Media organisation Sarawak Report claimed the IEA had been put in an “embarrassing position over an apparent conflict of interest”, after deputy chief minister for the Borneo state Sarawak Alfred Jabu reportedly said in a speech that he had received “world-wide acknowledgement” by the Institute thanks to his participation in a panel discussion at the launch of an IEA report on palm oil.
Sarawak Report questioned the independence of the research, written by IEA fellow Keith Boyfield, given its author’s contact with the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) through his work with another institute.
The discussion paper, entitled Commercial Agriculture: Cure or Curse? Malaysian and African Experience Contrasted, sought to demonstrate “the importance of palm oil as a potential solution to escalating global demand for foodstuffs and ever-escalating food prices”.
Responding to the accusations that Boyfield and a IEA colleague Glynn Brailsford had accepted hospitality from the MPOC and been hosted by deputy chief minister Jabu, also chairman of the Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (SALCRA), IEA told FoodNavigator: “The IEA does not accept state money, and all of our research is independent of corporate funding.”