No such thing as sustainable palm oil: What nonsense

Last week an Italian scientist, Roberto Gatti, made headlines in Malaysia when he proclaimed that there is “no such thing as sustainable palm oil”. The only problem is that Mr Gatti is wrong. Indeed, oil palm producers have for the last 15 years become the lightning rod for the public’s growing anger on issues relating to deforestation, global warming, subpar labour practices, and transboundary haze. Only a silent few have questioned these allegations, leading the vast majority of the public to swallow these headlines hook, line, and sinker – leaving the narrative unchallenged. It is as if the endless supply… Read More

Kraft Heinz’s No Palm Oil Marketing a Lesson for Global Brands

Kraft Heinz introduced a new hazelnut spread for its Canadian consumers in June 2020 which could turn out to be an invaluable lesson for multinational companies. A soft introduction was launched when Kraft ran a poll on Twitter asking Kraft Peanut Butter followers whether they would prefer their hazelnut spread with or without palm oil. This was the first mistake they made. Social media platforms, especially Twitter which facilitates open discussions, are useful for marketing traction if the campaign is solid. The Kraft Peanut Butter poll on its new hazelnut spread ended in a mess as participants weighed in with… Read More

The Rise of the Southeast Asia Tigers

The rise of the Southeast Asian tigers in Indonesia and Malaysia owe in no small part, to their prominent roles as major sources for vegetable oils in the global market. As the two countries celebrate their independence from colonial masters this month, amidst the calls for the decolonization of conservation and the rights of developing countries to reach par with the rich North, there remains a stubborn stain of the colonial past who insist, that development should not threaten orangutans, tigers and elephants in Southeast Asia. It is therefore completely reasonable that the palm oil industries in Malaysia and Indonesia… Read More

Debunking the myth of Asian deforestation

The main environmental challenge of our time alongside climate change is the loss of primary forests and biodiversity. In 2019 the Global Forest Watch reported the loss of 11.9 million hectares of forest in the tropics: the equivalent of a football pitch every 6 seconds. After having felled forests and woodlands in Europe and North America, it is of vital importance for us to protect our remaining green lung. This is essential not only to guarantee the oxygenation cycles of the planet but also to protect its wide biodiversity. Deforested land is often used for crops (mainly soya), livestock farming… Read More

Swiss Farmers Desperate for Trade Protection against Palm Oil

Nasaie, an oil palm small farmer in West Aceh Regency, Indonesia, joined the Replanting Program launched in 2017. The program aimed to improve not only the smallholder’s welfare but also the ecological quality by promoting sustainable practices among the smallholders. The boycott of palm oil (PO) is the biggest obstacle to sustainability. This is borne out by fact and demonstrated by the most credible scientific research. The most recent, entitled “Environmental, Economic, and Social Consequences of the Oil Palm Boom” (Annual Review of Resource Economics), explains that PO is the nutrient that strikes the best balance between food security on… Read More

WHO Misleads Global Public on Palm Oil

The World Health Organization (WHO)’s COVID-19 response has put the Geneva-based institution under considerable international pressure – for good reason. After receiving the recent ire of U.S. President Donald Trump, who intends to withhold funding of the WHO, the organization now finds itself in the spotlight for providing poor nutritional guidance to consumers during the lockdown. The WHO recommends to “consume unsaturated fats (e.g. found in fish, avocado, nuts, olive oil, soy, canola, sunflower and corn oils) rather than saturated fats (e.g. found in fatty meat, butter, palm and coconut oils, cream, cheese, ghee and lard).” This is simply inaccurate,… Read More

Palm Oil Debate Betrays EU Commitment to Truth and Science

As an agricultural engineer with more than 20 years of experience working in and around oil palm plantations in Africa and Asia, I am stunned by the shoddiness of the palm oil debate in Brussels. NGOs, which advocate against the production and consumption of palm oil, have lost sight of both science and truth, and EU political leaders appear to have no inclination to re-discover these core values. It is more and more obvious that European Union officials and Members of the European Parliament, in particular, are content to blindly follow NGOs, obsessed with their fight against palm oil, demonstrating… Read More

What Now for EU Trade Policy and Palm Oil?

At the core of the palm oil debate is the issue of trade: palm oil is known as the “world’s most traded edible oil”. The reason for this is simple: it is cost-effective, super-productive, and has many applications in energy, industrial uses and food. But as we are well aware, its impact on global edible oil markets has been nothing short of disruptive.  Palm oil’s market share has more than doubled since the 1980s to become the world’s most consumed vegetable oil. The share of other oils – soy, rapeseed and sunflower – has remained flat or declined. Growers of… Read More

Climate Change: Importance of the Global South

Last week’s COP25 Summit in Madrid should be an opportunity to focus attention on a global issue – of concern for all 7 billion people on the planet. Unfortunately, such global gatherings rarely succeed in considering the needs of the 6 billion who live outside of the Western world. Instead, the summit will probably focus media attention on the precocious Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, who has become the poster-girl for climate change activists around the world in recent months. She is undoubtedly passionate and charismatic, but her casting as the voice of the global youth does not ring true: ultimately,… Read More

EU’s Action Plan on Forests: The Next Challenge?

However, a new and potentially even more concerning issue is now presenting itself – related to food exports, which are by far the biggest share of the global palm oil market. The EU Commission has presented an ‘Action Plan to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests’. This sounds innocuous, or perhaps even desirable but what always matters with the EU is not the friendly headline but the detail in the regulation. Some of the actions that are described could have significant impacts on palm oil  food exports if they were turned into EU regulation. For example, the EU Commission’s document… Read More