PETALING JAYA, Jan 13 – A researcher has come out in support of the country’s palm oil industry, accusing the Western edible oil industry of launching a concerted campaign against it.
Wong Ang Peng, a researcher at the Dr Rath Research Institute, said the West was now trying to link palm oil with heart disease following its criticism of the deforestation and environmental destruction associated with the industry.
Wong, who specialises in research on heart disease, said a recent report on the palm oil industry was aimed at “sensationalising” the issue.
He added that the report had “jumbled the points – palm oil with the processed food industry, trans fats and food labelling”.
He also criticised a World Health Organisation study that claimed, among others, that the oil palm industry employed tactics similar to those of the tobacco and alcohol industry to influence research on the health benefits of palm oil products.
He hit out at the authors of the study, which was cited in the report.
“Little attempt was made to argue on how palm oil was linked to heart disease other than mere citation of published works,” he said in a statement.
“Nine out of 10 pages made general discussion on commerce, trade, marketing, supply chain, lobbying by the palm oil industry, and the environment. Only one page focused on health in general, although at the beginning the article hinted and made references to heart disease.”
Adding that it was a “poorly designed” study, Wong said the authors’ arguments on the cause of heart disease was based on outdated theories.
“The authors should have based their studies on the latest scientific arguments on the causative factors of heart disease, and not relied on outdated the WHO and FAO 2003 report linking palm oil consumption with increased risk of cardiovascular disease,” he said.
The report had also come under fire from Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok, who said it was irresponsible and unprofessional as it damaged the image and reputation of palm oil without taking into account research carried out by other authorities.
She said it was a tactic to discredit the image of palm oil and to support the European Union in its campaign to ban the entry of palm oil into their markets.
Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail recently said that the livelihoods of at least 650,000 smallholders and approximately three million people depended on palm oil production in Malaysia.
“A potential boycott could deprive these people of jobs and a decent life, including women’s access to resources within the industry,” she said at a recent summit.