Research and tech market news: Review of studies attributing "good and bad", Documentary - Appetite for Destruction: The Palm Oil Diaries and University of Uppsala’s high fat muffin study

29 Sep 2016: Review of studies attributing "good and bad" 

Good – palm oil from Mesoamerica and Africa as 2-7% was from forest in 1989. Bad – Southeast Asian oil palm, as 45% comes forest area. 
“Our analysis reveals regional trends in deforestation associated with oil palm agriculture. In Southeast Asia, 45% of sampled oil palm plantations came from areas that were forests in 1989. For South America, the percentage was 31%. By contrast, in Mesoamerica and Africa, we observed only 2% and 7% of oil palm plantations coming from areas that were forest in 1989. The largest areas of vulnerable forest are in Africa and South America.” Refer to "The Impacts of Oil Palm on Recent Deforestation and Biodiversity Loss" by. V Vijay et al. (2016) in  PLoS ONE 11(7).

Bad – rapid forest to plantation conversion; and pre-2005, Sabah and Sarawak worse than Kalimantan. Indonesia post 2005 rapid conversion.  
People have been arguing that plantations should be developed on degraded lands, and a recent study found that is true more in Kalimantan in Indonesia (up to 2005) than Malaysian Borneo where plantation industry was the principle driver of the loss of forest because of the speedy rate of conversion (within 5 years). “Between 1973 and 2015 an estimated 18.7 Mha of Borneo’s old-growth forest were cleared (14.4 Mha and 4.2 Mha in Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo). Industrial plantations expanded by 9.1 Mha (7.8 Mha oil-palm; 1.3 Mha pulpwood). Approximately 7.0 Mha of the total plantation area in 2015 (9.2 Mha) were old-growth forest in 1973, of which 4.5-4.8 Mha (24–26% of Borneo-wide deforestation) were planted within five years of forest clearance (3.7-3.9 Mha oil-palm; 0.8-0.9 Mha pulpwood). This rapid within-five-year conversion has been greater in Malaysia than in Indonesia (57-60% versus 15-16%). In Indonesia, a higher proportion of oil-palm plantations was developed on already cleared degraded lands (a legacy of recurrent forest fires). However, rapid conversion of Indonesian forests to industrial plantations has increased steeply since 2005.” Refer to "Rapid conversions and avoided deforestation: examining four decades of industrial plantation expansion in Borneo" by D. Gaveau et al. (2016) in Scientific Reports 6: 32017.

Bad – conversion of forests to produce palm and soybean oil used in junk foods. 
Researchers estimated the amount of land — and the potential amount of forests — required to produce the palm and soybean oil used in junk foods….. We will need an estimated 17.1 million metric tons of vegetable oil for junk food production by 2050, which would require something like an additional 5 million to 9.3 million hectares (12.3 million to 23 million acres) of soybean land and about 0.5 to 1.3 million hectares (1.2 million to 3.2 million acres) of additional oil palm land,… Using historical trends… much of this oil palm and soybean expansion will occur at the expense of tropical rainforests. Refer to "Junking tropical forests for junk food?" by J.S.H. Lee et al. (2016) in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.


14 Sep 2016: Documentary - Appetite for Destruction: The Palm Oil Diaries and University of Uppsala’s high fat muffin study

Palm oil: bad news for forests, and your liver  12/09/2016 -- Food companies were left with a dilemma: they couldn’t use trans-fatty acids, but they needed an ingredient that would provide that smoothy, creamy taste their customers loved. As Prof Bruce Griffin from the University of Surrey told me, “palm oil was introduced as a natural substitute for trans-fatty acids”.... Despite replacing an unhealthy ingredient, palm oil-producing countries have suggested palm oil is perfectly healthy. The Malaysian Palm Oil Council even suggests that studies show palm oil, in liquid form, is “comparable to the much touted gold standard olive oil for its effects on blood cholesterol”.... Under the researchers’ guidance, I did my own version of the experiment that mimicked the official study. For six weeks, I ate three muffins a day containing palm oil on top of my normal diet.... In the University of Uppsala’s controlled study they noticed that participants from both the palm and sunflower oil groups gained about 1.6kg in weight. However, the palm oil group gained “more liver fat, total fat, and visceral fat” than the sunflower oil group. This means the fat was gained around vital organs, which can be very dangerous in the long term..... I think we need to reconsider not only how we produce this oil, but also, given the health consequences, whether we should be eating so much of it in the first place....Appetite for Destruction: The Palm Oil Diaries is available on Amazon and iTunes...

News update for early 2016 - Fungus fermentation and Sime Darby's super seeds

Fungus Fermentation Turns Palm Waste Into Fodder -- Farmers often use agro-industrial waste - such as rice bran - as animal feed, but these crop residues lack protein, vitamins and other nutrients, the study says. The scientists from the University of Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP) used the fungus Aspergillus terreus to produce large amounts of protein through the fermentation of palm pressed fibre and palm oil decanter cakes, two types of palm oil milling residue.

Sime Darby sees higher profit with new genome super palms BY P. ARUNA 5 April 2016

Sime Darby eyes 15% better palm oil yield By Ahmad Naqib Idris / The Edge Financial Daily   | April 26, 2016
Major milestone for Sime Darby BY P. ARUNA  9 May 2016

Super Seed Identified to Produce More Palm Oil Using Less Land  May 09, 2016 Robert Hii Sustainable Business Consultant

30 Nov 2015: Organic is best for wildlife but "conservation grade" non-organic supports 20% more plants and butterfly species

Can farms be good for nature without being organic? - The organic-or-not debate ignores a crucial further option. Setting aside tracts of land for wildlife habitat can benefit bees, butterflies and plants without harming crop yields - Research found that organic farms are the best for wildlife, but conservation grade non-organic farms still support 20% more plant and butterfly species.... by Karl Mathiesen 18 November 2015

19 October 2015: Global obesity driven by Westernised diets pushed by food companies, MPOB promotions  in China and oil palm gene work

Global obesity rise puts UN goals on diet-related diseases 'beyond reach' - Westernised diets blamed as figures predict failure to meet 2025 target of no increase in obesity or diabetes beyond 2010 levels by Sarah Boseley and Helen Davidson in Darwin Friday 9 October 2015 17.19 BST

Ministry hopes for more R&D allocation in Budget 2016 Bernama | Published on October 06, 2015 14:38 MYT

MPOB to step up promotions in China 15 September 2015; "We are looking at not just promoting/exporting the oils but also other palm oil-based products. We now moving mainland towards the west to regions like Chongqing besides our tradition markets of Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing," he told Bernama on the sidelines of the Palm Oil Health and Nutrition Forum in Beijing on Tuesday. Wan Mohammad said the nutritional values of palm oil, its non-food applications as well as its usage in pharmaceuticals would be the key areas for MPOB in promoting the edible oil. He said MPOB was looking at not just exporting the edible oil but also palm-based products to achieve the gross national income (GNI) contribution target for the industry of RM178 billion by 2020. On whether anti-palm oil campaigns such as the "no palm oil" food labels in Europe would affect exports to China, Wan Mohammad said issues like environmental and deforestation played up in Europe would not surface in China. He pointed out that the ban on the use of palm oil in infant formula preparation in 2013 had been resolved following research results and effective action taken by Malaysian Government to convince the China Food and Drug Administration. Consumers in China have accepted palm oil as one of the important vegetables oil for consumption and imports of palm oil increased nearly 50% from 3.85 million tonnes in 2004 to 5.63 million tonnes in 2014. China's imports of palm oil from Malaysia stood at 3.9 million tonnes last year.

MPOB to focus on non-food applications, health benefits to promote palm oil in China September 16, 2015, Wednesday

MPOB, partners identify genetic secrets to help palm oil yield Published on: Friday, September 11, 2015

Mutation discovered in oil palm genes: a game changer? Copyright: Ian Teh / Panos. Scientists had noted that some prized oil palm clones grow into barren adults. The cloned palms turned out to have epigenetic mutation in mantled genes. Researchers are working to simplify the diagnostic test that will tag abnormal clones...

Stopping ‘bad karma’ could save palm oil industry millions By Niamh Michail+, 16-Sep-2015 Scientists have identified a genetic defect in oil palms, called bad karma, which reduces yields – a finding that could save industry both time and money, they say.

13 September 2015: MPOB pursues new palm-based products in neutra and pharma, MPOB partners identify genes for yield improvement, palm oil additive marketing questions

R&D to produce new palm oil-based products by Bernama  Sep 7th, 2015 10:57 am; Malaysia will continue to undertake research and development (R&D) to come out with new palm-based products, including nutraceutical and pharmaceutical, for the global community. Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Douglas Uggah Embas said today the Malaysian Palm Oil Board's (MPOB) offices in the US, Europe, Africa, Pakistan and China would assist the industry by continually working with authorities and industry players to increase the uptake of palm oil for food and non-food sectors.... "These studies have proven that palm oil is indeed a nutritionally superior oil," he said. Success of industry has attracted detractors...

MPOB, Partners Identify Genetic Secrets To Improve Palm Oil Yield KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 10 (Bernama) -- The Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) and its research partners from the United States have identified genetic secrets to improve oil yield via the use of oil palm clones.  "Through the research on the oil palm genome, we have identified a transposable element named 'Karma', which is responsible for the low-yielding mantled fruit.  "The discovery has led to the development of a simple, leaf based test that can identify 'Bad Karma' and predict mantling before palms are planted in the field," MPOB said in a statement today.

Epigenetic Study IDs Locus Linked to Unfavorable Phenotype in Cloned Oil Palms Sep 09, 2015    | a GenomeWeb staff reporter  NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Muted methylation of the transposon Karma appears to explain the unpredictable, spontaneous production of oil palm clones with undesirable phenotypes such as abnormal fruit shape and low yield, according to a study appearing online today in Nature. Researchers from Malaysia and the US did an epigenome-wide association study (EWAS) to search for potential culprits in this spontaneous process, known as mantling, in the African oil palm plant Elaeis guineensis...

Palm Oil Additive May Not Stand Up To Scientific Scrutiny, Marketed as a healthier oil due to its apparent stability and lower oil absorption rates, Afdhal palm oil may not stand up to the scrutiny of critics.        Science and Development Network  | September 15, 2015  |  Editorials Read more from Asian Scientist Magazine at: