The Conservative MEP Richard Ashworth has vowed to “defend the Malaysian Palm Oil industry against EU biofuel policy reforms,” according to media reports. He was a member of a delegation of European Conservative and Reformist group (ECR) MEPs who, in February 2015, visited palm oil plantations in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. “On the series of ongoing debates in the European Parliament, we will make a difference. We will go back and speak on your behalf. We are on your side on this particular argument,” Ashworth told a press conference in Sarawak.
Ashworth spoke on the same day that the European Parliament voted to limit the amount biofuels from food crops (including palm oil) are allowed to fuel transport. This is a response to growing concerns about the devastating impact that palm oil plantations are having on food security and forests, as well as leading to increased emissions.
Palm oil is an unsustainable but ubiquitous additive in a multitude of foodstuffs, (link live from 17 March) cosmetics and other chemical products. A study of data from 2000 to 2012 found that Malaysia had the highest rate of deforestation in the world and, in Sarawak, concerns have long surrounded insufficient respect for Indigenous Peoples’ rights (FW146, FW152, FW191), poor governance (FW175) and widespread illegal logging (FW191).