Labelling bill unfair, Aussies told

This is written by my colleague Roy See Wei Zhi.


KUALA LUMPUR: The Food Standards Amendment (Truth in Labelling -- Palm Oil) Bill 2010, if passed by the Australian House of Representatives, would undermine the country's palm oil exports to Australia -- a central pillar of the Malaysian economy.

Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) chief executive officer Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron testified at the Australian House Standing Committee on Economics, highlighting the importance of the industry to the Malaysian economy and how the bill would have detrimental effect on various sectors if passed.

In August, Yusof said the bill directly targeted the Malaysian palm oil industry, which would affect almost 100 per cent of all palm oil products exported to Australia. Incidentally, these exports account for 9.3 per cent of Malaysia's gross domestic product.

The bill had also previously been expanded to non-food palm oil products, which meant that it was no longer a "food labelling" bill. Yusof said the bill was discriminatory because it singled out palm oil and not other vegetable-based oils.

The discrimination would directly affect the livelihood of almost one million Malaysians who were involved in the growing, harvesting, packing and logistics of palm oil products.

Yusof argued that the singling of Malaysian palm oil products from other food products also violated several principles of the World Trade Organisation as well as terms of the Asean-Australia-New Zealand free trade agreement.

The bill would undo the efforts taken over many years to bring Australian and Malaysian trade relations and bilateral ties closer.

Yusof said the bill would also have adverse effects on Australian consumers as there were costs associated with the label changing exercise, estimated at between A$5,000 (RM15,000) and A$15,000 per product.

The products affected in the Australian market by the label change are numbered in the thousands.

Yusof said claims by environmental groups that the oil palm industry had a huge negative impact on the natural environment were without basis.

The bill was the work of environmental non-governmental organisations with the aim of gaining a monopoly on the palm oil supply chain by promoting their own certification scheme for "sustainable" palm oil.

Also, claims by Australian forest conservation groups that Malaysia had been practising rampant deforestation for oil palm plantations were hypocritical and unsubstantiated.

Ironically, the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organisation reported that Australia's rate of deforestation was at a rate five times greater than Malaysia.

Concluding his presentation, Yusof said the labelling exercise which discouraged palm oil product consumption would undermine conservation efforts in Malaysia, such as the Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund, as it supported the enforcement of environmental laws, wildlife sanctuaries and reserves.

The full report can be accessed at www.theoilpalm.org, an online resource initiative by the MPOC.

One Response to Labelling bill unfair, Aussies told

  1. To win the trade fight against environmental activists who are funded by European rapeseed farmers, car manufacturers and oil companies — it’s more of courage, communication skill and immaculate execution of political strategies.

    We can pour a lot of money into international PR companies' pockets but our brains is the strongest weapon.

    In protecting our own interests, we cannot afford to outsource anymore. Just like in nurturing and educating our own children, we cannot outsource the duty to maids or babysitters.

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