Malaysia is once again proactively trying to educate EU and UK lawmakers about the wisdom of requiring the use of sustainable palm oil versus implementing a complete ban on the important commodity. A palm oil ban, say Malaysian officials, could have catastrophic effects on the world’s forests and wildlife by shifting demand to crops that require much more land and other natural resources to produce. 

Some NGOs, environmentalists and others have wrongly blamed palm oil production for rampant deforestation. However, a recent Financial Times opinion article gives a different perspective: “Sustainable land use experts like Professor Martin Persson, of the Chalmers University of Technology, say that “palm is actually a fantastic crop in principle. It uses far less land than other vegetable oils. In theory, there is plenty of already cleared land to grow commodities like palm oil and soy, or to host cattle — so we need incentives and regulations to ensure that companies adhere to proper sustainability criteria.””

To tackle deforestation issues, MPOC CEO Datuk Dr. Kalyana Sundram told the MalayMail, “The only viable and sustainable solution must be to provide incentives for the continued and increased production of sustainable products, based on standards of sustainability that are multilaterally or plurilaterally agreed and not unilaterally imposed in ways that, experience shows, all too often end up hiding or disguising protectionist and discriminatory policies under an ‘environmental blanket’.”

The MPOC has further suggested that the EU works in partnership with producer countries to reduce pressures on forests and strengthen international cooperation to halt deforestation and forest degradation.

Sundram noted that Malaysia is at the forefront in terms of sustainable forestry policies, sustainable palm oil production and environmental protection. “Malaysia has long recognized and adhered to the preservation of its forests and of ensuring the sustainable cultivation of oil palm and production of palm oil and the country’s forested area in amounts to around 53 percent of the land area as compared to EU’s forest area that only stood at 39.5 percent in 2018, despite reforestation efforts by the bloc.” 

Malaysia has made it compulsory for oil palm cultivators and palm oil producers to be certified under the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) standard. To date, 70 percent of all Malaysian cultivated areas are officially MSPO certified.

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