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Last month, French Senator Yves Daudigny, along with his colleague Catherine Deroche, released a report calling for more taxes for the French people – specifically, “behavioural taxes”.

In this report, the Senators include a recommendation for a new tax on palm oil in France. This tax would be regressive and unjust. It would also be contrary to the best scientific evidence available today, and would raise prices for consumers across France. Such a tax would also mean Senators Daudigny and Deroche were responsible for visiting economic harm on 300,000 small farmers in Malaysia.

In addition to these facts, the proposal from Senators Daudigny and Deroche is irresponsible on both health and environmental grounds.

Palm oil is the most land-efficient oilseed crop, meaning that less previous agricultural land is used for palm oil than for competitor oils such as rapeseed and sunflower. Attempts to push palm oil out of markets – such as the ‘tax raising’ attempt of Senators Daudigny and Deroche – will simply lead to more land being used for oilseed crops, prices rising for French consumers, and food being produced in a less efficient manner.

Equally, palm oil’s health profile makes it ideal for use in food applications – protectionist attempts to reduce the use of palm oil could harm the health profile of many products across France. Palm oil has proven to be an effective, low-cost and healthier replacement for partially hydrogenated oils that create trans fats. The negative effect on health of trans fats is recognized across the world – the American Food & Drug Agency (FDA) is now proposing to ban trans fats altogether. Attempts to place further taxes on palm oil, as suggested in this report from the Senators, risk exposing consumers in Europe to more trans fats.

This proposal is unjustifiable and irresponsible. It is also set on false pretences. Senators Daudigny and Deroche have presented this as a ‘tax harmonization’. For 300,000 small farmers across Malaysia, it is not a harmonisation: the tax would rise. That is the fact of the matter. It is not responsible to present this as something it is not.

This issue may sound familiar to many people – because Senator Daudigny has a history of proposing anti-palm oil measures. He has tried twice – in 2012 and in 2013 – to raise a specific tax on palm oil – the famous “Nutella Tax”. These proposals were opposed by scientists, businesspeople, and political, in Europe, and in Malaysia. The French Parliament, wisely, rejected the “Nutella Tax”, on both occasions when Senator Daudigny demanded it.

In fact, then-Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault stated, on behalf of the French Government, that taxes on palm oil would not be raised in France. Introduction of such a tax would not only have the negative health, social, economic and environmental impacts as set out above, but it would also affect the France-Malaysia relationship.

However, it is pleasing to see that some French politicians and Senators are aware of the facts on health & nutrition, and some are willing to speak out. Senator Catherine Procaccia, for example, has criticised the retailers who have promoted ‘no palm oil’ labels, and recognizes the importance of palm oil to the French food industry.

Senator Daudigny, along with his colleague Senator Deroche, clearly wishes to. Once again, attack palm oil to benefit the protectionist interests of the local French rapeseed and sunflower industries. The Nutella tax failed twice, the French Prime Minister stated that no new taxes should be introduced, and there is a growing understanding in French media of the importance and superiority of palm oil from a health and environmental standpoint.

The French Government must, once again, reject such anti-palm oil sentiments. Senator Daudigny is determined to visit harm on Malaysian small farmers, French consumers, and the food industry. He must not be allowed to do so.

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