When Alternative Health Expert Bryce Wylde, BSc, DHMHS traveled to Kuala Lumpur to attend a Malaysian palm oil nutrition conference, he discovered a lot more about this wholesome, yet often mistakenly criticized food. The popular author and educator knew Malaysian sustainable palm oil was a nutritious diet choice. He was aware it was often praised for being the world’s most land-efficient oil crop. When speaking with Malaysian Palm Oil Council’s Deputy CEO Dr. Kalyana Sundram, Wylde discovered that trials are underway to make the natural yield of the non-GMO oil palm even better.
Some people disapprove of palm oil because they feel that oil palm plantations are taking away land from Mala
ysia’s famed wildlife, including orangutans and elephants. Standing in a palm plantation, Wylde asked Sundram about the oil palm’s yield. “In terms of productivity, one hectare of this oil palm plantation would yield about 4,000 kg of oil. And it does this consistently over a 25-year period. That means these trees are planted, and we only replant them 25 years later,” Sundram explained. “Now if we had decided to plant this land with soybeans, we would have ended up with only 500 kg of oil per hectare.”
Wylde was clearly impressed with the difference. “If we replant this with sunflower or soy, then it would be a significant reduction in the production of oil,” he said. “Therefore, we’d have to expand the area in which we are planting.” Sundram agreed, “That’s right. You would need ten times the area.” To further protect wildlife, the Malaysian government has set aside more than 50 percent of its land as pristine forest cover. It also partners with the Malaysian palm oil industry to ensure that animals living in or near plantations are protected.
The world’s population – 5 billion in 1987 and 7.3 billion today – is expected to reach nearly 9 billion in 2050. Meeting the world’s demand for fats and oils, while maintaining our planet’s health, will be a challenge. “Oil palm is doing its job by being more productive,” said Sundram, clearly proud of the beautiful, productive and non-GMO plant. “And we have trials ongoing to simply improve the yield per hectare in the plantation. We will not need to take more land away from the animals or other uses. We will simply enhance productivity, and hopefully we will grow stepwise from 4000 kg to 6000 kg, and maybe to 8000 kg, ultimately reaching the goal of 12,000 kg per hectare.”
Robin Miller is a health and nutrition editor with more than 30 years of industry experience. She researches and writes about the nutritional benefits of palm fruit oil, with the goal of giving readers factual, science-based information that will be useful in their daily lives.