March 29, 2010
Rosewood & Guaiacwood oils Controlled Under CITES Appendix II.
by Tony Burfield. March 2010.
The Environment News Service reported on 19th March 2010, that two South American trees, over-exploited by essential oil traders for the perfumery & cosmetics market, will be listed under Appendix II, the Convention in International Trade (CITES) in Doha, Quatar has decided. Trade controls (international commercial trading strictly by permit only) will apply within 90 days for Aniba rosaedora (Brazilian rosewood), proposed for listing by Brazil, and for Bulnesia sarmientoi (holywood) from the Gran Chaco region of Central America (from which guaiacwood oil, acetylated guaiacwood oil and guaiyl acetate is produced), proposed for listing by Argentina.
Cropwatch has long drawn attention to the decline in the ecological status of rosewood trees (see rosewood monographs in the Cropwatch Files section of website), and many essential oil users have subsequently volunteered to stop purchasing the essential oil. Unfortunately there is always the unethical element of the trade which will carry on using unsustainable species up until the point at which it is actually illegal to do so Cropwatch has previously named and shamed these concerns, but they seem too set in their ways to take any notice of environmental arguments. The status of holywood (guaiacwood) trees in the Gran Chaco National Park which stretches across W. Paraguay, N. & N.E. Argentina & S.E. Bolivia was recently updated by Cropwatch in its Updated List of Threatened Aromatic Plants Used in the Aroma & Cosmetic Industries v1.19 (see Cropwatch Files). Guaiacwood essential oil is actually a brownish paste melting at 45ºC and acetylated derivatives have occupied an important place in the perfumer’s palette.
But will the listing really make any difference? A CITES Appendix I listing would have been more effective, especially in the case of the rosewood tree, who’s survival is more in the hands of the lawless loggers. Rosewood oil from unlicensed stills deep in the forest continues to find its way into the essential oils market, although some batches show unusual compositions, prompting queries about the species it was sourced from (see Cropwatch’s Rosewood biblio in the Cropwatch Files). Will guaiacwood oil from Paraguay continue to be legally available, or is it just Argentinean origins which will be unavailable? Time will tell, but these CITES listings are, at least, a step in the right direction.
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