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A’lian gov against palm oil labeling

This is written by my colleague Zaidi Ismail.

PUTRAJAYA: The Australian government does not support a Bill being proposed by some of its lawmakers to label palm oil on food ingredients.

In a statement yesterday, Australia’s Trade Minister Dr Craig Emerson said the Bill is anti-trade in nature and could jeopardise trade relations between Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia. Currently, Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s top two palm oil producers, respectively.

“This bill will also burden food producers which have to fork out A$150 million (RM471 million) a year to label the food items as well as cause a trade war between the three countries,” said Emerson.

Australia’s opposition parties are trying to pass a law called “Food Standards Amendment (Truth in Labelling – Palm Oil) Bill 2011. It is now at the Australian parliament at the House of Representatives before it may be passed as late as April 2012. The law requires food manufactures to prominently highlight palm oil in a negative connotation on the food label, if it contains palm oil.

Malaysia and Indonesia are enraged because the law is discriminatory, in that it does not require other edible oils such as rapeseed, soyabean and other oils to do the same. This way, non-governmental organisations can single out food companies that use palm oil and campaign against them by saying that planting oil palms destroy the habitat of orang utans.

Meanwhile, Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said Malaysia is still continuing the crusade by organising several more oil palm seminars in Australian cities over the next few months. 

“This Bill is discriminatory and if passed as law, we will take it up at the next option which is to bring it up at the World Trade Organisation level,” he said.

On another note, Dompok said the B5 biodiesel (a blend of 95 per cent diesel, 5 per cent palm methyl esther) will be available at all petrol stations nationwide by early next year.

Launched in stages since June this year, biodiesel is now only available in the central region and used mainly by government vehicles. “Oil companies are making preparations right now to set up the facilities and I don’t think it will take them a year to set up the infrastructure.”

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