Monday, June 27, 2011

Australian Labelling Bill on Palm Oil Against WTO Provisions

If palm oil has to be labelled for all food products marketed in Australia, it is likely to disrupt trade. Imports of food products will be affected as the palm oil content of food manufactured overseas is not labelled specifically as required by the proposed bill. Local manufacturers will need to have new and specific labels to be used whenever palm oil is contained in a product. This will be a costly exercise for manufacturers.

One claim for justifying the palm oil labelling bill is to inform consumers on the presence of palm oil which has 50 % saturated fatty acids even though the total saturated fatty acid contents of the fats used would already be indicated in the nutrition panel of the food label. If palm kernel oil or coconut oil which has much higher (over 90 %) saturated fatty acid content is used, separate labelling for these oils is not required. The 'vegetable oil' label can continue to be used. This will be a discriminatory use of the labelling law against the interest of palm oil, and will violate the WTO provisions. Malaysia and Indonesia will be compelled to complain to the WTO to ask Australia to remove the discriminatory treatment on palm oil afforded by the palm oil labelling bill.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Washington Dialogue on Sustainable Palm Oil – NGOs Fail to Sabotage Event

Palm oil is green and sustainable too. Just like trees, it absorbs carbon and releases oxygenRecently, the Malaysian and Indonesian Ministers in charge of the palm oil industry had a roundtable dialogue with US NGOs, government officials and other food and non-food customers to discuss palm oil sustainability issues. Both the Malaysian and Indonesian delegation members were keen to hear green NGOs views and were prepared to provide counter viewpoints explaining how palm oil is produced sustainably in their respective countries.

What I have noticed lately is that the ultra green NGOs often fail to attend these dialogues. They prefer instead to raise their same old issues not in a face to face manner, but via their media channels on the internet, where they can repeat their infamous allegations on oil palm linking it to deforestation. This time, they broadcasted their counter views through the internet just a few days after the dialogue ended when the Ministers had returned home to their respective countries. In fact, our organizers informed us that the NGOs were so paranoid about the dialogue being held that they sent out emails twice unethically informing all invitees that the dialogue had been cancelled! The unscrupulous attempt to sabotage the meeting did not work and merit our condemnation. More than 50 important stakeholders including friendly NGOs attended the meeting. Nevertheless, we have to take this threat seriously. Next time around, the sabotage could be life threatening.