the basic human right to protest legally, Lea said Greenpeace had crossed the line by interfering with legal commerce and free navigation on the high seas. "They should be prosecuted as pirates."

Yusof said Greenpeace and FOE's demand for New Zealand farmers to stop using palm kernel meal for dairy cows will cause milk yield to decline. That is because cows that consume palm kernel meal produce more milk than those on corn or soya meal diet. "Without the high protein palm kernel meal, dairy farmers will need to enlarge grazing areas. This means more land will need to be deforested in New Zealand," he said.

"In the last 200 years, New Zealand temperate forest is already mostly wiped out by settlements. Trees were logged to make way for grazing land, to produce milk, meat and wool which now make up the main exports of New Zealand.

"Why are these agricultural products, produced out of deforested land in New Zealand, acceptable to Greenpeace but palm oil, an agricultural product from Malaysia, demonised?" Yusof asked.

Both countries cleared land for agricultural purposes long ago, and the extent of deforestation was much more extensively carried out in New Zealand compared to Malaysia. Yet, no questions were raised on this matter.

"Why are these NGOs selectively criticising developing countries when the land clearance is starkly obvious in developed countries like New Zealand?" Yusof asked.

Forest, be they temperate or tropical, are valuable in cleaning up carbon dioxide to prevent global warming. "Why are tropical forest the only target for preservation? Why are these NGOs ignoring the over-deforestation that had taken place in developed countries that continues till today?" he pressed on.

Yusof said if the intention of the NGOs is to reduce carbon emission, let the focus be on the real culprit. "Fossil fuel usage contributes up to 80 per cent of global carbon dioxide emission and this is happening in developed countries. But guess who gets the blame - China and India."

He said palm oil, a significant export earner for Malaysia and Indonesia, is planted on legitimate agricultural lands, just like competing soyabean or rapeseed oils. "To climb out of the poverty trap, many farmers plant oil palms, earning US$20 per day (RM69.60). Greenpeace and FOE's anti-palm oil campaign only serves to threaten the livelihoods of farmers in developing nations," he said. "These 'so-called greenies' claim to champion environmental conservation but their discriminating attacks are driving poor nations poorer and the rich, richer."

Malaysia and New Zealand are due to sign a free trade agreement next month. Among products that will see tax reduction are dairy, meat and palm products. One wonders if Greenpeace and FOE's timely criticism of New Zealand's palm product consumption is coincidental.

3 Responses to Trade barrier behind Greenpeace & FOE's anti-palm oil lobby

  1. Can the palm oil industry in Malaysia invites Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to come and visit our various sectors to see for themselves
    how sustainable and how well managed are our industry? As the saying goes:- Seeing with facts is believing!
    MPOC can initiate this sponsorship for these groups to Malaysia to meet all the palm oil sectors, pay for their expenses if necessary.
    Trying the engagement method instead of fighting
    back method may yield better results and understanding.
    Are we doing enough to have these groups to be "Our Friends" instead of being "Our Enemies"
    as it appears at the moment?

    Good Luck and with best regards.

  2. John Smith of Sussex, UK 11 December 2009 at 16:45

    It seems that saving orang-utans is more important than providing work for humans and developing the economy of Borneo. It's great to sit comfortably in England and tell people on the other side of the world how to live. Would these objectors bicycle to work if people in Borneo complained that their cars, buses and trains are causing global warming? Like heck they would!

  3. V. Keane of Waikato 8 January 2010 at 18:38

    And the 'ecological' alternative is to use animal fat in chocolates? But more grazing ground means more deforestation, right?

    As a dutiful taxpayer, I'm wondering why isn't public funds being channelled to plant more trees here in NZ.

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