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Global Warming: Palm Oil Owed An Apology

Global Warming: Palm Oil Owed An Apology

The new Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd offered the nation's first apology to Aborigines taken from their families for assimilation with the white community, saying the policy was a “blemished chapter” in the nation's history.

Rudd, in his first parliamentary speech as leader, apologized for the “past mistreatment,” and urged the nation to “turn a new page” by “righting the wrongs of the past.”

“For the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry,” Rudd said. “We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.”

Rudd told Canberra's national parliament: “We apologize for the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.”

Aborigines in the parliament's public gallery, including Olympian Cathy Freeman, dual Wimbledon winner Evonne Goolagong Cawley, and members of the so-called “Stolen Generation,” wept and hugged. The chamber erupted in a standing ovation with applause and whistles.

From 1910 to 1970, up to one-third of indigenous children were removed from their families and communities and placed in institutions, church missions or the homes of white Australians, according to a government-commissioned report published in 1997. The inquiry found many children lost their cultures, languages, heritage and lands, and recommended reparation be made.

“We have to remove the great stain on this nation's soul,” Rudd said. “It's time for fresh ideas for Australia's future.'”

Rudd's predecessor John Howard, who was defeated in a November election after 11 years in office, refused to apologize, saying the present generation shouldn't be held responsible for the actions of the past.

There is a moral here. Even well-meaning “official government policy” can be wrong, seriously wrong. Successive Australian Governments have refused to acknowledge the truth, let alone apologize for this grave travesty visited on its own citizens by a duly elected government!

A parallel can be drawn here with the situation that palm oil, unwittingly finds itself in. The healthy and sustainably produced oil has had to withstand an onslaught of well-meaning but seriously flawed attacks on its integrity by first, the infamous Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which tendered spurious claims that palm oil was primarily saturated fat, bad for the heart and intrinsically unhealthy. However, 15 years and over 150 overwhelming nutritional research bears out that CSPI was either misguided or heaven forbid, had deliberately misinterpreted or misrepresented the facts about the effects of the fatty acids found in palm oil.

It is well established that red palm oil contains a mixture of saturated fatty acids (51%), monounsaturated fatty acids (38%), polyunsaturated fatty acids (11%) and a whole spectrum of anti-oxidative carotenoids (vitamin A), tocopherols and tocotrienols (vitamin E) as major constituents.

Due to its high content of saturated fatty acids CSPI has suggested that red palm oil may elevate blood cholesterol levels. However, the most prominent saturated fatty acid in the red palm oil is palmitic acid, which has neutral effects on plasma cholesterol. Similarly, the fatty acid that gives olive oil its beneficial effects is called oleic acid. Seventy to eighty percent of the fatty acids in olive oil are oleic acid which is much greater than the 45 % in red palm oil. In red palm oil the oleic acid is situated on a position of the triglyceride backbone (the triglyceride is a bit like a skeleton on which other molecules are attached to build a fat) which increases its ability to be absorbed.1

As red palm oil is also the only oil that contains high amounts of tocotrienols, tocopherols and carotenoids which are very potent anti-oxidants, it is this combination (oleic acid, carotenoids, tocopherols and tocotrienols) that makes it a potent and healthy functional food.

Having been shown up to be less than kosher in their attempts to discredit palm oil as a healthy vegetable oil, CSPI then quickly changed tack and proceeded to make unfounded allegations of massive deforestation by oil palm plantations, leading allegedly to global warming and the destruction of habitat for the orang utan and pygmy elephants in Indonesia and Malaysia. Sensing a chance to gain a financial windfall in the form of increased government, corporate and public funding, environmental NGO’s such as the Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Wetlands fell over each other in joining the queue to drum up a chorus and cacophony of apelike noises echoing CSPI’s sly stratagem to question and discredit the palm oil industry’s environmental record. “Palm oil: Cooking the Climate”, a banal position paper issued by Greenpeace recklessly supported those unproven allegations.

Unfortunately for Greenpeace and organizations like CSPI and the Friends of the Earth, the weather just refuses to march to the beat of their dissonant drum. Contrary to their predictions of hotter summers, milder winters and concomitantly, the rising of sea levels, 2008, like 2007 and 2006 before it, is ushering in a new year with harsh winters that just got colder and colder. In fact, the winter storms of North America, Europe, Afghanistan and even Central, Eastern and Southern China experienced in early 2008, the most severe winter storms for the last few decades (and in China’s case, for the past century)!

Siberia is bracing itself, over the New Year for its coldest winter in 149 years with temperatures dropping to minus 55 degree Celcius! All over the Northern Hemisphere, from the United States to Europe, the thermometer continues to drop to record lows with plunging temperatures, ice and sleet causing major road chaos as Europeans returned to work after the festive break. Temperatures dropped to an un-seasonal minus 17 degrees Celcius in Britain, and Chicago recorded a shocking minus 33 degrees Celcius in February (with the wind chill factored in, in the windy city).

Through all this, the environmental movement has been conspicuous by their silence. Would these reckless environmental organizations now blame palm oil for global-cooling?

The profane silence of these environmental organizations, of course does not mean that these senseless attacks against palm oil has stopped. The cudgels are now taken up by the unsuspecting and perhaps compliant media. Juhana Rossi, writing in the venerable Finnish newspaper, “Helsingin Sanomat” in a convoluted and feeble attempt to paint a distorted picture of the oil palm industry in Malaysia, produced a piece of flawed investigative reporting that plunges the article to the level of banal, trashy and third rate journalism, by writing: “Forests in Malaysia are more vulnerable than in Finland. Finish commercial forests differ much less from the preceding natural forest than palm oil plantations do from untouched rain forest. When a tropical rain forest is felled, its flora and fauna are destroyed completely.” Then the writer continues, and wait for this…(trumpets sounding)… “At the same time, large amounts of carbon dioxide are released, which accelerate climate change!”

It behooves any reasonably perceptive reader to ask just how flora and fauna can “release large amounts of carbon dioxide” and “accelerate global warming?” First, it is patently untrue that Malaysia’s “civic society and legal system”, as the writer attempts to say, “are not as strong as Finland’s.” Secondly, to argue that “Chinese companies are able to ruthlessly do what they want in the forests of Borneo, which belongs to the indigenous population of Malaysia” is an affront to the rule of law which forms the very basis of Malaysian society.

Perhaps the writer is not cognizant of the recent march on the office of the Deputy Chief Minister of Sabah by a coalition of indigenous tribes: “Representatives of the Murut, the Kadazandusun, and the Rungus, and some 30 more tribes coming from the remote region of Tongod, traversed in July of this year from northern Borneo to reach the gleaming office of Sabah’s Deputy Chief Minister of Land, Datuk Lajim Haji Ukin at the capital city of Kota Kinabalu.” With the assistance of community support organizations these indigenous tribes have filed a court case against the State and two plantation companies: Hup Seng Consolidated Berhad and Asiatic Development Berhad. The case is the first deliberate test of Sabah’s land tenure laws with regards to indigenous peoples.” In a land where indigenous people can file suit in court surely lays waste to the claims that such tribes are being deprived of their customary land with impunity!

Whilst conceding that most Malaysian palm oil plantation companies like IOI practices sustainable planting by “not cutting down old forests, and does not banish indigenous inhabitants out of the way….”, and that “It treats its workers well and bears social responsibility”, goes on to argue that “the palm oil business…is a …business that is being pushed onto the road of destruction by the worldwide enthusiasm for biological fuels …”. Just how sustainable plantations could push the palm oil business “onto the road of destruction by the worldwide enthusiasm for biological fuels”, the writer does not say!

In the view of the Palm Oil Truth Foundation, the palm oil industry is certainly owed an apology from these environmental organizations and irresponsible writers, in much the same way that the Australian government has, after many decades of denials and prevarications, finally elected to come clean, to do the honorable thing and apologize to their aboriginal community’s “lost generation”.


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