Malaysian palm oil struggles to promote ‘green’ image
Report by AFP

KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia (AFP) — Malaysia is promoting its controversial palm oil industry as a model of eco-friendliness, but activists warn forests are still being destroyed to make way for vast plantations.

As palm oil prices boom, Malaysia has mounted a campaign to counter allegations that the crop is responsible for habitat destruction, air pollution from slash-and-burn farming, and pushing orangutans towards extinction.

It insists palm oil is only grown on legal agricultural land and that criticisms are an attempt by competitors in Europe and the United States to undermine growing demand for the commodity.

But environmentalists say that while virgin rainforests are now off-limits, tracts designated as “secondary forests”, which are also valuable habitats teeming with wildlife, are not being spared.

Junaidi Payne from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said the government’s stance is misleading and that the race to fulfil demand for palm oil risks causing further deforestation, both legal and illegal.

[Read the complete report on why Borneo forest destruction remains despite effort to go green palm oil]

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