Blow to Malaysian palm oil industry as UK bans advert 2 November 2009

Oil palms planted on recently-deforested land, Sarawak
Oil palms planted on recently-deforested land, Sarawak
© M Ross/ Survival

– Penan tribe in Borneo welcomes ban

An advert for Malaysian palm oil has been banned in the UK, dealing a major blow to the credibility of Malaysia’s palm oil industry. Members of the hunter-gatherer Penan tribe in Borneo have welcomed the ban, saying, ‘Oil palm plantations have not benefited us at all; they have only robbed us of our resources and land.’

The Penan live in Sarawak, in the Malaysian part of Borneo, and are fighting to stop the forests they rely on being cut down to make way for oil palm plantations. Survival is calling on the Malaysian government to halt plantations and logging on their land without their consent.

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority banned the magazine advert, placed by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council. The advert claimed that Malaysian palm oil was ‘sustainable’ and contributed to ‘the alleviation of poverty, especially amongst rural populations.’

The advertising regulator ruled that these and other claims made in the advert were misleading and could not be substantiated.

Members of the Penan tribe who have already lost much of their land to oil palm plantations said today:

‘Our people welcome the ban on the magazine advert by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council. How come the advert claimed that palm oil helps alleviate poverty, when from the very beginning oil palm plantations have destroyed our source of livelihood and made us much poorer? A lot of people are hungry every day because our forest has been destroyed.’

Oil palm plantations and logging are destroying the forests the Penan hunt and gather in, and polluting the rivers they fish in. Without their forests they have difficulty finding enough food.

Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Claims that Malaysian palm oil is green and people-friendly will not wash, especially with the Penan. The industry’s expansion onto their land is a disaster.’

Palm oil is used in many everyday grocery products, and is increasingly being used for biofuel.

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