In the Media
Malaysia: Making palm oil sustainable
December 22, 2011
New Straits Times
THE virtues of oil from olives, sunflower seeds, canola, soybean and corn are familiar to consumers in the West and the affluent countries of the Middle East and North Africa. That’s not the case with palm oil, even in those large markets for the product.
That may be a vestige of the bitter attack on the palm oil industry mounted in the 1980s by the soybean lobby, complete with self-serving claims that palm oil could harm human health. Malaysian scientists, including Tan Sri Augustine S.H. Ong, then attached to the Palm Oil Research Institute of Malaysia, countered with authoritative documentation that, in addition to its numerous industrial uses, palm oil is indeed a versatile, nutritious ingredient.
Now, the palm oil industry is once again confronted with new challenges, possibly more formidable and multi-faceted than the earlier one — that of the need to be environmentally sustainable.
Sustainability in the palm oil industry means making minimal impact on the environment from the time of planting through to processing the oil in the mills. Today, the Malaysian palm oil industry has largely got it right, but sustainability concerns linger among some, mainly Western, consumers and well-meaning non-governmental organisations. Forest clearing, the agronomic practices used to cultivate the plants from seedlings to the fruit production phase, processing the fresh fruit bunches into oil at the mill — all relate to sustainability.
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Keywords: Asia, Malaysia, oil palm, palm oil, sustainable