MPOB questions synthetic palm oil production


THE Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) criticises the benefit of the newly developed synthetic palm oil as an alternative to the natural palm oil.

MPOB DG Dr Ahmad Parveez Ghulam Kadir said the synthetic version of the edible oil does not contain essential nutritional values such as vitamin A and vitamin E which could be found in natural palm oil.

“Recently, a couple of international media highlighted that a start-up based in New York is ready to go big in producing synthetic palm oil.

“However, the synthetic version of palm oil, which is currently being produced in the US, lacks originality as it does not have the vitamins that present in natural palm oil,” he said in a statement yesterday.

He added that the raw materials used to produce the synthetic oil could not be derived from renewable sources, which would not allow for the product to be priced competitively.

“It was reported that the synthetic palm oil is currently being produced by the start-up using microbes to convert food waste and industrial byproducts into synthetic palm oil through a fermentation process, which claims can replace the plant-derived version.

“They can produce synthetic palm oil but cannot price the product competitively as the raw materials that they are using may not come from renewable sources.

“Also, they could not produce vitamin A and vitamin E that are currently present in natural palm oil. They will end up using it for the non-food subsector such as the biodiesel,” he said.

Ahmad Parveez said the synthetic palm oil could cause harm to the environment due to the required fermentation processes.

“The question is whether synthetic palm oil is more environmentally friendly and sustainable because the production of synthetic materials requires chemicals and microbes.

“How much energy and chemicals are used in the fermentation process and how can the synthetic product be claimed to be more sustainable than the original product?” he said.

Responding to claims that suggest palm oil is causing deforestation, Ahmad Parveez said the oil palm is the most productive crop with a yield of five to nine times higher than other oilseed crops.

“Due to its high productivity of about four tonnes of oil per hectare (ha) a year, palm oil is competitive and affordable to most people of the world. In fact, palm oil plays 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,” he said.

Malaysia is in the process to achieve a 100% certification of the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) for its palm industry.

As of March 2020, 4.65 million ha or 78.8% of the 5.9 million ha of oil palm plantations in Malaysia had attained the MSPO certification, while 394 of the 452 palm oil mills in Malaysia had been certified.