E-Mail Edition  Volume 5   Number 1

Originally published Winter, 2008

Published by Piccadilly Books, Ltd., www.piccadillybooks.com.

Bruce Fife, N.D., Publisher, www.coconutresearchcenter.org

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  • Palm Oil Protects Your Brain

  • The Soy Deception: How Palm Oil is Protecting the Amazon Rain Forest

  • Challenge the Critics


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Shocking Truth About Palm Oil

The Shocking Truth About Palm Oil

by Dr. Bruce Fife

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The Palm Oil Miracle

by Dr. Bruce Fife

is available from

Piccadilly Books, Ltd.

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Palm Oil Protects Your Brain

Study shows tocotrienols in palm oil protect brain cells


In a study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (April 2000), researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found that tocotrienols, especially alpha-tocotrienol, protects glutamate-induced death of neuronal cells (brain cells). This study also provided the first evidence describing the molecular basis of tocotrienol action.  Tocotrienols are a special, super-potent form of vitamin E found in palm oil.

There are two types of vitamin E. Tocopherol is the type we are most familiar with. Tocotrienol is the less common form that is found in abundance in palm oil. Each form of vitamin E has four subgroups designated by alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. Alpha-tocopherol is the most common form of vitamin E. It is the form we see in vitamin supplements and fortified foods. Alpha-tocotrienol is the most abundant form of vitamin E in palm oil. Researchers have found that alpha-tocotrienol from palm oil has up to 60 times the antioxidant activity as alpha-tocopherol.

Oxidative damage due to free radicals or reactive oxygen species has been implicated in age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's. In the pathogenesis of these diseases, oxidative damage may accumulate over a period of years, leading to massive neuronal loss. A major contributor to pathologic cell death within the nervous system is glutamate toxicity and appears to be mediated by reactive oxygen species. The induction of oxidative stress by excitatory amino acid such as glutamate has been demonstrated to be the primary cause of death of certain types of neuronal cells. Glutamate is used by researchers to induce neurological damage in lab studies. We get glutamate in our diet from monosodium glutamate (MSG), "natural flavoring" added to foods, and soy products, to mention a few.

In the study it was found that at low concentrations, tocotrienols were more effective than alpha-tocopherol (the common form of vitamin E) in preventing glutamate-induced brain cell death. At higher concentrations, the glutamate-induced neuronal cells not only recovered after 6 hours of glutamate treatment, the tocotrienols, and especially alpha-tocotrienol, provided complete protection against further loss of cell viability.

It was also interesting to note that among the tocotrienols (alpha and gamma fractions), the alpha-tocotrienol was more effective than gamma-tocotrienol in protecting the neuronal cells.

The researchers went on to study the protective effect of the free-form and esterified-form of alpha-tocotrienol in glutamate-induced death of neuronal cells. It was found that the free-form was preferentially absorbed by the cells and, due to this preferential uptake of the free-form tocotrienol, confers higher protection against glutamate-induced death of brain cells. 

In order to explain the neuroprotective property of tocotrienols, the researchers looked at the involvement of signal transduction pathways in the glutamate-induced cell death. Studies have shown that inhibitors of protein-tyrosine kinase activity completely prevented glutamate-induced cell death. It was evident from the study that tocotrienols inhibited the activation of c-Src tyrosine kinase activity. Inhibition of c-Src kinase activity has significant implications and may explain other protective properties of tocotrienols. For example, studies have shown that many intracellular pathways can be stimulated upon Src activation and a variety of cellular consequences can result, including morphological and cell proliferation. One of them is human breast cancer. Increased Src tyrosine kinase activity has been implicated in the progression of breast cancer. Mammary tumors and human skin tumors possess elevated c-Src tyrosine kinase activity. Because of the key involvement of Src kinase activity in various oncogenesis, inhibitors of these kinases are being studied as potential candidates for anti-cancer drugs. Tocotrienols, with their ability to inhibit the activation of Src kinase activity, hold potential as natural complimentary phytonutrients in preventing these cancers. However, more studies need to be carried out to confirm this effect.


Ripening fruit on an oil palm.


In summary, this enlightening study demonstrated that naturally occurring tocotrienols, especially alpha-tocotrienol, may be an effective natural phytonutrient in preventing age-related neurodegenerative disease and certain type of c-Src kinase-mediated cancers. Palm oil has the highest level of alpha-tocotrienol. Even though the study was carried out in cultured neuronal cells, it nevertheless showed promising results in the protection of these cells.

There are several possible interpretations of this study. Some scientists think that we need actual human trials to confirm the effect of tocotrienols in preventing age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Previous studies have shown that the ordinary form of vitamin E (tocopherols) confer protection against Alzheimer's disease. Tocotrienol from palm oil has shown to be even better at protecting neuronal cells. While it is important to get clinical studies, it is unreasonable for those people who could benefit to wait for 5 or 10 years for the results of studies when they can do something right now.  The evidence from this study and many other studies is good enough to start using palm oil to take advantage of its protective tocotrienols. There is no compelling reason not to.  For further information and studies showing the neuroprotective and anticancer effects of palm oil check out my book The Palm Oil Miracle, available at  piccadillybooks.com or amazon.com.


The Soy Deception:

How Palm Oil is Protecting the Amazon Rain Forest


The soybean industry is up to its old tricks, attempting to demonize the tropical oils. This time, the attacks are in the guise of environmentalism. However, if the truth were told, the soy industry would be exposed as one of the world's worst offenders. Palm oil production, on the other hand, is protecting areas like the Amazon rain forest from destruction.


During the 1970s and 1980s, the soybean industry was troubled by emerging evidence that soybean oil consumption lowered immunity, increased susceptibility to infectious disease, and promoted cancer.

At this same time saturated fats were being scrutinized because of their tendency, in general, to raise blood cholesterol levels. The bigwigs in the soybean industry got the bright idea that if they could demonize the competition, by making saturated fats appear to be the cause of heart disease—the nation's number one killer—people wouldn't pay much attention to the negative findings coming out about soybean oil. Starting in the mid-1980s, the soybean oil industry began a multi-million dollar anti-saturated fat campaign. Saturated fats increased cholesterol, they said, and high cholesterol causes heart disease. The tropical oils (coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils) were singled out as being the worst offenders because of their high saturated fat content.

Some, but not all, saturated fats do raise total cholesterol, but there was no solid evidence that high cholesterol actually caused heart disease. That is why high cholesterol is only considered a "risk factor" rather than a cause. But that didn't stop the soy industry. Gullible consumer advocate groups like The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and The National Heart Savers Association were swayed by the misleading information and began their own campaigns against saturated fats. In these groups the soybean industry found very vocal, high profile allies which spearheaded much of the criticism against saturated fats, and particularly against the tropical oils. These organizations placed anti-saturated fat ads in the media, published newsletters, magazine articles, and books, and lobbied for political action against the use of tropical oils and other saturated fats.

The soybean industry fed misleading information to these groups and allowed them to fight the battle. The soybean industry took a back seat and stayed out of the limelight. This was very clever from a marketing perspective because now the soybean industry wasn't viewed as openly attacking their competition. Since the bulk of the attack came from supposedly impartial third parties, their message had more impact. People were swayed against saturated fats and the tropical oils.

Restaurants and food manufacturers sensitive to customer fear of saturated fats began removing these fats from their foods and replacing them with vegetable oils. Tropical oil consumption plummeted while soybean oil sales skyrocketed. In the United States soybean oil soon accounted for about 80 percent of all the vegetable oil consumed.

During this time, one thing the soybean industry conveniently neglected to tell the public was that the saturated fats were not being replaced with ordinary vegetable oil, but by hydrogenated soybean oil! Hydrogenated soybean oil contains toxic trans fatty acids and is far more damaging to the heart than any other fat. It has also been linked to numerous other health problems including diabetes, cancer, and various autoimmune diseases. In terms of health, it is absolutely the worst fat that could be used.

The soy industry was aware of many of the detrimental effects associated with hydrogenated vegetable oils and trans fatty acids: that is why it was never publicly announced that saturated fat would eventually be replaced by hydrogenated vegetable oils. They succeeded in demonizing all saturated fats, including healthy coconut and palm oils, for the sake of profit. The plan was an overwhelming financial success. Over the next two decades hydrogenated vegetable oils found their way into over 40 percent of all the foods on supermarket shelves, amounting to about 40,000 different products. Hydrogenated soybean oil consumption dramatically increased, and so did numerous diseases now found to be associated with trans fatty acids.

In recent years, however, coconut and palm oils have been making a comeback. Careful review of previous research and more current medical studies have exonerated the tropical oils from the claim that they promote heart disease. In fact, if anything, they appear to help protect against heart disease as well as many of the other diseases now known to be linked to hydrogenated vegetable oils.

With the growing awareness of the dangers of trans fatty acids in hydrogenated vegetable oils and the landmark announcement in 2002 from the United States Institute of Medicine stating that "no level of trans fatty acids is safe in the diet," tropical oils are returning. Coconut and palm oils are naturally trans fat free. Palm oil in particular has enjoyed a resurgence internationally as a preferred cooking oil. Its excellent stability and high smoke point (437 degrees F) make it ideal for cooking and frying. In terms of health, it is far superior to hydrogenated soybean oil.

Many restaurants and food manufacturers are now replacing their hydrogenated soybean oil with palm oil. Consequently, hydrogenated soybean oil sales are declining. The soybean oil industry is alarmed. In an effort to protect their profits they've returned to their old tried and true means of demonizing the competition in order to make their products more acceptable.

Relying on old friends, such as CSPI, a new wave of attacks have been focused on palm oil. CSPI is reverting back to its old standard of trying to create fear in the minds of the public and continues to harp on the saturated fat issue. They have even published full page ads in the New York Times suggesting that palm oil is worse than hydrogenated soybean oil. The impact the CSPI has had with this approach has generally been flat. Too many people now are aware of the benefits of the tropical oils and the dangers of hydrogenated vegetable oils. Their anti-saturated fat rhetoric isn't having the same impact as it did in previous years. There is just too much scientific evidence to refute their unfounded claims.

Desperate to find an alternative means of attack, the soybean industry has found a new ally in the Friends of the Earth, a highly vocal politically active environmental group. Fueled by support and misleading data from the soy industry, the Friends of the Earth have now waged a war against palm oil on the grounds that palm cultivation is destroying the environment. They claim that rain forests are being leveled to make room for palm plantations, destroying the ecology and bringing endangered species, such as the orangutan, to the brink of extinction. Anyone with any sense of responsibility for the environment would be emotionally swayed by this argument.

The problem, however, is that it's not true. Like a magician, the soybean industry is a master of illusion. They were successful in creating the illusion that tropical oils caused heart disease and that hydrogenated soybean oils were a better option. Now that we have discovered the secret to that illusion, they are trying to trick us again. This time they are attempting to create an illusion that their competition is harming the environment while they, on the other hand, are environmentally friendly. In reality, the soybean industry is causing more destruction to the environment than probably any other agricultural industry on the planet.

In the time it takes to read this entire article, an area of Brazil's Amazon rain forest larger than 200 football fields will have been destroyed, much of it for soybean cultivation.

Brazil holds about 30 percent of the Earth's remaining tropical rain forest. The Amazon Basin produces roughly 20 percent of the Earth's oxygen, creates much of its own rainfall, and harbors many unknown species. The Brazilian rain forest is the world's most biologically diverse habitat. Close to 20 percent of the Amazon rain forest has already been cut down.

Now, industrial-scale soybean producers are joining loggers and cattle ranchers, speeding up destruction and further fragmenting the great Brazilian wilderness. Between the years 2000 and 2005, Brazil lost more than 50,000 square miles of rain forest. A large portion of that was for soybean farming.

Soybean production in the Brazilian Amazon soared after heat-tolerant varieties were introduced in 1997. In just ten years, exports of soybeans grown in the Amazon Basin have reached 42 million tons a year. Total annual soybean production in Brazil is about 85 million tons. Brazil will soon surpass the United States as the world's leader in soybean production.


At the current rate of clearing, scientists predict that 40 percent of the Amazon will be destroyed and a further 20 percent degraded within two decades. If that happens, the forest's ecology will begin to unravel. Intact, the Amazon produces half its own rainfall through the moisture it releases into the atmosphere. Eliminate enough of that rain through clearing, and the remaining trees dry out and die. Currently trees are being wantonly burned to create open land for soybean cultivation. Consequently, Brazil has become one of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases.

There are few paved roads into

Acre after acre of Amazon rain forest is being destroyed to make room for soybean cultivation, leaving the land scarred and desolate.



the Amazon. The most controversial is the 1,100 mile long BR-163 highway which runs straight into the heart of the Amazon Basin, providing an alleyway for industrial-sized soybean operations to grab up millions of acres of land. Because of the thousands of tons of soy transported over this road, it is nicknamed the "soy highway."

The decimation of the Amazon is, for the most part, done legally. Even the governor of the state of Mato Gross, on the edge of the Amazon Basin, is a part of it. Governor Blairo Maggi is the world's largest single soybean producer, growing 350,000 acres. That's equivalent to 547 square miles of Amazon rain forest that has been leveled for soybean production. He is just one of many industrial-sized soybean operations in the area. In 2005 Greenpeace awarded Maggi the Golden Chain Saw award for his role in leveling the rain forest.



Clearing the land for soybean production is only part of the problem. Soybean cultivation destroys habitat for wildlife, including endangered or unknown species. It increases greenhouse gases, which are believed to contribute to global warming, and disrupts the life of indigenous tribes who depend on the forest for food and shelter. Soybeans need large amounts of acid-neutralizing lime, as well as fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, all of which are creating an environmental hazard. Toxic chemicals contaminate the forest, poison rivers, and destroy wildlife. Indigenous Indian communities complain about poisoned water and dying fish.

The environmental destruction caused by soybean farming isn't limited to the Amazon; it occurs

Manoki Indians displaced from their ancestral territory—a fate shared by many of Brazil's 170 indigenous Amazonian peoples — lament its degradation.


 throughout the world wherever soybeans are produced. That's hundreds of thousands of acres of deforestation, over-cultivation and destruction of the land, and billions of tons of toxic chemicals spewed into the environment year after year, contaminating our soils, and water and destroying wildlife, not to mention what it is doing to us. New genetically modified soy was specifically developed to withstand the toxins so farmers could spray even more pesticides on them without diminishing yields. Talk about destroying the environment: the soybean industry has to rank near the top of the offender's list.

Now, let's take a look at the palm oil industry. When you compare soy cultivation to that of palm, there is a huge difference. Palm cultivation is perhaps the world's most environmentally friendly commercial crop. After oil palms reach maturity, they are commercially productive for at least a quarter of a century. That means that once the trees are planted, the soil remains essentially undisturbed for decades. For soy, the ground must be dug up and recultivated every year, year after year.   The soil in a palm  plantation is permitted to recuperate.  Native grasses and scrubs are




allowed to repopulate the space between trees.   The natural habitat returns, complete with wildlife.  An oil palm plantation takes on the appearance of a rain forest filled with vegetation. Wild boar, monkeys, birds, and other wildlife are allowed to roam in and out of the plantations, just as they do in the wild. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are rarely, if ever, used. Since the ground is continually covered with trees and growth, the soil is not eroded, maintaining the integrity of the environment from the tiniest soil organisms to the largest land animals. So a palm plantation blends into the environment without causing untold disruption.

Palm plantations are like thick forests filled with plant growth and wildlife.


Compare that with a soybean plantation where all trees and other vegetation are killed and removed. Only soybeans are allowed to grow. And what about wildlife? Animals would trample or eat the crops, so they are fenced out, shot, or poisoned.

Unlike soy and most other crops that produce once a year, oil palms produce fruit year round, so they are always in season. This allows for a high yield of fruit on comparatively little acreage.  For this reason, the oil palm produces more oil per acre than any other vegetable source. For example, in one year on one acre of land a farmer can produce 18 gallons of corn oil, or 35 gallons of cottonseed oil, or 48 gallons of soybean oil. However, on the same amount of land you can produce 635 gallons of palm oil! No, that is not a misprint. You read that correctly, 635 gallons of palm oil compared to just 48 gallons of soybean oil. In terms of land use, you would need to plant


Oil palm is the world's most efficient oil-bearing crop in terms of land utilization, efficiency, and productivity. A single hectare of land produces about 10 times more oil than other oilseeds. Globally oil palm produces just as much oil as soy, yet utilizes only one-tenth the land area.


Environmental Impact:

13 acres of soy or 35 acres of corn to produce an equal amount of oil from just one acre of palm.

So, soybean cultivation requires 13 times more land to produce the same amount of oil. And this land is stripped of all other vegetation, continually plowed and replowed, and poisoned with pesticides, while oil palms are planted once and then the land is allowed to return mostly to its natural state without harming the environment.

More soybean oil is produced annually worldwide than any other oil.   What that means is that millions of acres of land have and are being destroyed under soybean cultivation. More land, like that in the Amazon Basin, is being leveled and forests and wildlife habitats are being destroyed to meet the increasing demand for soybean oil. Replacing soybean oil with palm oil is not only a healthier option, but would save countless acres of land from untold environmental damage. In the Amazon we have no idea how many rare species of plants and animals are becoming extinct in the name of corporate profit.

The Brazilian government acknowledged the lost 5,420 square miles of rain forest during  2006. This is an area more than twice the size as the entire state of  Delaware!  The good news is that the Brazilian Environment Ministry reported that the rate of Amazon destruction dropped 20 percent in 2007. Why the slowdown? You can thank the palm oil producers. Competition with palm oil has lowered the demand for soybean oil, causing the soybean market to decline. With less of a demand for soybean oil, there is less incentive to clear the Amazon rain forest. The rising demand for palm oil (much of it as a replacement for hydrogenated soybean oil) has made a


significant impact in slowing down the careless, yet legal, destruction of the Amazon.

Last year competition from palm oil saved 1,087 square miles of Amazon rain forest from being leveled for soybean cultivation. Some people might look at this and say, but places like Malaysia (the world's biggest palm oil producer) also convert rain forest into farmland. However, in the past four years more Amazon rain forest in Brazil has been destroyed to make room for soybean cultivation than Malaysia has cleared in the past 100 years for palm oil production. Do the math. When you compare palm oil to soybean, and in fact to any other oil crop, palm oil is by far the most environmentally friendly. There is no comparison. Hopefully, as demand for palm oil increases, the demand for soybean oil will decrease, saving even more of the Amazon rain forest, and the earth as a whole, from needless destruction.


World Production

of Oils & Fats 2005


Butter 5%

Coconut Oil 2%

Corn Oil 2%

Palm Oil & Palm Kernel Oil 27%

Rapeseed Oil 11%

Soybean Oil 24%

Sunflower Oil 7%

Lard and Tallow 11%

Others 11%

As the demand for palm oil has increased, the demand for soybean oil has decreased.


 Oil palm helps protect against global warming. Total area globally devoted to oil palm production is 9.16 million hectares (35,367 sq miles). Total land area under soybean cultivation is 92.54 million hectares (357, 299 sq miles), more than ten times that of oil palm, yet oil palm releases nearly ten times more oxygen into the atmosphere and absorbs nearly ten times more carbon dioxide (a major contributor to global warming).


Despite the massive destruction caused by the soybean industry, you never hear people crying out against the use of soybean oil. You don't see the CSIP or the Friends of the Earth attacking the soybean industry for destroying the environment. Why is that? Why are the environmental and consumer advocate groups mysteriously quiet about soy, yet violently active against the palm oil industry? The answer is power, money, and influence. The soybean industry is very rich and powerful. They know how to manipulate the media and these special interest groups and use them as unknowing puppets. They feed them lies, half-truths, and misconceptions in order to con them and the public.

In the following months and years you will no doubt hear many graphic reports depicting how palm oil cultivation is destroying the earth, contributing to greenhouse gases, and driving animals into extinction. The truth is that palm oil cultivation has only a minor impact on the environment. Most of the cultivation is done in a very environmentally friendly manner. So don't be fooled. The real danger is coming from the soybean industry. It took us over two decades to realize the harm the soybean industry caused to our health with the replacement of tropical oils with hydrogenated soybean oil. Let's not make another mistake with the environment.



Severson, K. Clues on labels reveal hidden trans fats. The San Francisco Chronicle July 31, 2002.

Wallace, S. Last of the Amazon. National Geographic 2007;211:40-71.

Lehman, S. Brazil says Amazon deforestation is down. USA Today December, 7, 2007.






The following article is reprinted from Global Oils & Fats Business Magazine, Oct.-Dec. 2006.







Challenge the Critics

Stand up, speak out...the oil palm sector has much to tell the world

By Leslie Davidson


In the UK, the media constantly bombards readers with information (or more frequently with misinformation) on the 'evil effects' of the oil palm industry.

The attacks appear to have increased over the past year. Every other day, we see television programmes or newspaper articles such as 'Oil for Ape Scandal', 'Orangutan versus Oil Palm' or 'Greasy Palms' or 'Evil Oil'.

The Internet is full of postings urging environmentally aware people not to consume palm oil. These attacks are often inspired and orchestrated by nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) like Friends of the Earth or Greenpeace.

Many people are, of course, passionately concerned about hunger and poverty in poorer countries. Understandably, they have been influenced by the adverse publicity surrounding palm oil and have come to believe that it ranks somewhere close to the Black Death in its evil consequences for the human race.

Some of my environmentally conscious neighbours in the village where I live also feel the same way. Even those who have visited Malaysia on holiday come back with the idea that the country is swamped with 'seried ranks of sterile oil palms'.

Unless further action is taken, the widespread antipathy in Europe will in the long term have an effect on the market for palm oil. The current campaign to ban the use of bio-fuel derived from palm oil is an example of the damage that could occur.

I believe that it is vital to the industry that it understands the reasons for the antipathy and that it continues to take action to put the record straight.

Having worked in the plantation industry for many years prior to my retirement, I find myself frequently put into the position of having to defend the oil palm industry, against the mountain of lies and uninformed criticism which is being fed to the public.

With this in mind, the letters exchanged between a university student and me since she started her course in development studies might be of some interest.




Dear Beth,


I find much of the media criticism very puzzling. There seems almost to be an unreasoning blind hysteria about it, based on complete distortion of the facts.

I am very proud of having worked in the oil palm industry in different parts of the world for many years. It seems to me that the oil palm provides the answer to many of the problems which you have highlighted, rather than being their cause.

I wonder why the UK public are not supporting the industry to the hilt rather than opposing it so vociferously. I wonder if you can expand on your views so that we can see why our conceptions are so different.


Best wishes,

Leslie Davidson


A  palm plantation is rich in vegetation.



Dear Beth,


Many of the problems with the heavily subsidised farming in Europe are due to poor management. However the solution to poor management is surely better management, not a retreat to the farming practices of the Middle Ages.

The old-fashioned farming system which you and Prince Charles advocate, while very attractive at first sight, has an insuperable snag. It is less productive, especially if it is 'organic'. If we applied it worldwide, it could only feed 4 billion of the present world population of 6 billion (Buringh & Heemst 1977). What are we going to do with the other 2 billion people? To return to old fashioned farming we would need to return to old-fashioned population levels.

Incidentally, I would challenge the claim that fewer peasants mean less food. I would go so far as to say that fewer peasants mean more food. In China, the number of peasants has dropped since 1978, from 80% to 50%. At the same time, through intensive farming (breeding, mechanisation and improved husbandry), food production has doubled (Hu & Khan 1997).

To turn to your comments on plantations, palm oil is not a lubricant. It is in fact an extremely nutritious food. In spite of the recent publicity, the total production of biofuel from Malaysia this year is expected to be only 90,000 tonnes, or less than 1% of its total palm oil production (MPOB Europe).

Over the last three decades, in spite of opposition from some NGOs and from soybean producers in the US, the oil palm industry has provided the largest and fastest increase in world food supplies in history. It has played a huge role in combating hunger. The output from Malaysia alone is sufficient to provide the total calorific requirements of more than 165 million people per year.


Best wishes,

Leslie Davidson

Dear Beth,


You would be unwise to put any reliance on newspaper reports or on what you read on the Web. A quick check will reveal statements by people who have been abducted by aliens or by others who declare that the earth was created at 2.30pm in 4566 BC! Some of the statements you have quoted are little better.

Let us have a look at some facts instead:


1. The oil palm industry worldwide is responsible for only 3% of the forest cleared annually (Henson & Chan 2003). The other 97% is cleared for annual crops like soybean, or by subsistence farmers. This hardly makes the oil palm a 'Key driver of rainforest destruction'.


2. The total area of tree-cover in Malaysia amounts to an amazing 63.6% (FAO 2005). It seems to me the height of hypocrisy for NGOs in UK, where only 11.8% of the land area is under forest, to tell Malaysia that it must not fell any more forests.



3. The threat to forests is far greater from other crops than from oil palm. In Brazil, the area of soybean expanded by nearly 5 million ha from 2001-04 (Corley 2004).



4. The oil palm is a much more efficient producer of vegetable oil than any other oil crop. Typical yields in tonnes of oil/ha are: oil palm 3.68; rapeseed 0.59; sunflower seed 0.42; soybean 0.36.  Palm oil actually accounts for 28% of the world's output of vegetable oils from only 4% of the world's planted area of oil crops (Oil World 2006).


To put this in another way, to produce the present volume of 14 million tonnes of vegetable oil by any other oilseed crop would require the felling of much of Malaysia's jungle reserves.  Given that the world needs to increase its food production to feed the additional 2 million who are estimated to arrive in the next 20 years (most of them in Asia) without wiping out the remaining forests, we should be looking for the most efficient use of land. It can be fairly claimed therefore that the oil palm is the best crop to preserve both the jungle and the wild life.  The NGOs' slogan should be 'Save Forests, Plant Oil Palm'.


A pigmy elephant in a palm plantation.  Native

wildlife lives and roams freely in a palm plantation.


5. In your "worst case scenario", Sabah's 1 million ha of oil palm represents not 50% of its land area as your blogger claimed, but only 13%. Incidentally over Malaysia as a whole, the 4.05 million ha of oil palm covers only 12% of the land area (MPOC).  Coincidentally this is the same as 12.1% of UK land area under cereals alone (John Nix 2006).


6. The change in the Sabah weather pattern which you mention is simply untrue. Rainfall records from the east coast of Sabah show that from 1970 to 2000, there was actually a slight increase in the annual precipitation (Pamol records). Also no primary jungle went on fire in Sabah in 1997. This is yet another lie. The fires were in Kalimantan, Indonesia, and caused largely by smallholders and settlers.


Rain showers over a palm plantation.


7. As regards animal extinctions, the figure of 50% is ridiculous.  This would amount to the disappearance of around 1.5 million different species. I saw the 50% figure quoted in The Times by a Greenpeace supporter. I wrote to the paper offering to pay £1,000 to charity if the writer could produce firm evidence of even one single species becoming extinct in the last 20 years. We do, however, have indisputable evidence that the clearing of the UK forests has caused the extinction of many species such as wolves, bears, moose and beavers. My letter was not published. Another instance of hypocrisy?


Three years ago, the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was set up as co-operative venture between the Malaysian oil palm industry, Unilever and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).  I think it points the way towards better understanding in future between the industry, NGOs and the UK public.  I hope this letter gives you some hard facts for your essay. I will leave you with a very slightly amended quotation by Jonathan Swift which might be useful: "Whosoever can make two ears of corn grow where only one grew before, deserves better of mankind than all the NGOs put together".


Yours sincerely,

Leslie Davidson


Leslie Davidson, a retired planter and former chairperson of the Tropical Growers Association, won the 1992 World Vision Award for Development Initiative, for pioneering Sabah's oil palm industry and his contribution to introducing the pollinating insect E. Kamerunicus to Malaysia.




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