Problem is not palm oil, but the methods used
Published Oct 19, 09 Malaysiakini
The palm oil industry is in denial and in a panic. The Malaysian Palm Oil Council's (MPOC) recent charm initiative is little more than a clumsy attempt to at applying some tacky gloss over the activities of an industry responsible for the deaths of thousands of orang utans, tens of millions of other wildlife forms, and logging - both legal and otherwise, on an industrial scale throughout all of Kalimantan and Sumatra.
Of this, there is not a single doubt. It is now time for the industry to stop trying to deny the undeniable truth. Trying to misrepresent the motives of NGOs will win the industry no friends in either the public or political arenas.
The truth will win out in the end and the public will decide with their credit cards and check books, as they have done so massively with Fair Trade products, whether or not they want palm oil from unsustainable, non-RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) approved palm oil in their homes or cars.
No one I know is opposed to palm oil. It is a very versatile oil and we all need and consume it. The problem is not palm oil, but the methods used to develop and manage plantations throughout Indonesia and Sarawak, often by Malaysian-owned companies.
To visit Kalimantan, Sumatra or Sarawak is to witness the catastrophic decimation of wildlife, forests, local communities, and rivers polluted with insecticides.
The scene resembles and feels like a Klondike gold rush, with palm oil companies grabbing what forest they can, whilst they can and, before a competitor does. Countless documentaries have shown thousands of hectares of bare land, where palm oil companies have bought a license to log a forest and convert the land to a plantation.
Once the forest is logged, many companies In Indonesia (where Malaysian companies are ever- present) vanish with their quick profits from logging, leaving the land bare, only to start again under a new name not far away, time and again.
Does the Malaysian Palm Oil Council honestly believe the BBC, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, etc all misrepresent the facts they have filmed and reported? If so, let's hear this from the MPOC.
In Sarawak, there have been innumerable reports of this same industry denying indigenous tribes their rights to their land. Although less reported, the same happens in Indonesia.
Alan Oxley claims NGOs are opposed to poor people improving their lives, when the truth is exactly the opposite.
In Indonesia, there are countless NGOs trying to help indigenous people improve their lives, which sometimes means helping them, at their request, defend their ancestral forests from the land-grabbing palm oil companies.
Any NGO brave enough to help tribes people repel loggers making way for palm oil plantations in Sarawak runs a very serious risk to their personal safety.
Only if and when the palm oil industry get out of denial will they begin to see the wood for the trees and start to address the real causes of the problems, rather than attempt to denigrate NGOs who expose this industry for what it is, arguably the most environmentally destructive in the world.
The writer is chief executive, Nature Alert.