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Setting the record straight on oil palm and peat in SE Asia

A group of 139 scientists have published a letter in response to recent newspaper reports carrying comments made by a Malaysian government minister about the country’s peatlands. The Minister of Modernisation, Agriculture and Rural Economy, Douglas Uggah Embas, described oil palm production – one of the biggest culprits in the destruction of Malaysia’s peatlands – as being “handled well” and “responsibly” in the country.

CGIAR Oct 5 2016

By CIAT Project News

 

A group of 139 scientists have published a letter in response to recent newspaper reports carrying comments made by a Malaysian government minister about the country’s peatlands.

 

The Minister of Modernisation, Agriculture and Rural Economy, Douglas Uggah Embas, described oil palm production – one of the biggest culprits in the destruction of Malaysia’s peatlands – as being “handled well” and “responsibly” in the country.

 

The comments were made to reporters by during an official dinner of the 16th International Peat Congress in Sarawak, in August, and were widely reported in regional media. Writing in Global Change Biology, the scientists, representing 115 government, academic, industry and non-governmental organisations from 20 countries, describe the comments as a state of denial, with potentially “devastating consequences.”

 

The letter goes on to clarify that Mr Uggah’s view is not shared by the majority of the participants who attended the Congress, nor does it reflect the evidence presented there, which is backed by several decades of scientific research.

 

“Peat is an enormously valuable and extremely threatened resource,” said Louis Verchot, leader of CIAT’s Soils Research Program, and one of the scientists who signed the letter. “The Deputy Chief Minister is entitled to his opinion, but it is not shared by the vast majority of participants at the Congress, nor is it supported by science.

 

“It’s vital that these important issues are better understood. Our letter is an attempt to do that.”

 

The letter says that business-as-usual management of tropical peatland in SE Asia – which frequently includes burning to clear the land for oil palm plantation – is not sustainable and can no longer be justified.

 

See more: http://blog.ciat.cgiar.org/setting-the-record-straight-on-oil-palm-and-peat-in-se-asia/

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