Estate owners demand WHO journal retract article against palm oil or apologise

Azril Annuar
The Malaysian Estate Owners Association pointed out the unfair comparisons made in the article where it was biased against the palm oil industry while leaving out the impact of rival product in the soy industry which the West favours. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 17 ― The Malaysian Estate Owners Association (MEOA) has demanded that the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Bulletin retract an article published last month which had painted the palm oil industry in a bad light.

MEOA vice-president Gan Tee Jin demanded in an open letter to the bulletin’s editor in Chief Laragh Gollogly, that the organisation remove the article titled, “The palm oil industry and noncommunicable disease Sowmya Kadandale, Robert Marten and Richard Smith.”

“We remind you as the Editor of your professional responsibility to ensure that the contents of the articles published under WHO's aegis are factually correct, particularly when the impressions conveyed by the representation or misrepresentation of facts have a bearing on the livelihoods of millions.

“Disclaimers do not absolve you as Editor of such professional responsibility, neither can they be a salve for your social conscience ― if any.

“If you are unable or unwilling to retract the article, then you should do the next best thing which is to issue an apology and publish this letter in full on your website and in the next issue of your journal,” said Gan.

MEOA had also pointed out the unfair comparisons made in the article where it was biased against the palm oil industry while leaving out the impact of rival product in the soy industry which the West favours.

The letter also questioned why the impact of deforestation by the palm oil industry was a significant part of the journal's article.

“A significant part of the article is devoted to issues of planetary health, specifically the impact of oil palm cultivation on deforestation, loss of biodiversity and pollution. One wonders why these aspects are appropriate in a WHO journal.

“Nonetheless, such discussions and studies on environmental impact are incomplete and discriminatory without comprehensively evaluating the alternatives, for instance, of cultivating soy as a replacement for palm oil.

“It is a given, although an unfortunate fact, that feeding a growing global population and growing per capita consumption inevitably entails expansion of agriculture lands. It is well documented that expansion in soy cultivation has far surpassed oil palm hectarage expansion.

“By accepting this article for publication, therefore, you are also responsible for spreading discriminatory assessments of palm oil's impact on planetary health,” he said.

Gan also said that by publishing the article, WHO Bulletin was granting it “undeserving credibility” due to its association with WHO itself and demanded the body to take some responsibility over the article.

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