Although palm oil is the most produced oil in the world, the general public is unaware of what sustainable palm oil is all about. That was the premise of Dr. Ruslan Abdullah’s presentation during a sustainability debate that took place during the digital 2021 Palm Oil Trade Show. Abdullah is the Director, Science & Environmental Division for the Malaysian Palm Oil Council. 

Rather than being held to ever-changing sustainability standards, Abdullah called for sustainable palm oil to be held accountable on a level playing field with its competitors such as soy, canola and corn oils.

He also outlined the benefits of sustainable palm oil for people, industry and the planet. Those benefits include an improved standard of living, employment, poverty eradication and national economic development while at the same time adhering to sustainable principles and criteria, good agricultural practices, contributing to biodiversity conservation, and improving awareness and responsibility of industry and consumers for the welfare of our planet. 

Abdullah described some of the misinformation that must still be addressed. For example, while the public may blame palm oil-producing countries for forest burning, the reality is that Italy had 90% more fires compared with 2015; fires in Indonesia and Malaysia were down 90% and 50% respectively for the same time period. 

Further, he warned that boycotting palm oil would result in greater deforestation and increased pesticide use, while there would be a corresponding decrease in rural development.