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European Moves to Restrict Palm Oil Have Enraged Malaysia and Indonesia

Insights + Opinion
European Moves to Restrict Palm Oil Have Enraged Malaysia and Indonesia
Art direction: Georgie Johnson. Illustrations: Freya Morgan

By Joe Sandler Clarke

"Don't expect us to continue buying European products," Malaysia's former plantations minister Mah Siew Keong told reporters in January last year. His comments came just after he had accused the EU of "practising a form of crop apartheid."

A few months later Luhut Pandjaitan, an Indonesian government minister close to President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo, warned his country would retaliate if it was "cornered" by the EU.


In the past two years the European Commission and several European countries have weighed up plans to restrict imports of palm oil amid growing concern about the environmental impact of the crop. But the world's biggest producers launched an aggressive diplomatic pushback, threatening to cancel deals worth billions for everything from salmon to fighter jets.

Groups backed by the Malaysian government launched social media campaigns against European government officials and a well-known supermarket, at the same time.

Unearthed has pieced together the story of the diplomatic spat through conversations with stakeholders, politicians and official emails.

Rapid Growth

Palm oil is a cheap and versatile vegetable oil, derived from the oil palm tree that grows easily in the tropics. It has seeped into everything over the last two decades, from chocolate bars to jet fuel.

In the 20 years from 1995 to 2015, global palm oil production increased from 15.2 million tons to 62.6 million tons. It's been estimated that 50 percent of all packaged goods sold in western supermarkets contain palm oil.

Some conservationists say palm oil is a good alternative to other environmentally unfriendly crops, because it uses less land than other vegetable oils.

However, its environmental impact on Indonesia and Malaysia, which together produce about 85 percent of the world's palm oil, has been marked; contributing to a big increase in deforestation in both countries. Today, Indonesia is the world's fifth biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, mainly due to land use change. According to Global Forest Watch, from 2001 to 2017 the country lost 24.4 million hectares (Mha) of tree cover, equivalent to 2.44 gigatons of CO₂ emissions. Malaysia lost 7.29Mha of tree cover in the same period.

A study published in February last year in the journal Cell Biology found that 150,000 Borneo orangutans were lost between 1999 and 2015, partly as a result of the expansion of the palm oil trade. The IUCN states that 193 critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable animals — including African forest elephants and chimpanzees — are directly threatened by palm oil.

As well as the obvious environmental disruption, the dramatic growth of the palm oil sector has reshaped the political and economic systems of both Malaysia and Indonesia.

Today palm oil exports make up between 5 percent and 7 percent of GDP in both countries. Helena Varkkey, a senior lecturer in international relations at the University of Malaya, explains that over the last two decades "palm oil has become intrinsically linked to development in Malaysia, both as a vehicle for economic growth and as a way for the state to get smallholder farmers out of poverty."

Varkkey says the growth of the industry in southeast Asia has created a powerful and well-connected political lobby, backed up by nationalistic pride and an ideological commitment to the crop.

Future Demand

Diplomatic pressure from Malaysia and Indonesia intensified at the start of last year, when MEPs voted to phase-out palm oil in biofuels from counting towards the EU's new renewable energy guidelines, which will take effect in 2020.

These rules pose a particular problem to palm oil companies, because a decade or so ago analysts predicted a glowing future for biofuels. In 2010 the EU drafted its first renewable energy directive, setting clean energy rules and targets for member states, and providing an incentive for member states to switch to palm oil-based biodiesel for cars.

In anticipation, palm oil producers stepped up production and created new plantations. These plantations have now reached maturity, but with scientists and legislators increasingly aware of the environmental impact of crops like palm oil, the expected biofuels boom has not materialized, leaving producers with a mounting oversupply problem.

Chris Malins, a consultant on alternative fuels explains: "The biggest potential growth area for palm oil is fuels. This is a growing industry in the medium and long term, and nothing Europe does will change that, but if we stop layering on additional demand for palm oil in biofuels that will limit those more aggressive demand scenarios."

The vote in the European Parliament set off a major lobbying effort by the Indonesian and Malaysian governments and palm oil interests both in Brussels and in European capitals, as the European Commission deliberated over the final shape of the new green energy rules.

In the UK Indonesian and Malaysian officials appeared to dangle a post-Brexit trade deal in an effort to get the UK to oppose the EU move on palm oil in biofuels, according to government emails from early February 2018.

Foreign Office officials said a few days later that "every minister engaging with Malaysia" should expect to be lobbied on palm oil, including Theresa May, who was due to meet then Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in April 2018. In the end, Razak was unable to attend the event.

British diplomats also feared that the EU fight could torpedo a multi-billion pound deal for Malaysia to replace its aging fighter jet fleet with Eurofighter Typhoon jets manufactured by BAE Systems. And Foreign Office staff complained about both countries putting pressure on diplomats to hit back on a move by Iceland supermarket to remove palm oil from its own-brand goods.

With a number of European countries considering their own moves to limit palm oil imports on environmental reasons, the push-back on the continent was similarly intense.

This January, Malaysia's new-elected premier, Mahathir Bin Mohamed, sent a personal letter to Emmanuel Macron threatening the suspension of free trade talks and "regrettable economic and trade consequences" for €6 billion of French exports, because of the French "de facto ban" on palm oil. In early summer 2018, French politicians moved to cap and progressively phase-out imports of the commodity.

The move came two-and-a-half-years after French politicians scrapped plans for a tax on unsustainable palm oil in 2016 after being warned that passing the law could lead to the execution of a French citizen convicted of drug trafficking in Indonesia, as reported here.

When the Norwegian parliament asked the government to develop measures to exclude biofuels with a high risk of deforestation, both Indonesia and Malaysia tried to hit back.

Mahathir wrote to the Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg in January warning that the country's plan to phase out palm oil from biofuels in 2020 could have "regrettable economic and trade consequences" both for Malaysia's smallholder farmers and for Norway. Malaysia's new primary industries minister, Teresa Kok, warned that free trade negotiations with European Free Trade Association (EFTA) states (which includes Norway, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) could be "adversely affected."

Art direction: Georgie Johnson. Illustration: Freya Morgan

Speaking to reporters after the signing of the Indonesia-EFTA trade deal in December last year, Indonesian trade minister Enggartiasto Lukita said palm oil had been a major sticking point in negotiations.

Lukita added that he had threatened to leave Norwegian salmon out of the deal if EFTA states restricted access for palm oil. "I said, we've gone a long way. You will benefit from this and I too. So if you don't open up for our palm, let's just forget about this."

The Norwegian government declined to comment when approached by Unearthed.

'Don't Be Like Richard'

These high-level diplomatic spats have been matched by an online campaign established by Malaysia's smallholder associations and Malaysian government agencies targeting the EU, key member states and private companies.

Last spring, after Iceland supermarket announced its high-profile palm oil move, a group called Human Faces of Palm Oil began spreading messages on social media about the company's Executive Director Richard Walker. One video posted on Twitter and YouTube ran with the line: "Richard only wants to attack poor palm oil small farmers in Africa and Asia. Don't be like Richard."

As the Times reported, while Human Faces of Palm Oil describes itself as a platform to tell the stories of Malaysia palm oil smallholders, it was set up by several Malaysian groups, including two government agencies: Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) and the Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (SALCRA).

The Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), an official trade body, is also listed online as one of the groups behind the Human Faces of Palm Oil. MPOC operates from the same physical address as the economic and industry division of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), a government agency.

MPOC made its presence felt during free trade agreement negotiations in Europe last autumn, when CEO Kalyana Sundram dominated discussions that were supposed to be led by plantations minister Teresa Kok, according to one senior European political figure at the table, who asked to remain anonymous.

"It was weird because this lobbyist was interfering a lot in the discussions," the official explained. "He would say stuff like 'the minister wants to tell you …' or [he would] translate what she had tried to say. I found it peculiar because normally the minister is the boss of the lobbyist but it seemed as if the lobbyist was in charge of the minister."

Neither Kok nor Sundram responded to a request for comment from Unearthed.

Farmers Unite, another online campaign publicly backed by MPOC, launched with three full-page ads in the run-up to Christmas in the London free newspaper City AM, calling on Iceland boss Walker to end his "colonial crusade" against palm oil.

The group's founder Thompson Ayodele wrote a series of op-eds in Asia and west Africa, at the same time, decrying moves in Europe to restrict palm oil imports. Ayodele is the founder of the Nigerian thinktank the Initiative for Public Policy Analysis (IPPA) and in 2015 authored research for Malaysia's Sime Darby Plantation.

Sime Darby describes itself as "the world's largest palm oil plantation company by planted area" and last year posted pre-tax profits of more than £440m.

The National Association of Smallholders (NASH) is another Malaysian group publicly backing both the Human Faces of Palm Oil and Farmers Unite campaigns. Over the last 12 months, NASH has placed several ads in Politico Europe, a magazine that reaches power brokers in Brussels, denouncing the EU's palm oil policy as "crop apartheid."

Unearthed approached NASH, Thompson Ayodele and MPOC for a comment on this story, but received no response.

Farmers Unite did, however, issue the following tweet.

Last Wednesday, after all the diplomatic wrangling, the European Commission recommended that palm oil should be phased-out from transport fuel on environmental grounds. The EU measure places limits on what types of palm oil biofuels can count towards member states' renewable energy targets.

The Malaysian government called the move a "calculated political act" and threatened to bring a World Trade Organization challenge if it goes ahead.

A statement from the country's foreign ministry read: "Such an aggressive trade barrier targeted at Malaysia's national interests, and our 650,000 small farmers, cannot pass without a strong response."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Unearthed.

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Trending

Do you feel embarrassed due to the foul odor coming from your mouth? Or your oral hygiene isn't as good as before, and you are suffering from gingivitis (inflammation of gums)?

Well, these oral problems are skyrocketing, and even young people are suffering from oral issues that result in a lack of confidence.

It's common to change your toothpaste by seeing the TV commercials that claim to free you from bad breath or sensitive teeth, but these products don't always work.

Fighting oral issues isn't that easy, even if you religiously follow what your primary school teacher has taught, to "Brush two times a day!"

Well, there is a much-hyped supplement in the market that claims to help you fight all of these oral issues: The Steel Bite Pro.

Steel Bite Pro is an oral supplement that claims to cure bad breath and other such oral issues like sensitivity and gum problems.

But does the supplement really work, or is it just like the useless toothpaste that you tried before? Let's find out in this review.

Who Should Use Steel Bite Pro?

The best part about Steel Bite Pro is that anyone can use the supplement to get rid of oral issues. The supplement contains natural ingredients such as turmeric, zinc, alfalfa, jujube seeds, and much more, so there are no chemicals at all.

No matter whether you are 20 or 60, you can use this supplement to overcome oral issues and get the confidence back that you are missing due to bad odor and sensitive teeth.

Steel Bite Pro Review: Overview of the Supplement

Steel Bite Pro is an all-natural supplement that contains a mix of natural supplements to rebuild your gums and teeth.

The supplement contains 29 different foods that help you reduce the gum pain and other dental problems you have been facing for years.

More than 55,000 people have used Steel Bite Pro till now, and the results of the supplement are pretty impressive. Furthermore, the supplement is prepared in an FDA-approved facility in the USA.

It is available in the form of pills that you can consume anytime, so using the supplement is incredibly convenient. There are numerous benefits of using the Steel Bite Pro as it solves a plethora of dental problems.

Click here to Get the Best Deal on Steel Bite Pro from the Official Website.

Pros and Cons: Steel Bite Pro

To understand the supplement better, it is essential to know about its pros and cons.

Pros

Convenient to Use

The dietary supplement is convenient to use as it comes in the form of pills. You can take the pill anytime, even when you are in your office or somewhere else. Now there is no need to use multiple kinds of toothpaste and splurge money by visiting a dentist.

All-Natural Ingredients

All the ingredients present inside the supplement are natural, and there are no chemicals that can harm your teeth or gums.

Affordable

When you compare the cost of 1 bottle with the cost of a special toothpaste with the fee that your dentist charges, Steel Bite Pro will seem much more affordable. The supplement is available in multiple packages, so you will find it affordable to use.

No Side Effects at All

There are no side effects to using Steel Bite Pro, so you can rest assured that you won't face any headaches or other issues while curing the oral issues. The reason why Steel Bite Pro has no side effects is due to its natural ingredients.

Designed by Experts

The supplement is designed by experts that have been in the industry for years.

No Additional Medicines Are Required

When you are using Steel Bite Pro, you can avoid using other medicines that you have been taking to cure oral issues.

Attacks on the Pain

There are several ingredients present in Steel Bite Pro that attack tooth and gum pain so that you get some instant relief with the supplement.

Comes With a Money Back Guarantee

The supplement comes with a 60-day money back guarantee, so you can claim a full refund if you find the supplement isn't working for you, or if it isn't doing what the manufacturer has promised.

Cons

You Can Purchase It From the Official Site Only

The supplement is only available for purchase from the Official Website. Sometimes the supplement gets out of stock, so you have to wait for it to get back in stock.

A Single Bottle Costs More

If you buy a single bottle of the supplement, it'll cost you more than other packages with multiple bottles.

Ingredients in Steel Bite Pro

All the ingredients present in Steel Bite Pro are natural and have proven benefits for humans. Here is a list of supplements explained in detail and how they can benefit you if you start using Steel Bite Pro.

Turmeric

As per a study, there are innumerable benefits of using turmeric on your teeth. The natural herb has antimicrobial properties that help remove the plaque effectively from the teeth, exterminate bacteria and help cure sensitivity.

Moreover, turmeric is good for fighting oral inflammation issues. When applied on teeth, the ingredient gives instant relief from pain and is effective in curing mouth ulcers as well.

Berberine

Berberine is a natural herb with proven antioxidant power to help you get rid of microorganisms developing inside the mouth. Furthermore, the ingredient has anti-inflammatory properties and is good for curing oral issues caused due to viruses and bacteria.

Yarrow

It is another natural ingredient that is used in a range of health supplements due to its healing power. The ingredient naturally heals the gums and the damage caused to the teeth by bacteria and microorganisms.

As per a study, it helps reduce the infection, oral pain, and cures other dental issues.

Milk Thistle

Your liver has a significant impact on your oral health, and that's where milk thistle works. The natural ingredient eliminates toxins from the liver and detoxifies your mouth as well.

Here is a study that proves how milk thistle is beneficial in detoxifying the liver.

Alfalfa

The decaying of teeth is the initial phase of damage caused by bacteria thriving inside your mouth. Alfalfa works by reducing tooth sensitivity drastically and repairs the tooth decay caused by the bacteria.

It even stops the bacteria from growing further so you can expect good oral health.

Ginger

A lot of natural supplements for teeth contain ginger because of its benefits on the teeth and the stomach. This ingredient present in the Steel Bite Pro reduces nausea and inflammation.

As per this study, there are umpteen other benefits of ginger as well, such as it maintains the pH inside your mouth.

Jujube Seeds

Jujube seeds are good for boosting the immunity. Also, the ingredient has excellent antioxidant properties and is rich in Vitamin C, which is beneficial for the teeth and overall oral health.

Dandelion

Dandelion is a natural ingredient extracted from herbs. The ingredient is rich in minerals and has immense benefits such as fighting the bacteria and preventing the infections occurring inside your mouth.

Zinc

Zinc is essential for teeth, and that is why many toothpaste brands advertise that their product contains a good amount of zinc. Further, zinc is a natural immunity booster and fights against bacteria to prevent gum disease and cavities.

Moreover, zinc repairs the enamel on your teeth that's damaged due to toothpaste or any other reasons. Here is a study that shows the benefits of zinc for your teeth and mouth.

Chicory Root

Chicory root acts as a catalyst and increases the effectiveness of other ingredients. The reason why you get instant relief from pain after using Steel Bite Pro is due to the presence of chicory root in the pills.

Celery Seeds

Bacteria result in bad odor and can create cavities in the teeth. Furthermore, some bacteria result in tooth decay and harm the gums. The celery seeds fight these bacteria and prevent further growth.

Yellow Dock

To stay healthy, the teeth need to absorb the minerals present in the saliva. When your teeth are damaged for any reason, they stop absorbing the minerals, and the damage continues further.

Yellow dock helps the teeth to absorb the minerals while reducing the inflammation. Various studies have proven the efficacy of yellow dock for teeth and gums, and it is a natural and effective ingredient to keep the teeth healthy.

Raspberry, Chanca Piedra, and Artichoke

These three natural ingredients have similar properties and contribute a lot to the effectiveness of Steel Bite Pro. The ingredients have good amounts of vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin K, Vitamin C, magnesium, phosphorus, and folate.

The purifying agents will remove bacteria and other impurities from the mouth so that the other ingredients work well by repairing the teeth and gums.

Feverfew

The worst thing about oral issues is the pain that you have to go through. Steel Bite Pro claims to help with the pain as it contains feverfew, which is a natural pain reliever. The ingredient suppresses oral and dental pain so you will feel better instantly.

As per a study, there are some other benefits of feverfew, because it is a medicinal plant that suppresses other pains as well. Also, there are no side effects of feverfew at all.

Burdock Root

The root of the burdock plant comes loaded with antioxidants that improve the gum health and the overall health of your mouth.

The best thing about Steel Bite Pro is that the ingredients are present in exact quantities, so you can rest assured that there will be no side effects. Every ingredient is tested in the labs for its efficiency, and that's what makes the Steel Bite Pro a considerable option if you want to improve your oral and dental health.

Click here to See the full list of ingredients in Steel Bite Pro on the official website.

How Does Steel Bite Pro Work?

It is crucial to understand how the supplement works so that you can decide whether to invest in it or not. Below is a step by step process that will help you understand Steel Bite Pro on the go.

Step 1:

When you start consuming the supplement, the pills break down in your mouth. The ingredients then mix with saliva to perform their particular actions.

Step 2:

The ingredients fight the bacteria and heal issues such as wounds while reducing the inflammation caused in the mouth.

Step 3:

The supplement cements the root of the teeth so that there are no further oral and dental issues. Also, it heals the gums and repairs the enamel to provide you relief from sensitivity.

The minerals present in these ingredients strengthen the crown area of the teeth while repairing the cracks so that the damage can be stopped.

Step 4:

The supplement also has some impact on your overall health as the ingredients detoxify the liver by flushing away the toxins.

Step 5:

Consuming the supplement regularly will help you maintain the shield on the teeth that fights against bacteria and microorganisms. Also, it improves the condition of the teeth and curtails bad breath.

The working of Steel Bite Pro is really simple, as there are no complex ingredients present in the supplement. It is easy to use, and all you have to do is consume the pill regularly to keep your oral and dental health up to the mark.

Benefits of Steel Bite Pro

There are many benefits of using Steel Bite Pro since it is an all-natural supplement that has no side effects at all. Here are some benefits you need to consider before buying it.

Prevents Bleeding and Improves Gum Health

The reason why your teeth bleed is due to the loose gums. The space between the tooth and the gum results in bleeding, and that's where Steel Bite Pro helps. The supplement tightens the gums so that there is no bleeding at all.

Whitens the Teeth Naturally

The ingredients present in the supplement, such as zinc and milk thistle, whiten the teeth naturally. There is no need to invest in expensive teeth whitening toothpaste if you are using Steel Bite Pro.

Reduces Bad Breath

The supplement contains ingredients that improve the overall health of the teeth, and it automatically reduces bad breath.

Helps Cure Tooth Pain

Steel Bite Pro has feverfew, which is a natural pain reliever ingredient. The ingredient cures tooth and gum pain and can have instant results after you consume Steel Bite Pro.

Click here to Learn more about the Benefits of Steel Bite Pro on the official website.

Side Effects of Using Steel Bite Pro

You may find it surprising, but Steel Bite Pro has no side effects at all as the supplement contains natural ingredients and has exact quantities so that there are no ill effects on your health. If you keep using the supplement as prescribed, then it can have some excellent results.

Who Should Refrain from Steel Bite Pro?

Steel Bite Pro is an all-natural dietary supplement to improve your dental and oral health.

Anyone can use the supplement, including pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. There are no harms of using the supplement.

However, it would be great to consult a doctor before using the supplement to find out if you are allergic to any of the ingredients.

Dosage and Tips to Start

To get the most from Steel Bite Pro, you should consume two pills with water every day. Take both capsules together anytime that's convenient for you.

To get the best results, follow a brushing regime, and massage your teeth regularly with some good-quality oil to increase the effectiveness of the pills.

Where to Buy Steel Bite Pro, and Guarantees?

You can only buy Steel Bite Pro from the Official Site, as the supplement is not available anywhere else for purchase. You can choose from three available options:

●1 bottle (60 pills) $69

●Three bottles (180 pills) $117

●Six bottles (360 pills) $294 (Best Deal)

You get a 60-day money back guarantee with all the packages, no matter if you go for one bottle or six bottles. You are eligible to claim the full refund within 60 days of the date of purchase.

Steel Bite Pro Reviews: Closing Thoughts

After this definitive review, it will be easier for you to find out whether you should use Steel Bite Pro or not. The supplement contains a mix of 29 natural ingredients that have proven benefits and are tested in labs.

It is essential to get rid of oral and dental issues before things get out of control and you have no option left despite visiting a dentist.

Getting a good quality supplement is essential, so Steel Bite Pro is a viable option if you need a supplement with no side effects.

Anyone can use this supplement irrespective of age, sex, and medical conditions. Lastly, buy the supplement only from the official site so that you can easily claim the refund if required.

Click here to Get the best deal on Steel Bite Pro from the official website.

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A ghost forest in Nags Head Woods, North Carolina on Oct. 16, 2017. NC Wetlands / CC BY 2.0


Along the Atlantic coast, ghost forests provide haunting signs of sea-level rise. These stands of bleached and broken tree trunks are all that remain after salty water inundates a forest.


Matt Kirwan is with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. He says ghost forests are not a new phenomenon, but they're moving inland faster as seas rise.

"Eventually they'll fall apart and become stumps surrounded by marshland," he says. "And so when you see a ghost forest now, you're seeing where the marsh will be in the future."

Marshes are valuable ecosystems, so in some ways, that's positive.

"Ghost forests are a surprising indicator of ecological resilience in coastal systems," Kirwan says. "They mark how marshes naturally migrate in response to sea-level rise."

But that migration comes at a cost.

"Places that people have lived for hundreds of years are becoming too wet and too salty to grow crops on, in some cases," Kirwan says. "And of course, the forest resources are being lost. And in some cases, people are forced to move from their homes as the land becomes too flooded."

So ghost forests have become eerie symbols of rapid change.

Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

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