This year, Malaysian people are honoring a tree with oil-rich fruit because 2017 marks 100 years of Malaysian palm oil production. This edible oil has made a profound impact on the country. Not only does Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil provide nutrition to more than three billion people worldwide, it has been credited with reducing poverty and improving living conditions in this progressive nation. So why should Americans join in the celebration? Because more than 80 percent of the palm oil used in the U.S. is sourced from Malaysia. You’ll find this “golden oil” in many of your favorite foods, from peanut butters to candy to granola bars.  

Here’s what Americans need to know about Malaysian palm oil:

  • It’s more nutritious than other cooking oils. Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil is a balanced fat and naturally trans fat-free. It’s also nature’s richest source of heart- and brain-friendly vitamin E tocotrienols, as well as a rich source of other antioxidants. And unlike most of the soybean, canola and corn oil on the market, palm oil is non-GMO.
  • Malaysian palm oil is produced by family farmers. Family farmers, called smallholders in Malaysia, are an important part of the Malaysian palm oil industry. These hard-working, independent farmers tend more than 40 percent of the oil palm-planted areas in Malaysia. Many of the smallholders belong to local industry associations. These groups help smallholders earn a fair income. The associations also invest in community infrastructure such as roads and schools.
  • Malaysian oil palm plantations are incredibly efficient. Malaysian oil palm plantations produce more oil on less land than any other oilseed crop. A single acre of oil palm produces 11 times more oil than soybeans and 10 times more than sunflower. In fact, this  Climate Focus report identifies soybeans as the number two driver of deforestation, behind livestock.
  • Malaysia strives for sustainability. Being sustainable is a way of life in this rainforest-loving nation. Case in point: At the very first Earth Summit Malaysia pledged to maintain at least half of its total land area under forest cover. It has kept that promise. Now Malaysia is requiring all local oil palm plantations to achieve the stringent Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification standard by 2019. This will confirm that all Malaysian plantations are following processes that benefit the planet, as well as the Malaysian people and economy. As of January 2017, more one million hectares of Malaysia’s palm planted area have been certified sustainable.
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