Negative opinions about sustainable palm oil are largely based on inaccurate information rather than any real scientific evidence. That was the consensus reached by a distinguished panel of experts participating in a debate entitled, “Vertical Challenges for Sustainable Palm Oil’s Future.” 

The debate took place during the 2021 digital Palm Oil Trade Fair and Seminar, sponsored by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council. The event drew nearly 24,000 registered participants from around the world. 

As reported by Food Navigator-Asia, opinions about sustainable palm oil appear to be formed more by emotion than science. “Many studies across the world are pointing out this consumer gap of knowledge, their motivations and irrational processes of decision-making that are the basis of them selecting palm oil-free products,” EngageMinds Hub, Consumer, Food & Health Engagement Research Center Director Professor Guendalina Gragna told viewers. 

“There is a great deal of fake news around today regarding palm oil production and food products, and what we wanted to find out was why are so many consumers believing in and being misled by fake news and worrying about palm oil. … So far commercial marketing processes have been using consumer emotions to negatively represent palm oil so I think the antidote would be to use the same rhetoric to educate consumers about the positive features,” she said.” 

Why does this fake news exist? MPOC Science & Environment Division Director Dr. Ruslan Abdullah emphasized that due to this successful rise over the past decades, ‘profit and envy’ have become key reasons the industry has come under attack. “This commodity has slowly risen to become the most-produced oil worldwide (72 million MT) since the 1950s when it first came into the picture at 10th place (1.3 million MT). This rise is due to factors such as productivity and health benefits.” 

Additional panelists were: international civil society body Solidaridad Network Asia Senior Advisor Teoh Cheng Hai, the United Kingdom Field Conservation Manager Catherine Barton, and FratiniVergano Partner and ASEAN states advisor Pablo Vergano. The session was moderated by MPOC Deputy CEO Belvinder Sron. 

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