The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) poses a question: Are your cookies causing orangutan extinction? While it is true that palm oil is found in many American packaged food products, from crackers to potato chips, your consumption of these family favorites probably isn’t putting these cherished animals at risk. Why? Because the controversial NGO neglected to share this important fact: Most of the palm oil used in the United States is sustainably produced in Malaysia. It simply isn’t the conflict palm oil that harms our wildlife, people or planet. Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil shouldn’t be included in attacks on conflict palm oil.

Conflict palm oil

RAN has coined the term “conflict palm oil” to identify palm oil which it alleges is produced illegally or using destructive measures. Neither description fits Malaysian palm oil. Malaysia is the world’s leader in premium, certified sustainable palm oil production. You can feel good about consuming Malaysian palm oil. In fact, according to European leaders, the World Bank and the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization, Malaysia’s palm oil production should be praised.

Malaysian palm oil production does not cause of deforestation

RAN states that oil palm plantation expansion, “is pushing deep into the heart of some of the world’s most culturally and biologically diverse ecosystems.” This is not true in Malaysia. Our plantations occupy only legal agricultural land. Invasive techniques such as burning are not allowed. Much of our land is protected, including 60 percent of the land in Sabah. At the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, Malaysia pledged to keep at least half of its land under forest cover. It has kept that promise.

impact on orangutans

Orangutan in the jungle of Borneo, Malaysia

Malaysia cares for its wildlife

More than 13,000 orangutans live safely in Sabah, on the northern tip of Borneo. Our Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, a renowned leader in orangutan care, was established more than 50 years ago. It was the first center to return orangutans to the wild. We have initiatives in place to help wildlife live in harmony with our oil palm plantations, such as the specially created corridors we use to help wildlife move from one protected area to another. We also opened the world’s first pygmy elephant sanctuary.

American manufacturers prefer Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil

RAN’s “Snack Food 20”, lists brands such as General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars, Mondelez, Hershey’s and ConAgra Foods which have strong responsible palm oil policies. We support these companies, as well as the thousands of other manufacturers who have chosen to use premium, sustainable palm oil. The vast majority of it comes from our plantations. Their use of our sustainably produced oil has lifted many of our family famers out of poverty, led to a better life for our children and have helped us care for our environment.

That’s why it makes no sense for RAN to include Malaysia in its battle against “conflict palm oil”. We are part of the solution. Palm oil is treasured because it is nutritious, versatile and non-GMO. It also incredibly efficient, using just a fraction of the resources that other oil-producing crops use.

And in Malaysia, palm oil is sustainably produced. This fact shouldn’t be ignored.

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