Margaret just put up a great post on this blog about faulty advertising by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC). In following this story as it bounces around the net, I was pointed to a statement released by Yusof Basiron, the CEO of MPOC. In it, he attacks the Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority (or ASA – the government agency that regulates advertising) for not allowing the general public to be exposed to the full range of viewpoints on palm oil:
Consumers have a right to have information about the various products and services available to them and a right to determine for themselves which they want.
That is a statement everyone can agree with. But what Basiron did not do is attempt to support his advert’s misinformation and false science. The ASA ruled that MPOC released an ad that was not factual, and that is what Basiron should be refuting. But clearly he can not. This is not the first time that MPOC and Basiron has said some surprising things. Just a few months ago, Basiron claimed that orangutans actually benefit from oil palm plantations, a claim that has been refuted by many published papers showing that palm oil is a key driver of the orangutans’ steady decline towards extinction. For years now, the MPOC has been throwing around the term ‘sustainable’ for their palm oil producers, who have been busily destroying forests and uprooting cultures. It seems that MPOC wants us to believe that just because the palm trees they plant are green, so are their business practices.
Barison has his own blog, and it is informing to read his perspective on ‘anti-developing country environmentalists’, as he refers to them. When it comes to sustainability, he argues because the MPOC “…is among the first to consciously apply R&D, licensing and registration activities…” to make the oil palm a viable industry, and “The dictionary states that viability and sustainability roughly have similar meanings” then the oil palm industry must be sustainable. If it was only that easy.