This is written by my colleague Rupa Damodaran.
MALAYSIA is doing the right thing to address the ongoing scathing attacks against the palm oil industry in Europe but it needs to be in the forefront to ensure that information is provided early, a visiting British member of the European Parliament said.
“While the government and the Malaysian Palm Oil Council may be working hard (to counter the allegations and claims) there are dozens of major organisations preaching the contrary message.
"It does need a professional approach to providing the information,” he said in an interview in Putrajaya yesterday.
Helmer, who sits on European Parliament’s temporary committee on climate change and the European conservatives and reformists group, said many do not know the approaches Malaysia and Indonesia had taken in developing oil palm and tend to believe the allegations on deforestation and destruction of orangutan habitat.
A person based in Brussels will be able to identify the points where Malaysia can exert pressure. “When the European Commission is thinking about some plan of policy, that is best time to get in and say to the commission the other side of the story to what Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth may have."
Helmer was in Putrajaya for the "Reach & Teach Friends of the Industry seminar: Challenges and Opportunities in 2011".
Helmer described environmental NGOs as "agents of the state", receiving large sums of funding to support their campaigns and activities. According to him, the European Commission alone had provided more than 60 million euros to these pressure groups through a programme called LIFE+.
“The driving priority of the various NGOs is to have free funding and keep their media profile high so that people want to talk to them, by creating scares and also creating scapegoats. They decided palm oil is a terrible thing and decided it drives deforestation and threatens habitat like the iconic orangutan, that it is a food crop and therefore wrong to convert to biofuel.
“There is no easy way of doing that except for a public information programme focused on like minded MPs and I think that is already working.” he explained.
The European Union gives far too much emphasis to "participative democracy" using the NGOs and taking advice from them, he added.
But that is set to change and people in the UK and the US no longer believe human activity is the main cause for climate change. "People in the UK are getting upset with wind farms and are getting tired of price of gasoline and diesel. They are seeing green policies as an excuse to raise taxes and exert more control," Helmer said.