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Natural Health And The Panacea Of Red Palm Oil
by Tomas DiFiore
Saturday Nov 21st, 2015 6:15 PM
Deforestation: Consume In Moderation - While the continued yearly burning of Indonesian forests and peatlands for palm plantations creates regional health hazards, new advertizing claims of red palm oil promote the health benefits to niche markets for optimum health and energy bars. And while global transnationals commit to futuristic Zero-deforestation pledges, there is also a trend of corporate restructuring and large global land grabs to increase the plantation base. Don't be confused, red palm oil is the cruel oil, the conflict oil you've heard so much about. Restaurants with a deep fat fryer are most likely using the cheaper vegetable oil – a canola and red palm oil blend available through restaurant suppliers.
Natural Health And The Panacea Of Red Palm Oil

“Red Palm Oil, the staple oil in the Africa and Asia continents, naturally contains unique phytonutrients proven to be beneficial to human health. The oil palm (Elaeis guineensis), from which red palm oil is derived contains the phytonutrients tocotrienols (vitamin E), mixed carotenoids, phytosterols, squalene and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Of these, the tocotrienols and carotenoids in particular, are proven to confer health benefits such as potent cardioprotection, neuroprotection and skin nutrition; as mentioned by Dr. Mehmet Oz in his recent TV program, where he called it his most miraculous find in 2013 to address the aging process.”

“Red palm oil is a natural plant source of carotenes in terms of retinol (vitamin A) equivalents, providing 7,000 retinol equivalents (RE) per 100 grams. This is about 17 times as much beta-carotene as carrots, in terms of retinol equivalents. Some carotenoids, such as beta-carotene and alpha-carotene, act as precursors of vitamin A.”

While, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin are carotenoids that do not have vitamin A activity, they have other health-promoting properties. “The primary forms of carotenoids in red palm oil are beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, gamma-carotene and lycopene. Palm oil contains the highest alpha-carotene level among all the plant sources.”

“There are four main commercial sources of carotenoids, namely synthetic beta-carotene, algae’s beta-carotene, fermentative beta-carotene and palm carotenoids. Synthetic beta-carotene is an artificial colorant containing only a single form of isomer (trans beta-carotene). The algae and fermentative beta-carotenes also predominantly contain a single isomer which is more than 96 percent beta-carotene, and thus, neither are a true mixed carotenoids complex.”

Already, palm fruit carotenoids are widely used in the fat- and dairy-processing industry to standardize the color of margarine, butter and ghee; and as a natural colorant in confectionery and convenience foods; and to replace synthetic colorants in the beverage industry.

The Global Media Pumps A New Commodity

“Vitamin E, synthetic or natural, is widely used in the cosmetic/personal care industry. The main reason for the use of vitamin E was for its antioxidant properties in the protection of skin against the onslaught of free radicals or oxidative stress caused by chemical insult and UV rays in our daily atmosphere. Most of the vitamin E used in cosmetic is mainly of the tocopherol form (synthetic and natural forms).”

“Research shows tocotrienols are beneficial to consumers who want to maintain healthy brain (neuroprotection), blood lipid levels, arterial compliance (by reducing arterial stiffness), liver health, skin nutrition and immune protection.” The research on tocotrienols in the protection of skin is fairly new and only within the last 15 years. “The Incredible Health Benefits of Red Palm Oil” published January 23, 2015

Crude Palm Oil Markets: Biodiesel And Red Palm Oil In Packaged Foods

“Crude or virgin red palm fruit oil should be regarded as one of the most nutritious edible oils in the world. It is not to be confused with palm kernel oil. It is derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis) and is referred to as "red palm oil" because of its rich dark red color in its unprocessed natural state. Palm kernel oil is derived from the seed or the kernel.”

“Palm fruit oil contains mainly palmitic and oleic acids and is about 50% saturated, while palm kernel oil contains mainly lauric acid and is more than 89% saturated. The general assumption that kernel oil and palm fruit oil are one in the same may have lead to one of the greatest oversights in modern nutrition. Even when you account for the marginally higher levels of medium chain triglyceride (MCT) levels that coconut oil has over palm, it is once again the carotenoid and tocotrienol antioxidants that give it a significant health advantage over coconut oil.”

I think someone is purposely trying to confuse the consumer. The main driver of deforestation for palm plantations is palm oil. Period. Aside from differentiating the processes, think about it. The palm fresh fruit bunches (FFB), are comprised of the palm kernel surrounded by the fleshy mesocarp of the fruit and the skin – not that different from other fruits – apricots, avocados, etc. The FFB are trucked to local plantation owned mills, the crude palm oil is then trucked to facilities near ports and later exported by tanker to mills like those of Sime Darby, IO Cochlan's or Neste, which are huge industrial complexes for separating and refining, based in consumer countries (including China, Europe, Brazil, Venezuela.) There are crude palm oil or red palm oil refineries and biodiesel plants across Indonesia and Malaysia.

The large NGO's which have kept our focus on the activities of the food and cosmetics companies – as well as the supply chain - had to find ways to make the connection between consumption and deforestation personal to the consumer. This was a necessary strategy, in a global effort seeking to demand corporate social responsibility. With all the global attention, the oil palm industry's sales volume dropped, and the price for palm oil, plummeted. Industry expansion into new markets beyond personal consumption in food products and cosmetics led to biodiesel mandates which subsequently were legislated in country by country, in an effort to meet proposed national GHG reduction levels by 2020, and the deforestation increased.

Contrary to the confusion portrayed in “one of the greatest oversights in modern nutrition” - throughout the world, International human rights organizations are teamed with local indigenous land rights groups and civil society organizations, environmental NGOs, along with individuals and journalists, who continue to voice concerns calling for an end to deforestation, respect for human rights, and an end to land grabbing. Among the oversights in modern nutrition are the hungry, and internally displaced populations due to theft of land.

For anyone who still believe in Sustainable Palm Oil Certification by the Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)? Please read this NEW REPORT:
“Who Watches The Watchmen? Auditors And The Breakdown Of Oversight In The RSPO,”

“The allegations detailed in this new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Malaysia-based NGO Grassroots cast doubt on the credibility of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s (RSPO) network of auditors, a vital component of the organization’s certification process and its primary contact with oil palm growers on the ground. The report, titled, “Who Watches The Watchmen? Auditors And The Breakdown Of Oversight In The RSPO,” uncovered evidence of RSPO-approved auditors conducting “substandard assessments” on repeated occasions and, at times, apparently colluding with oil palm companies to cover up serious violations of the organization’s standards.”

-While global transnationals commit to futuristic Zero-deforestation pledges, there is also a trend of corporate restructuring and large land grabs to increase the plantation base.
-While the continued yearly burning of Indonesia forests and peatlands for palm plantations creates regional health hazards, new advertizing claims of red palm oil promote the health benefits to niche markets for optimum health and energy bars.

Palm Fruit Oil Is Red Palm Oil

“The palm fruit oil contains less cholesterol-lowering long-chain omega-3 fatty acids than fish oil. Health benefits of fish oil come mainly from its high levels of omega-3 essential fatty acids known as EPA and DHA. Fish oils feature some of the most wide-reaching health benefits, and far and away have the most robust science to back claims related to heart, brain, and immune health.”

Deforestation: Consume In Moderation

“What red palm oil contains, however, is a lot of medium-chain and short-chain fatty acids, both of which scientists recognize as healthy for us and necessary in moderation. Even when you account for the marginally higher levels of medium chain triglyceride (MCT) levels that coconut oil has over palm, it is once again the carotenoid and tocotrienol antioxidants that give it a significant health advantage over coconut oil.”

The Panacea Of Palm Oil

Have you heard? “Studies show that adding palm oil into the diet can remove plaque build-up in arteries and, therefore, reverse the process of plaque and prevent blockages. In fact, studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have shown that a natural form of vitamin E called alpha tocotrienol, which is the form found in high amounts in red palm fruit oil, can help reduce the effects of stroke by 50% by protecting your brain's nerve cells.”

“Removing plaque is not the only way red palm oil may protect against strokes and heart attacks. Red palm oil can also improve cholesterol values and also helps maintain proper blood pressure. Science now understands that inflammation in the artery lining is what warrants cholesterol to deposit in the first place. So, it makes sense that the protective effects come from the high antioxidant, antiinflammatory content of the red palm oil which works to quench free radicals and keep inflammation under control. The antioxidant power of red palm oil can be of help in protecting against a variety of health problems, including osteoporosis, asthma, cataracts, macular degeneration, arthritis, and liver disease. It can even slow down the premature aging processes by protecting the skin against damaging UV rays.”

“Nothing ages us faster than being overweight. And, where traditional fats and oils like margarine, or other vegetable oils take a long time to break down for energy and are eventually stored as fat, red palm oil goes straight to liver and ignites metabolism. That means you'll burn calories from fat much faster.”

“Tocotrienols are a superior form of vitamin E (40 to 60 times more powerful than tocopherols) that control free radicals and inflammation (the primary cause of heart disease). Tocotrienols are also powerful anti-cancer agents that help ward off cancers of the skin, stomach, pancreas, liver, lung, colon, prostate and breast.”

“Red palm oil is an overall immune system tonic that improves liver detoxification and can help treat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NFLAD). It protects against osteoporosis and arthritis. Both tocotrienols and mixed carotenes naturally accumulate in the outermost layer of the epidermis, thereby shielding hair and skin from harmful ultraviolet rays.”

“Even though red palm oil is high in saturated fat, it actually helps prevent and reverse heart disease. Studies have shown that palm oil breaks down plague buildup in the arteries and prevents blockages from forming.”

And finally... “No health statistic has revealed West Africans, whose diet for the past 5,000 years has included palm oil, are more susceptible to high levels of cholesterol or heart disease than any other population.”

That's my favorite advertisement promoting the health benefits of red palm oil.

Palm Oil: Red Or Refined, The Deforestation Is The Same

The Berkeley Wellness Center take on the crisis is presented briefly:
Q: Is red palm oil as “miraculous” as Dr. Oz says?

A: Hardly. Like so many of Dr. Oz’s endorsements, this one is supported by amazingly little scientific evidence. He claims that red palm oil can fight heart disease, as well as battle belly fat and stop aging “inside and out.” It’s also supposed to prevent dementia, liver disease, bone loss and so on. Red palm oil “may very well be the most miraculous find of 2013,” he declared on his TV show.

Red palm oil, also available in capsules, is simply minimally processed palm oil, derived from the fruit of Southeast Asian and African palm trees. It has the same fatty acid profile as refined palm oil, meaning that it’s high in both saturated and monounsaturated fats. But unlike refined palm oil, red palm oil is rich in carotenoids, including alpha carotene, beta carotene and lycopene, which give it the orange-red color.

“According to a paper published this year in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, red palm oil also contains vitamin E and heart-healthy sterols, while other recent papers have noted its phenolic compounds and high antioxidant capacity. Some research has shown that consuming red palm oil increases blood carotenoid levels and improves antioxidant status.”

“But that’s true of many plant foods. Moreover, none of this proves that red palm oil has medical benefits and will, for example, reduce the risk of heart disease. In fact, a 2003 study in Biomedical and Environmental Sciences found no changes in blood cholesterol, for good or bad, in Chinese men who consumed the oil for six weeks. Overall, there are too few human studies on the effects of palm oil (red or refined) to know if it is detrimental, neutral or beneficial to the heart (or anything else).”

“There is no need to supplement your diet with red palm oil. There are better ways to get carotenoids (colorful fruits and vegetables) and vitamin E (whole grains, seeds and nuts). Plus, there is growing concern that palm oil production is leading to deforestation and destruction of orangutan habitats in Malaysia and Indonesia. You’d be wise to be skeptical about all of Dr. Oz’s so-called miracles.” (07262013)

More from the Berkeley Wellness Center On Palm Oil:

Palm oil sometimes is confused with palm kernel oil, but in fact is different, being derived from the mesocarp of the palm fruit rather than the center kernel. Palm oil contains much less saturated fat than palm kernel oil or coconut oil. Palm kernel oil is used mainly in oleochemical (detergent/surfactant) industry and not as an edible or cooking oil. Palm oil, on the other hand, is used worldwide (more than 100 countries) for cooking and other food preparations. Palm oil is currently the number two edible oil in the world.

1. Palm oil is made up of 50% unsaturated fats. It is not totally saturated and the saturated fatty acids present are palmitic (90%) and stearic (10%). Stearic acid does not elevate blood cholesterol, and palmitic acid does not raise blood cholesterol level in people whose blood cholesterol level is in normal range.

2. The vitamin E, particularly the tocotrienols present in palm oil can suppress the synthesis of cholesterol in the liver. As a consequence, tocotrienols lower blood cholesterol levels.

3. The position of the saturated and unsaturated fatty acid chains in a triglyceride backbone of the fat molecule determines whether the fat will elevate cholesterol level in the blood. In palm oil, 75% of the unsaturated fatty acid chains are found in position 2 of the carbon atom of the triglyceride backbone molecule. This could explain why palm oil is not cholesterol-elevating.

4. It has an anti-clotting effect and prevents the formation of thrombus in the blood vessels. Studies from the Netherlands in 1988 first demonstrated that palm oil has anti-clotting effects, and is as anti-thrombotic as the highly unsaturated sunflowerseed oil.”

In 1989, a report came out stating that “the vitamin E in palm oil inhibits human platelets from sticking to each other. Other supporting evidence showed that a palm oil diet either increases the production of a hormone that prevents blood-clotting (prostacyclin) or decreases the formation of a blood-clotting hormone (thromboxane). Thus scientific evidence indicates that the palm oil diet is as anti-thrombotic as one based on polyunsaturated oil.”

“Palm Oil does not promote the formation of plaques in the arteries. Atherosclerosis is the thickening and hardening of the walls of the arteries. Fatty deposits or plaques are made up of mainly fats and cholesterol. Atherosclerosis results in the narrowing of the lumen of the arteries, thus inhibiting the flow of blood.”

Notice the key difference in text: The studies state that Palm Oil does not promote the formation of plaques in the arteries. Dr. Oz and the palm oil industry PR want us to believe that “studies show that adding palm oil into the diet can remove plaque build-up in arteries and, therefore, reverse the process of plaque and prevent blockages.”

The Berkeley Wellness Center continues with perspective on relevant medical data.

“Vitamin E exists naturally in eight forms (four tocopherols and four tocotrienols). The tocopherols are best known and have received much more research attention than the tocotrienols. Alpha tocopherol is the main type of vitamin E in the body and is probably the most important and the most often studied. Gamma tocopherol is the main form in food.
1. It acts as an antioxidant; that is, it helps neutralize free radicals (oxygen molecules that can harm cells and may contribute to chronic diseases). It may work synergistically with vitamin C in reducing oxidative stress.
2. It is fat-soluble and can thus be stored in the body.
3. It is measured in milligrams or International Units (IU); the latter are used on supplement labels. The daily Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults is 15 milligrams (about 23 IU). The upper limit is 1,000 milligrams (about 1,500 IU).
4. Deficiency in vitamin E is unknown, except in people with rare genetic disorders or malnutrition, or in preterm infants.”

On a personal note, take responsibility for your own health while being mindful of the crisis of health for so many around the world. Be responsible for giving back to the Earth and not just taking more.

“We should be reducing ALL extracted or isolated oils and oil products in our diets, regardless of how healthy they are claimed to be, and focus instead on whole food sources of healthy fats, like nuts, seeds, avocados, as well as leafy greens, which contain healthy fats, and numerous other plant foods.”

“There is nothing in red palm oil that we cannot get from other sources of nutrition, that may be more in alignment with your body's needs, as well as environmental sustainability. For example, there are many, better suited sources of vitamin A, vitamin E, and healthy fats from whole food sources like colored vegetables, avocados, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds, just to name a few.” (Evita Ochel - writer, speaker, holistic nutritionist, yoga and meditation teacher, web TV host, and author of Healing & Prevention Through Nutrition)

Evita Ochel is the creator of several online publications that feature hundreds of articles and videos, as well as classes and courses to empower individuals to take their health into their own hands and be the change they wish to see.”

Revisiting the Heart Healthy claims:
What if the Trans fat replacement is viewed as an experiment on consumers?

Functional, Economically Viable, Nutritionally Friendly Fats! “Trans Fat Replacement - An Experiment On Consumers” (August 7, 2015) High oleic oils when produced in large quantities, mostly come from genetically modified sunflower, soybean and corn crops. With the increasing demand for monounsaturated fat, the rule change will impact agriculture all the way down to the farm.

“Not only the agriculture industry will be affected, but also the food industry. Using oleic oils as shortening requires a way to solidify them, which can be done by combining them with a fully hydrogenated trans fat free oil or with some palm oil. Food companies are improving their methods to blend oils together and mix their properties in order "to create these functional, economically viable, nutritionally friendly fats for all the food applications that are out there.” (Tom Tiffany, senior technical sales manager, ADM Oils)

Coronary Risks

“Trans fats are associated with heart disease risk, said Ronald Krauss, Director of Atherosclerosis Research at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute. It supports the argument for taking them out of the food supply. While palm oil has largely replaced trans fats in foods, palm oil is a saturated fat like butter, and promotes bad cholesterol. Alas, producing it, is so destructive to rainforests.”

In June 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled that partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) must be phased out of the food supply within three years, as they are associated with heart disease risk. Palm oil has largely replaced trans fats in food since the FDA demanded in 2006 that trans fats labeling of food products containing partially hydrogenated oils. But, palm oil also promotes bad cholesterol and producing it is destructive to rainforests. In the future, customers can expect to see monounsaturated or high oleic oils in their foods. John Swartzberg, professor emeritus at the School of Public Health states it succinctly: “Monounsaturated fat is shown to be associated with good health.”

“The FDA mandated labeling in 2006 - that's really when the industry started a sea change in the oils and fats used in foods. In the future, customers can expect to see monounsaturated or high oleic oils in their foods. This is going to be the next trend. We'll see our consumption of monounsaturated fats going way up.”

Olive Oil Is Purely The Most Popular Of The Mono-unsaturated Fats

Other monounsaturated oils, when produced in large quantities, mostly come from genetically modified sunflower, soybean and corn crops. The genetic modification ensures that these plants produce more of the monounsaturated, oleic oils. We've been working on high oleic soybean oil for years. It will take a couple more years to get to the level that we want and the industry wants, said Dilip Nakhasi, Director of Innovation for Bunge Oils, North America. The sunflower crop was changed about 20 years ago to increase it's oleic content, with Canola oil following suit in the mid-2000s. More recently, farmers are planting high oleic soybean plants.”

Consume It All And Be Heart Healthy Too!

“Even though Americans may find healthier fats and oils in their snack foods compared to a decade ago, that doesn't mean what they're eating is suddenly good for them. If we're still eating buckets full of cookies without the trans fats, were losing sight of what the health issue is. Its not trans versus monounsaturated. Its eating too much of foods that are loaded with sugars and starches with little nutritional value, Krauss said. I'm still concerned about the products that the fats are being taken out as much as the fats themselves.” (article originally published by Gavin Stern (national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk).

Have the health benefits of palm oil been bestowed on the country of origin's regional populations? Hardly... let's look at the “Prevalence of Vitamin A Deficiency in South Asia: Causes, Outcomes, and Possible Remedies”

“Globe trotting health benefits and Programs to 'Develop Targeted Intervention Strategies' proposed to alleviate impacts of world hunger, focus efforts within class structures, particularly the poor of 'developing countries', where socioeconomic position is associated with nutrition knowledge, parent modeling, access to - and availability of food at home (food security). There are indeterminate associations with socioeconomic position such as food environments near schools. Differences in the determinants of eating between socioeconomic groups provide a better understanding of the drivers of socioeconomic disparities in dietary intake.”

“South Asia constitutes one-fifth of the world's population, and many of the nations have been severely affected by malnutrition. Nearly 44-50% preschool children in South Asian regions were affected by severe VAD. Mortality owing to malnutrition and higher prevalence of VAD among neonates and children below 5 years of age in Bangladesh and India constituted one-third of the global mortality rate. Children and pregnant/lactating women are the victims of vitamin A deficiency in South Asian developing countries due to poverty and allied socioeconomic constraints. Insufficient dietary intake of vitamin A is a predominant cause of developing VAD in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.”

“Poorer economies have to pay huge cost in terms of health and productivity. New paradigms clearly define VAD as the most central issue to be addressed on emergent grounds to sustain health and wellbeing of population residing in developing countries.”

“Vitamin A is essentially required in the body to maintain visual system, sustain normal cellular differentiation, develop resistance against infections, and uphold epithelial integrity, red blood cell production, and reproduction. Primary vitamin A deficiency could be attributed to prolonged deprivation of vitamin A-rich foods and is further depleted by diarrhoea, measles, and respiratory infections.”

“Most vitamin A-deficient children live in South-East Asia where 91.5 million preschool children had serum retinol concentrations <0.70 μmol/L, i.e. <20 μg/dL. Moreover, night blindness in preschool children was the highest in South-East Asia (82.4%) compared to very low in Europe (1%) and almost nil (0%) in America

India has the highest prevalence of clinical and subclinical VAD among South Asian countries; 62% of preschool children were reported to be deficient in vitamin A. These dramatic results suggested high mortality rate, leading to an annual 330,000 child deaths. Estimates confirmed 31% to 57% preschool children to be the victims of subclinical VAD. Women of childbearing age excessively suffered from night blindness.”

“Supplementation is the most widely-adopted approach to preventing VAD in Bangladesh, typically focusing children and pregnant women. Vaccination programmes were exploited for vitamin A supplementation; children aged 9-11 months received vitamin A capsules (100,000 IU) at the time of measles vaccination whereas children aged 12-59 months were given 200,000 IU every six months. Literacy level among mothers appeared to be a significant determinant of vitamin A supplementation.”

Africa has the greatest number of preschool-age children affected with night blindness (2.55 million), and corresponds to almost half of the children affected globally. A comparable and high proportion of pregnant women affected by night blindness are in Africa (9.8%) and South-East Asia (9.9%), each of which is estimated to have over 3 million pregnant women affected, or one third of the pregnant women affected globally.

“Fortification of vegetable oil with vitamin A is now a well-established approach to achieving desired results. Fortified vegetable oils do not exhibit any change or safety issue for higher intakes provided the recommended levels of fortification are followed. Mandatory fortification of cooking oils with vitamin A has been a focus of the developing societies to combat VAD, e.g. all oils must be fortified at 33 IU/g and 20 IU/g in Pakistan and India respectively. Edible oil is being fortified in Bangladesh as a strategy for controlling VAD among children and women. The project is much cost-effective and will be beneficial for 90 million children and women in Bangladesh.”

“Vegetable oil fortification with vitamin A is poorly managed because of the absence of any precise surveillance and monitoring system, only a few of the edible oil processors fortify the oil in accordance with the law. This is evident from the presence of considerably varying vitamin A content in fortified oil/ghee brands in Pakistan.” (From “Prevalence of Vitamin A Deficiency in South Asia: Causes, Outcomes, and Possible Remedies”)

The Health Risks Of Poverty Amidst Palm Plantations

Alarmed by reports about a massive land grab taking place in Papua New Guinea (PNG), the Oakland Institute (OI) and the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) undertook research on land investment deals in the country, including sending a research team to the country in February 2013.

“Mineral and oil exports together account for over 60 percent of GDP. The second key sector is agriculture, which accounts for 32 percent of GDP. The main export crops are palm oil, coffee, and cocoa.”

“The unemployment rate in PNG is below 3 percent, one of the lowest rates in the world. The country’s economy is marked by the duality between a formal sector mainly based on large-scale export of natural resources and an informal sector dominated by the subsistence and small-scale agricultural activities of the majority of the rural population. Agriculture provides the livelihood for close to 85 percent of Papua New Guineans.”

Human Development

“The World Bank describes the situation of PNG as a “paradox of wealth without development.” Health indicators are poor, with average life expectancy at 53 years, the infant mortality rate at 49 per 1,000 live births, and a high rate of maternal mortality. One child in every 13 born in PNG will die before the age of five.”

Aggregating Acquisitions vs The Most Equal Distribution Of Land On Earth

Papua New Guinea, is located in the southwest region of the Pacific Basin, it has a total land area of 46.17 million hectares (ha), 40.53 million ha of which is the eastern part of New Guinea Island. The remainder is divided between the larger islands of New Britain, New Ireland, Bougainville, and Manus, as well as over 600 small islands. The country has a population of approximately 6.5 million people who speak a total of over 800 indigenous languages. With around 83 percent of the population living in rural areas, most people still live traditional lifestyles based on small-scale agriculture, hunting, fishing, and gathering. Most people’s cash income comes from the sale of garden produce, food and non-food forest products, and small-scale cash cropping, such as cocoa, coconut, vanilla, betel nut, and coffee farming.

Until 2007, ninety-seven percent of the land of PNG was held under customary rights, meaning it is owned and controlled by the clans and the tribes who live on the land. “Most people live in small communities of a few hundred villagers who maintain intimate relationships with the land and natural resources - forests cover close to 60 percent of the country.” In recent years though, 12 percent of the country (5.5 million hectares) has been leased out to foreign corporations under a government scheme called Special Agriculture and Business Leases (SABLs). “As a result of the SABL framework, PNG has seen a sharp increase in logging and log exports. It is now the second-largest exporter of tropical logs in the world, after Malaysia.”

“In 2011, the PNG government established a Commission of Inquiry into the SABLs that confirmed dire facts about these recent land allocations in PNG. The commission’s findings included widespread lack of free, prior, and informed consent of the local people; failure by state agencies in performing their duties; and fraud, misconduct, and incompetence as well as overall lack of adherence to proper procedures. In many deals, landowners were blatantly misled about the size and the nature of an agribusiness project.”

“On September 18, 2013, Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill tabled the commission’s report in Parliament and stated that it revealed a shocking trend of corruption and mismanagement.” The first priority of the government’s development strategy, is to develop agricultural plantations, primarily palm oil. With this strategy, the government plans to reduce the amount of customary land from 97 percent in 2009 to 80 percent by 2030. “With the SABLs, it has reached its 2020 goal nine years ahead of schedule.”

“Through extensive field research, the Oakland Institute (OI) and the Pacific Network on Globalization (PANG) have examined what development looks like on the island of West New Britain, home to the largest and oldest palm oil plantations in Papua New Guinea. The island is held up as a model for what the government intends for the rest of the country. yet there is no sign of development in the villages that have been cultivating palm oil for several decades. A lack of basic infrastructure and services is a common feature in all villages visited in West New Britain. People have little or no access to safe drinking water, health facilities, nor schools.” Please read “Modern Land Grabs Reversing Independence In Papua New Guinea” PDF – 36 pgs 2.4 MB download:

“The largest palm oil company operating in PNG is New Britain Palm Oil, a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. The company has been praised in some quarters for its efforts to avoid deforestation and for not grabbing land like most of the logging companies. Despite its efforts towards sustainability, the corporation has not brought any
lasting positive improvement in people’s lives.”

(update – On March 2, 2015, Sime Darby Plantation (SDP), the plantation arm of Sime Darby Berhad, completed the acquisition of New Britain Palm Oil Limited (NBPOL). The purchase of NBPOL adds 135,000 hectares of land in Papua New Guinea, to Sime Darby's total oil palm land bank, now almost one million hectares spread out in five countries.)

“Nearly one-third of the country’s 46 million hectares are now in the hands of foreign corporations, mostly for logging. At the current rate of deforestation, the PNG Forest Authority estimates that by 2021, 83 percent of accessible forest areas will be gone or severely damaged. Given the population’s heavy dependence on the forest, the human toll is barely measurable. This loss would affect the livelihoods of millions of rural people.”

“PNG is one of the few countries where the poverty level has been increasing in recent decades. In 2006, an estimated 39 percent of Papua New Guineans lived on less than $1 per day, up from 25 percent in 1996. Over that same time period, the number of people living below the national poverty line rose from 37 percent to 53 percent. The proportion of the PNG population who live in households where the real value of consumption per adult equivalent is below the poverty line is 39.9 percent.”

"Household food security in PNG is currently considered to be high. Most of the rural population has adequate access to gardening land sufficient to meet their minimum daily calorie requirements. Coffee, copra, cocoa, and palm oil are the most important crops to the PNG economy, accounting for substantial exports. Oil palm production has grown rapidly in PNG over the past 20 years, and it is now the largest agricultural export earner.”

Redistributing the land...
Land Acquisitions In PNG - Special Agricultural And Business Leases

“Between 2003 and 2012, around 5.5 million hectares of customary land passed into the hands of national and foreign corporate entities through Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs) and a legal mechanism known as the lease-leaseback scheme. Over that period, more than 341 leases were signed for 117 projects; many of the leases were for 99 years. One project was larger than 2 million hectares, 11 projects were between 100,000 and 1 million ha. Taken together, these 12 projects represent close to 80 percent of the total area leased under SABLs. The largest 72 leases represent more than 95 percent of the land leased.”

“The 5.5 million hectares leased under SABLs correspond to over 12 percent of PNG’s total land area and more than 16 percent of accessible commercial forests, which means that the area of the country under customary land tenure dropped from 97 percent to 85 percent in just a few years.”

“Though the SABL system is supposed to concern only agricultural projects, many logging companies have used the system to develop and accelerate their felling activities. For many years after its invention, the lease-leaseback scheme was rarely used and, when it was employed, it was generally for smaller areas than what has been seen in recent years. The number of SABLs started to increase after 2003, but it was only after the amendments made to the Forestry Act in 2007 that the number of leases started to grow exponentially.”

“The PNG Forest Authority is the entity that monitors and authorizes logging permits in Papua New Guinea. Prior to the amendments to the Forestry Act in 2007, logging companies had to apply for Forest Management Authorities, permits that could be difficult to obtain, required a rigorous and complex screening process, and required logging companies to negotiate directly with landowners. With the 2007 amendment, logging companies found a loophole in the regulatory system that allowed them to more easily obtain Forest Clearances Authorities, permits that are given almost automatically once the Department of Agriculture and Livestock approved so-called agricultural development projects.”

“While logging has driven the spread of SABLs, oil palm development has been the justification. But only nine SABLs (311,000 ha) are controlled by listed oil palm or biofuel companies. Most companies that hold subleases or development agreements over SABLs have no prior experience with agricultural development. SABLs have resulted in an increase in deforestation of primary forests for oil palm, with potentially the same environmental and social impacts seen in Indonesia and Malaysia. Developing oil palm plantations on primary forest is highly lucrative, as it allows oil palm proponents to profit from the logs felled when forest clearing is carried out prior to planting. The profits from the sale of tropical logs thus pay for the plantation’s establishment.”

“The PNG government established a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to look into the operations of the lease-leaseback scheme in May 2011. The following month, it imposed a moratorium on granting further SABLs and related licenses until the commission reported its findings to the parliament. The commissioners began their hearings in August 2011, and continued to gather evidence until March 2012. The CoI has found that the majority of leases were granted
under threat, intimidation, and bribery, and/or without the free, prior, and informed consent of landowners. More than half of the SABLs were issued without observing due process. According to local groups, only 31 of the 72 largest SABLs had all the necessary documentation in the relevant statutory body’s records. The rights of landowners were not respected in most cases; people had been intimidated, abused, and misinformed, while individuals were bribed or hired to strike deals on behalf of communities.”

“At minimum, 75 percent of the total 5.5 million hectares of land in SABLs are now controlled by foreign-owned corporations, mostly Malaysian and Australian interests. A 2012 study by Greenpeace International showed the figure to be much higher: a number of deals signed by landowner companies and Incorporated Land Groups use the addresses of logging companies as their principle place of business when registering their companies with the PNG Investment Promotion Authority. Several of them use the address of different offices of the Malaysian firm Rimbunan hijau (Rh), the largest logging operator in the country.”

“In its hearings, the CoI identified how the terms of many of the deals signed are largely unfavorable to local communities. The lease documents include clauses that imply massive compensation to the investors in the case local communities decided to terminate a project. Some SABL subleases contain clauses for profit sharing, but as observed by the CoI, historically very few foreign-owned corporations operating in PNG declare profits. The promised development and benefits for the communities generally don’t appear in lease agreements.”
Read more about “Modern Land Grabs Reversing Independence In Papua New Guinea” PDF – 36 pgs 2.4 MB

Jakarta Masterplan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia’s Economic Development

Called The Plantation Plan - inland from Merauke in the south-east corner of West Papua, there was launched the Merauke Integrated Food And Energy Estate (MIFEE) - an ambitious plan for 1.28 million hectares of high-tech agribusiness development, with the aim of restoring Indonesia’s national self-sufficiency in rice and various basic food crops, bringing this vast untamed wilderness under the GPS computer driven plow.

“In 2011 Indonesia produced a two hundred page document outlining its national economic strategy up to 2025. It is an ambitious plan, aiming to place Indonesia within the world’s ten largest economies by 2025. The island of Java is to be further industrialized, while the focus for the rest of the archipelago is to a large extent only extractive and resource industries – mining, plantations and fisheries, albeit with some additional downstream processing to add value. Papua is grouped with Maluku into one of six ‘economic corrridors’ and the key economic activities are copper mining, oil and gas (around Bintuni bay, with a research and development center in Sorong), nickel mining (in Halmahera, North Maluku) and industrial fisheries (based out of Ambon and Sofifi in Maluku) as well as MIFEE.”

“Undeniably MIFEE is one of the most audacious land grabs currently taking place in Indonesia, possibly globally. It is just looking less and less like the high-tech rice estate once promised.”

“People in Merauke, and others who are concerned with the fate of the forests and indigenous Papuans, look at the line of companies waiting to invest in the area and call that MIFEE. It includes some of the largest oil palm and industrial forestry plantations anywhere in Indonesia, as well as plenty of sugar cane.”

“A coalition of organizations requested of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Commission to take action under its Early Warning and Urgent Action procedures to address the dire situation being faced by indigenous people all over Indonesia. For the second time, the specific focus of their concern is the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE), a huge plantations project extending over up to 2.5 million hectares in the Southern part of West Papua.”

“The letter starts by placing conflict over plantations in a wider context of racial discrimination in West Papua. It looks at the failure of Papua’s special autonomy law and so how there has been no protection against ongoing human rights abuses, including the rights of indigenous people to control their traditional territories and resources. It examines evidence of whether the legacy of social and demographic change arising from Indonesian transmigration and economic programs, coupled with state violence, imprisonment and torture, can be considered as meeting definitions of genocide.” Source: “Twenty-seven organizations report MIFEE to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination”

The full submission can be downloaded in English here:

In the letter there is an interesting discussion of “whether plantation development constituted forced labor. The basic argument is that if people’s land, which has always provided their means of support, is taken away from them, and the only choice they are left with is to work as manual labor for the company which has taken over the land. They are often underpaid and working conditions are inadequate. It is noted that in Merauke, few indigenous Papuans who now work for the companies would have chosen that work. If they work as smallholders under these conditions it is clearly an example of feudal serfdom – and if they are laborers would it be too extreme to say this is a modern form of slavery?”

Bloodshed In West Papua - Asian Human Rights Commission
July 19, 2012 MIFEE: “The Stealthy Face of Conflict in West Papua”

“One factor driving continuing conflict is the lucrative appeal of the natural riches that are to be found in and around West Papua: wood, minerals, fish and land. The military, for example, have a financial stake through their private business such as illegal logging, protection rackets around mining areas, or prostitution or gambling outfits, while using the violent conflict to justify their presence. Meanwhile the lure of possibly finding well-paid work continues to
draw many migrants from other parts of Indonesia. This creates tension as native Papuans find themselves stigmatized and marginalized, with no place in the booming economy.”

“This is the story of how resource conflicts are building in the southernmost part of West Papua, as agribusiness companies stealthily invade the forests, leaving its people dispossessed for the claim that 'West Papua can feed Indonesia and the World'.”

“This conflict goes by the name of MIFEE – the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate. It is an ambitious program designed by the former leader of Merauke Regency Johannes Gluba Gebze together with the national government and certain companies. Together they conceived the idea that the flat and fertile land around Merauke would be the ideal location for a major agricultural expansion, guaranteeing Indonesia’s national food security into the future, and establish Indonesia as a food exporter.”

“In the words of the Indonesian President, Merauke would “Feed Indonesia, then feed the world.” allowing for the cultivation of agro-fuel crops as well as food. 50% of the land was designated for rice and other basic food crops, while 20% would be oil palm and 30% sugar cane plantations. A ‘grand design’ was elaborated for efficient, modern agribusiness, which divided the project area into clusters and provided for associated processing facilities.”

Allegedly Apparent Transparency

“There has been limited interest from companies wanting to plant rice or other basic food crops, and those companies that did make such plans complain that there is no-one to foot the bill for the infrastructure development needed.”

“Instead, companies attracted to the area in 2008, 2009 and 2010 are now starting to develop vast oil palm, sugar cane and wood chip plantations. By May 2010 local government data revealed that there were 36 large plantation plans on the table. Those plans are indeed vast. If every company in possession of provisional location permits were to exploit their allocations, the new estates would cover more than two million hectares.”

When Agribusiness Arrives at Your Village…

“The Malind, the indigenous people of Merauke, live in close connection with the forest. Their staple food is the starch of the sago palm which grows in groves in the forest, which they supplement by hunting wild animals. Each person belongs to a clan, which represents an important plant or animal and so connects them to some part of the forest ecosystem. The forest is divided between the different clans for hunting, using a geography based on remembered stories of the ancestors’ journeys.”

“Indonesian law also recognises that local people have collective ownership rights over the forest, which are known as ulayat rights. A company wanting to take control of the land must ensure that it secures the consent of the ulayat holder to be able to use the land. This becomes the first point of conflict. Big companies, experienced in the art of manipulation and deception, and easily able to buy influence and military protection, flex their muscles against villagers who have always allocated land on a collective basis through age old customary practices.”

“The arrival of development brings social breakdown in many subtle ways. Adding to the pressure will be the military and police presence, and the effects of large numbers of migrants from outside Papua who arrive to work on the plantations. The Marind people will be forced to find ways to adapt quickly to new ways of living, or if not, face a life of poverty squeezed between the plantations, the latest victims of the enclosure of land for private economic interests.”

“This is a slow and stealthy conflict, the transformation of such a great expanse of forest into farmland cannot be done overnight, nor can forest people casually leave behind their identity and livelihood to enter this brave new world. The Malind have a long struggle ahead of them, whether they aim to reject the developments entirely or find some way to adjust to life in very different surroundings.”

“On the most basic level many Malind people can expect to face hunger, with their sago forests gone and too poor to buy rice. This is the grand irony of MIFEE, a project that was supposed to ensure the food security of the whole of Indonesia cannot even provide a secure future
for the people in its immediate area.”

“Contributors: Selwyn Moran is an independent translator and researcher based in the UK. Having lived in Indonesia previously, he now tries to disseminate information about environmental and social struggles in Indonesia in the English language. He has prepared a comprehensive briefing on MIFEE” available at:

In another study - “Vitamin A status of pre-school-age children aged 6 to 59 months in the National Capital District, Papua New Guinea” published Feb 14, 2014, by Victor Temple, of the Micronutrient Research Laboratory, Division of Basic Medical Sciences, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Papua New Guinea, it was found that of the 132 children in the study 108 (82%) had received vitamin A capsules. The prevalence of vitamin A deficiency (VAD) in the children with normal plasma CRP was 11%, indicating a moderate public health problem. 74 (56%) males and 58 (44%) females were included in the study. The prevalence of VAD in the male and female children with normal plasma CRP was 14% and 8%, respectively.”

The Red Flag Of Sustainable Palm Oil

Ambassadors For Great Ape Conservation Join Call For Action On Indonesia’s Forest Fires

GRASP ambassadors Jane Goodall, Richard Leakey, Russell Mittermeier, Richard Wrangham, and Nadya Hutagalung issued a joint statement in November warning that endangered orangutans are at risk in Sumatra and Borneo and globally important biodiversity is at stake. “We are aghast at the forest and peat fires in Sumatra and Borneo that continue to grow and threaten the populations, wildlife, and ecosystems of Indonesia, in particular, these fires threaten a third of the world’s remaining wild orangutans, a population that has already decreased by over 50 percent in the last half century and is increasingly fragmented. Carbon-rich peatlands are in flames and lost forever, and the resulting toxic haze continues to spread across the region. Nearly 120,000 fires have been counted.”

Red as palm fruit oil,
Red as the blood of orangutans,
Red as the blood of forest peoples,
Red as the blood of fish and frogs, the elephants and crocodiles, killed by plantation pesticides and POME – the palm oil mill effluent,
Red as the biodiesel palm oil exports from cleared forests to the industrial complexes of mills and processing facilities.

Sustainable Red Palm Oil

Unfortunately, red palm oil is the subject of much controversy. Expansion of industrial-scale production of red palm oil has led to deforestation and the demise of the orangutan population. Red palm oil, as made traditionally in small villages, could very easily carry the labels virgin and organic. “When processed and refined, red palm oil loses not only its dark color… but also all of its nutritional benefits. If ever you see red palm oil listed as an ingredient in processed snack food, you can be sure it’s not the heart healthy kind.”

Learn about Sime Darby: The 2007 merger of Sime Darby, Golden Hope Plantations and Kumpulan Guthrie established Sime Darby Plantation as the world’s largest palm oil producer, with the potential of producing 8% of the world’s total palm oil output. This publicly-listed group, which runs plantations, refineries and biodiesel plants across Indonesia and Malaysia, is controlled by the Malaysian government.

Sime Darby is infamous for illegal land clearing, violent clashes with local communities, illegal forest fires and for threatening the last orangutan habitats. Sime Darby also has record of land grabbing and human rights violations in Liberia.

Sime Darby, the Malaysian oil palm company, took control of New Britain Palm Oil Limited (NBPOL), thus adding 135,000 hectare of PNG land to to its growing international land bank, and has been swallowing up farmlands and forests in Liberia forcing out communities that rely on the land for their livelihoods. More in this FOE Sime Darby Fact Sheet (550kb)

Red Palm Oil Or Refined, The Deforestation Is The Same

Boycott All Palm Oil Products

Tomas DiFiore

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Tomas DiFiore
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PKO Palm Kernel Oil to BiodieselTomas DiFioreSaturday Nov 21st, 2015 6:41 PM

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