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

National Palm Oil Certification Standards

RSPO’s 17th Annual Roundtable Meeting on Sustainable Palm Oil (RT17) gets underway today in Bangkok. The issue of palm oil certification will be a key topic of discussion and is often a target of criticism: from NGOs that dismiss certification as greenwashing, through to those that consider it an unnecessary cost imposition on the palm oil industry. Certification for sustainable products first emerged from the timber industry with the establishment of guidelines for sustainable forest management. This gave rise to the world’s two major timber product certification systems. The difference between the two systems is clear. One – Forest Stewardship… Read More