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    Posted March 27, 2012 by
    New York City, New York

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    Palm oil and smart phone apps

    It wasn’t too long ago when phones were for making phone calls? With the advent of the smart phone, what was once a way to talk to someone has become a storehouse of data. Add cell-phone applications (computer programs) to that, and you can read sports reports, play games, plan trips, find an apartment—or any of well over 100,000 other tasks available with an “app”.

    That’s pretty amazing, but the “apps” for phones are nothing compared with the kind of “apps” that has been in existence in journalism since its advent – it’s called “Investigative Reporting”!

    When it comes to palm oil the world of journalism appears to have lost this app. Soaking up all the banal “Reports” and “Press Releases” issued from time to time by the coterie of “green” and “civil society” groups such as the oddly named Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth (FOE), the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), the WWF and even zoos such as the Melbourne Zoo and Auckland Zoo on palm oil issues, most news editors appear content to regurgitate these “reports” and “press releases” verbatim.

    That is doing a disservice to the millions of people in Indonesia and Malaysia who depend on palm oil for a living. That’s not counting the tons of smallholders who eke out a living cultivating palm oil. After all, contrary to popular opinion, palm oil is not cultivated only by giant faceless corporations. In fact, more than 40% of palm oil production comes from smallholders – many of whom came into palm oil cultivation by participating in government sponsored rural poverty eradication program like the wildly successful FELDA program launched by the Malaysian government in the early seventies.

    Many of these smallholders now enjoy some of the creature comforts of modern living such as TV sets, refrigerators and other home appliances that those living in the developed west take for granted! More importantly, these smallholders have dragged themselves out of poverty and many were able to send their children for further education, some up to tertiary level!

    The axe that these “green” and “civil society” groups have to grind is that they allege that palm oil is causing massive deforestation on a scale that threatens the existence of exotic wildlife such as the orangutan.

    However, this claim flies in the face of facts!

    For one, the oil palm share of world agricultural land is only 0.23 per cent.

    The total greenhouse gas (GHG) emission of global agriculture is 17 per cent which is considered small compared with the burning of fossil fuel, which contributes 57 per cent of GHG emission.

    The carbon footprint of oil palm cultivation globally is, therefore, 0.23 per cent times 17 per cent of the total or 0.0391 per cent of global GHG emissions.

    Having been proven wrong, the green groups have recently added finer shades to the palm oil debate. They have now switched accusing palm oil of planting oil palm on and thus destroying peat swamp forests.

    In Palmhugger.org’s view, even if all palm oil cultivation takes place on converted peat-lands and rain-forest (which it definitely does not), it still occupies only 0.22% of the world's agricultural land, making it morally wrong and pure hyperbole to blame oil palm as a significant contributor to global warming.

    Perhaps Greenpeace, the FOE and the Melbourne Zoo can explain why other oil seed crops from their countries of origin such as soy, rapeseed and sunflower which are certainly less sustainable than palm oil should be spared this scrutiny that they selectively subject palm oil to. In the course of that they should also explain why they could remain silent over the 33 millions tons of carbon emitted during the annual process of coal mining in the UK!

    In our view, the main drivers for these covert anti-palm oil campaigns are governments desperate to protect their indigenous edible oil producers who cannot compete on a level ground with the hyper yielding palm oil!

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