June 29, 2007
A Sweet-Smelling Union/Cropwatch & The Perfume Foundation
Tony Burfield has announced what appears to be a much-needed alliance and collaboration between The Perfume Foundation and his organization, Cropwatch. This effort will certainly bring sensible debate to offset the disturbing mandates coming down from regulatory agencies, as well as give a leg up to artisan natural perfumers and aromatherapists by promoting agro-commerce in aromatic crops and supporting under-represented indigenous producers in the current legislative dialog and marketplace. Tony, a blogger here on Aromaconnection, is applauded and supported by other bloggers here for this endeavor.
The following is an excerpt from Cropwatch's June Newsletter announcing the alliance:
A collaboration is announced to pursue mutual objectives for the further promotion of the Perfumery Art is announced between The Perfume Foundation & Cropwatch.
The Perfume Foundation has been operating in Brussels since 1995, and states that its mission is “to be the leading authority on environmental and health issues related to fragrances and scents, while contributing to the cultural heritage of perfume.”
Cropwatch really commenced in earnest from 2004 as an Independent Watchdog to the Aroma trade, initially to try to counter the commercial over-exploitation & bio-piracy of rare & threatened natural aromatic plants. More recently Cropwatch has tried to counter regulatory threats against the sustainability of natural product usage in everyday life.
Mutual Interest Projects:
1. To assemble, facilitate & expand the exchange of scientific information on fragrance matters.
2. To achieve a critical mass of experts in order to challenge some of the wrongheaded outcomes from deliberations of existing governmental legislators.
3. To work to launch the “Campaign for Real Perfumes” Underlying this is the belief that natural ingredients should not be unduly discriminated against by legislators. The scope and details of this campaign are still being discussed.
4. To promote agro-commerce in safe natural aromatic materials for fragrance production in order to facilitate artisan perfumery. This may include the support of producers in undeveloped nations who are discriminated against by legislation, i.e. legislation which will only allow usage of ingredients which have been subject to high technology (& therefore high investment cost) processing.
5. To create “The Perfume Embassy” office in Brussels as an ambassador of perfume excellence.
The Problems to Overcome.
Fragrance regulation in the EU unfortunately occurs within the cosmetics sector, rather than being subject to its own Fragrance Commissioner and fragrance expert advisers. Anyone working within the cosmetics sector will be totally aware that fragrance expertise is separate and non-complementary to cosmetics expertise. Because of the way the administration has been set up within the EU, a number of critical mistakes have been made in the way the Cosmetics regulatory process operates. These mistakes need to be properly identified and put right.
It is proposed that a conference be held in Brussels at a date to be announced. The conference would feature speakers with views at variance with those expressed by IFRA/RIFM, the SCCP etc. etc. The conference could also include natural ingredient manufacturers adversely affected by cosmetics sector legislation, as well as strongly featuring the cosmetic industry & its problems. Interplay with other industries who are also opposed to EU policies in their own fields is also being sought, to see if lessons can be learned.
June 28, 2007
Lavender-Tea Tree Oil-gynecomastia Response to NEJM Article
The New England Journal of Medicine has published (subscription or purchase required) (h/t Tony B) several Letters to the Editor in its June 14 issue regarding the paper "Prepubertal Gynecomastia Linked to Lavender and Tea Tree Oils" originally published earlier this year and extensively covered in the world media and extensively blogged about on the aromaconnection blog. The four letters from six authors make a number of points, including the following pastiche (paraphrased unless in quotes) drawn from all the letters:
Product names were not reported, raising concerns about what was actually present. There was no examination of alternate processes that might have caused the gynecomastia. Traditional uses or these oils have not suggested estrogenic effects. In vitro testing alone is not adequate to indict products. The estrogenic effects reported indicate a very weak effect. The tea tree effects were not separated from the lavender and "There is no rational process that could allow the authors to conclude that tea tree caused the gynecomastia. . ." "the estrogenic activity . . . was dose dependant." The effects became positive at levels at least 600,000 times the level of the positive control. "Testing was far from comprehensive." "The study . . . does not support a causative link . . ." The study was uncontrolled with other agents possibly having a role. ". . . an average 20-kg child would had to have used 40 bottles of shampoo for each application. The claim of a causative link . . . appears to be misleading and unwarranted."
The authors were given the opportunity to reply and fell back on the usual excuses: we used the ingredients list on the bottle; we didn't know about/find other research; some of the critics sell the stuff and therefore are scoundrels; other variables that we ignored might have been a factor; yes, our findings should be interpreted carefully; yes, there should be more research.
Not surprisingly, the publishers of the some 22,700 articles on the original paper that show up on Google appear to have overlooked the new information and discussion. That is because the there was no press release to raise it from obscurity and the limited access of NEJM economics that require payment to read it.
June 26, 2007
The Empire Strikes Back
Cosmetics design-Europe, with a headline "Observers question motives behind industry criticism" reports that the Fragrance industry is starting to fight back against criticism of it from such observers as Richard Bence, Tony Burfield, and the Environmental Working Group by questioning potential conflicts of interest. the article itself is fairly balanced, but does lend the counterattacks some credence by their reporting style. They report that a political blog written by Tim Worstall (a rightwing English blogger with an anti-environmental perspective) has attacked Biochemist Richard Bence (Who has spoken out about consumer use of cosmetics) with a conflict of interest charge. They don't blame their criticism of Tony B. on an outside source but point out on their own that Tony is an aroma industry consultant and "a vested interest in essential oils." And they report generally claims that EWG may cite erroneous or misleading information.
To which I say; So what? We all have our points of view, and we are all out in the open with our connections and our opinions. We also have the information that we gather and assimilate and point out to others. It's a well known tactic of the right-wing noise machine in the US to use ridicule and innuendo to frame the debate so they can convince people that they are right and the other side is wrong. Facts (or the lack of facts) don't seem to get in their way. This tendency seems to leaking out of the strictly political world into the real world.
The point isn't our motives--it's our point of view. Some of us believe that organic is better, and we argue our point on our web sites. Our customers are people who agree with us. Because we live in a world where we all need money to survive, we produce goods and services and exchange them for money. We object to governments stacking the deck in favor of the larger companies who use other types of ingredients, or preventing our customers from using our products without following due process to obtain proof that they are harmful.
June 08, 2007
Natural Perfumers Guild Marks Anniversary With New Look
The Natural Perfumers Guild (formerly The Artisan Natural Perfumers Guild established in 2002 by noted natural perfumer and author Mandy Aftel) celebrates a one year anniversary in its newest incarnation wih artisan perfumist Anya McCoy at the helm. A fresh new look and spirit is depicted in the new logo designed by graphic artist and award-winning filmaker Christoph Green.
In the year since McCoy has revived the activity of the Guild, new members include the prestigious Prodarom Grasse Institute of Perfumery and the Grande Dame of American Aromatics Jeanne Rose and noted aromatherapy author Robert Tisserand (a blogger here on aromaconnection). McCoy hosts the 5-year old Yahoo Natural Perfumery Group, an online free educational discussion forum that serves as an adjunct to the Guild. The Guild is a consortion of perfumers, associates and natural aromatic material suppliers from around the world, with established and up and coming natural perfumers in its ranks. The Guild has implemented a mentoring program for entry level natural perfumers and is providing welcome assistance to the growing success of natural perfumery, dovetailing perfectly with the growing green movement worldwide. McCoy has created a sister website which will serve as the sales site for Guild members. Under McCoy's energetic leadership, the Natural Perfumers Guild promises more exciting years to come serving the ever-expanding desire for synthetic-free artisan perfumes and cosmetic products. Congratulations and Happy Birthday!
June 05, 2007
First Lavender Farm in Colorado
Michael Richters has turned five acres of scenic pasture land in Boulder County into a commercial lavender farm with 16,000 plants and 5 varieties.
"The scent is very, very relaxing," Richters said. "It's called Colorado Mountain Lavender. It's much more relaxing than raising 3,000 acres of corn and alfalfa in Nebraska."
For 15 years Richters was a corn farmer in Nebraska before turning to the business side of farming as an investment planner. Then two years ago, he had an idea to grow lavender.
Another article in the local Boulder Daily Camera goes into more details. According to the article they have planted 18,000 lavender plants over 5 acres on Sunday and are expecting results in a few months! In fact it will probably be about three years before they get much yield. They are working on a web site but it isn't up yet.
While searching for their web site I found an article on growing lavender in Colorado, which reveals that it has been previously grown there, in small plots. And that led me to an interview with aromatherapist Mindy Green.
June 03, 2007
Bush Mentions Essential Oils in Major Policy speech
US President George W Bush mentioned essential oils in a major policy speech on foreign aid on Thursday, May 31, "President Bush Discusses United States International Development Agenda":
And now 14 additional nations are eligible to negotiate compacts with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, headed by Ambassador Danilovich.
Let me give you an example of how this program can make a difference. In Madagascar the leaders of this island nation set a goal in their compact to improve agricultural production. In other words, we work with a nation, they have set the goal; we support their goal. They want their farmers to be able to compete in the global marketplace. We agreed to help by investing in agricultural business centers that work with local farmers. In one village, this initiative helped a group of farmers who were surviving by collecting firewood and producing charcoal. That's how these folks were trying to get ahead. They'd find firewood and make charcoal out of it, and hope they could find a market. It's a tough way to make a living in a modern world.
The business center that the compact established helped the farmers work together to identify a new product, a natural oil used in skin care products. I probably could use some of that myself. (Laughter.) The center helped these farmers develop -- helped them to develop a business plan. They acquired financing to set up a distilling plant. They built relationships with buyers in their nation's capital.
Before America and Madagascar signed our compact, a typical farmer in this village could earn about $5 a week selling charcoal. After two months of bringing the new product to the market, the livelihood of these farmers increased. One farmer was able to raise his income enough to save about $500, money he plans to use for a child's education. (emphasis supplied)
I've done some research and it appears that the "natural oil" is geranium. The original source material for Bush's writers was probably the same as this article:
In Madagascar, a programme identified geraniums as a high value-added market, formed a cooperative, doubled production capacity by training farmers, assisted the cooperative in accessing credit and negotiated a contract with a buyer, who is using the geraniums to produce essential oils for sale to the European market. When asked if the farmers enjoyed the smell of geraniums, the head of the cooperative replied, “We like the smell of money better.” The farmers’ income had increased by two-thirds thanks to MCC assistance.
It doesn't mention the distillation plant, but the article is by a Vice President for the Millennium Challenge Corporation. I searched for more information on the web, but it doesn't appear to be there. [Note: I am leaving my political opinions out of this post, not because I don't have them, but because we are trying to keep focused on aromatics.]