Importance of facts
At a press conference in Paris, personalities from Malaysia explained the rationale of the campaign and how it will address consumer concerns, thereby enabling individuals to arrive at an informed opinion about Malaysian palm oil. A summary follows.
Dr Yusof Basiron, CEO of MPOC
- MPOC is very excited about our new branding and advertising initiative, and I hope it will lead to a better and more positive understanding of palm oil among consumers. I hope too that you will learn some interesting facts and see for yourselves the pride that we have in agriculture and food production in our country, just as you have pride in what you produce in your country.
- Palm oil is one of Malaysia’s most valuable export products. Malaysia currently has 5.4 million ha under oil palm, producing 19.7 million tonnes of palm oil and 2.3 million tonnes of palm kernel oil. The bulk of this is for food production – either used as cooking oil or a food ingredient.
- Oil palm development has brought enormous benefits to Malaysia. It has contributed greatly to both poverty reduction and prosperity increase in recent decades. Malaysian palm oil is a commodity that truly distributes wealth throughout the population, including in formerly poor rural areas. Almost 40% of oil palm plantations are operated by small farmers.
- On behalf of all of small farmers and others in the Malaysian industry, I say ‘Thank you’ to France. It was a Frenchman called Henri Fauconnier who founded the first oil palm plantation in then Malaya, in 1911. His legacy has been to give small farmers the opportunity of a stable income and prospects for their children; whole rural areas that have been developed and transformed; and of course a world-leading R&D and food technology sector.
- Sadly, many misunderstandings exist about palm oil. Several myths have found their way into public discourse in France and Belgium. The myth has been spread about palm oil containing trans fats – which is untrue. Palm oil is actually a worldwide replacement for trans fats, improving health outcomes as a result.
Equally, some have alleged that palm oil is a major source of saturated fats in the diet of the French and Belgian public – which is also untrue. Meat and dairy provide most of the saturated fats in Europe.
- These myths, unfortunately, have led to some negative sentiments in France, and Belgium. MPOC is aware that some NGOs and others have launched aggressive attacks against palm oil, often with false claims. We are keen to address those claims in the work that we are launching today.
I think perhaps some progress is being made: I notice that Minister Segolene Royal was rather negative about palm oil due to the pre-existing myths, until perhaps she was informed of the reality. We’re pleased that Ms Royal has changed her mind, and we hope that with this new campaign we can change the mind of many more people in France and Belgium.
- Why are we launching this campaign? Because Europe is an important partner for Malaysian palm oil, and we must counter the myths that exist. Apart from small farmers, over one million workers in Malaysia depend on palm oil for their livelihood. Those in Europe who think that anti-palm oil campaigns are ‘risk-free’ – especially when these are based on false science – must think again. Real people, real families, in Malaysia and elsewhere, are negatively affected by the myths that have been spread about palm oil in Europe.
MPOC has a responsibility to protect our farmers and workers, and we take this seriously. This new campaign is about education, truth and balance. We want to share facts and information with consumers in France and Belgium, so that they can decide for themselves.
Facts are important in public debate:
- Palm oil has zero trans fats – this is a scientific fact. Palm oil has actually helped to lower trans fats consumption.
- All serious scientists know that palm oil is not a major contributor to the saturated fats intake of Europeans.
- Palm oil – like all oils and fats – is perfectly healthy as part of a balanced diet. Scientists and health institutions around the world can confirm that palm oil is not hazardous or dangerous. It is a normal and natural fat, like butter.
- I think it is important to note that palm oil benefits not only Malaysia but also Europe. MPOC commissioned a major economic study that shows the positive impact of palm oil in Europe. Some examples include:
- In France, palm oil imports are linked to 4,600 jobs.
- 323 million EUR of French GDP is associated with palm oil imports.
- Palm oil imports provide 167 million EUR of tax revenue in France.
- In Belgium, 1,000 jobs are linked to palm oil imports; 57 million EUR of GDP benefits; and 29 million EUR in tax revenue.
- The overall benefits for the EU are 5.7 billion EUR in GDP increase; 2.6 billion EUR in tax revenue; and 117,000 jobs.
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