KUALA LUMPUR, March 31 -- The synthetic palm oil that is currently being produced by a United States-based startup is lacking in terms of originality and vitamins present in natural palm oil, the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) said.
MPOB director-general Dr Ahmad Parveez Ghulam Kadir said the synthetic version of palm oil does not contained Vitamin A and E, the nutritional value which is rich in natural palm oil.
“The raw material used to produce the synthetic version palm oil may also not be from renewable sources. As such, the synthetic version of palm oil may not be priced competitively.
“Will people use cosmetics and skincare products which come from waste oil and industrial byproducts? Probably, they will end up using it for non-food like biodiesel,” he said in a statement today.
Ahmad Parveez said it is questionable whether synthetic palm oil is more environmentally friendly and sustainable because the production of synthetic materials required chemicals and microbes.
“How much energy and chemicals are used in the fermentation process? How can this synthetic product claimed to be more sustainable than the original product?” he said.
It was reported by a couple of international media that the synthetic palm oil is currently being produced by the startup using microbes to convert food waste and industrial byproducts into synthetic palm oil through a fermentation process.
The startup claimed that the synthetic palm oil can replace the plant-derived version and its venture has received US$20 million (US$1=RM4.32) 'series A' investment round from Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures Fund which supports cutting edge startups with a focus on environmental innovation and sustainability.
Ahmad Parveez calls on the company to undertake a detailed life-cycle assessment before claiming that its move to produce synthetic palm oil is due to allegations that palm oil is a major driver of deforestation and one of the leading causes of climate change.
The US startup also claimed that 31 million hectares of forest was cleared globally for the cultivation of oil palm in a period of 24 years (1990-2014).
“What they failed to realise or simply ignore is deforestation for cultivation of other oil crops.
“One good example is based on the record of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, which stated that for a period of eight years (2010-2018), an additional area of 30.5 million hectares were cultivated with soybean globally,” he said.
He said oil palm cultivated areas accounted for less than one per cent of the global agricultural land of around five billion hectares compared to other oilseeds crops (five per cent) and other crops (23 per cent), while livestock is the largest at around 71 per cent.
“Oil palm is the most productive crop with a yield of five to nine times higher than other oilseed crops such as soybeans, sunflowers and rapeseed,” he said.
He said due to its high productivity of about four tonnes of oil per hectare a year, palm oil is competitive and affordable to most people of the world.
Ahmad Parveez said palm oil played an irreplaceable role in ensuring global food security in the vegetable and fat oil industry.
“Hence, I wonder why there are so many attacks on the sustainability of palm oil that there is a need to produce synthetic products in place of natural products.
“The fact is, currently the company could produce half a tonne of synthetic palm oil annually and with the new investment they are expected to produce up to 50 tonnes,” he said.
He added that Malaysia’s palm industry is in the midst of achieving 100 per cent Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification and as at March this year, 4.65 million hectares, or 78.8 per cent, of the 5.9 million hectares of oil palm plantations in Malaysia attained the MSPO certification, while 394 of the 452 palm oil mills in the country had done so.