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March 30, 2007

Bee Crisis Hearings yesterday

While the rest of us were watching or listening to Mr. Sampson tell all before the Senate Judiciary Committee, what may ultimately turn out to be a more important hearing was held by a House Agricultural subcommittee on Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the mysterious syndrome that is affecting the bee population.

As reported previously on this blog this could turn out to be a crisis leading to the end of civilization as we know it. As reported by CNN, the CCD crisis is apparently the culmination of significant decreases in bee populations over the last 20 years.

Over the past two decades, concern has risen around the world about the decline of pollinators of all descriptions. During this period in the United States, the honeybee, the world's premier pollinator, experienced a dramatic 40 percent decline, from nearly six million to less than two and a half million.

In 2005, for the first time in 85 years, the United States was forced to import honeybees in order to meet its pollination demands. [Dr. May R.] Berenbaum says that "if honeybees numbers continued to decline at the rates documented from 1989 to 1996, managed honeybees ... will cease to exist in the United States by 2035."

What isn't completely clear in the CNN article, but was covered at the hearings is that what we know about most are the effects on the domestic bee population. Because we humans haven't yet interacted with the wild bee populations, we don't have any idea whether CCD applies to wild bees, as well as the other various species that are also pollinators. Dr. Berenbaum's opening statement (linked above) goes into this in detail, and also supports increasing funding for the study of pollinators in general (both wild and domesticated).

Below the fold I've posted information about the Committee and the hearings, with links to the Opening Statements of the witnesses.

Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture

Dennis A. Cardoza, (D-CA) Chairman

Jurisdiction: fruits and vegetables; honey and bees; marketing and promotion orders; plant pesticides, quarantine, adulteration of seeds, and insect pests; and organic agriculture.


Thursday, March 29th – 10:00 a.m.
1302 Longworth House Office Building
Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture — Public Hearing.
RE: Review of colony collapse disorder in honey bee colonies across the United States.

Witness List:

Panel I

Panel II

Posted by Rob on March 30, 2007 in Conservation, Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Oil Crops | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 26, 2007

Update on Bee Disappearance

"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man." - Albert Einstein

The widespread disappearance of honey bees reported here previously has continued, as has media coverage of the issue. An article in Der Speigel has broken this article out in the mainstream media, with widespread blog coverage. A recent more detailed article entitled Mysterious collapse of honeybee populations threatens national food supply on the Newstarget site. An appearance on the CoasttoCoast radio show has resulted in several podcasts featuring Linda from Earthfiles one of which is here. As usual the main stream media have so far pretty much ignored the problem. Even the New York Times article didn't get anywhere near as much followon as "Lavender and Tea Tree cause manboobs," a story with much less ultimate impact.

Various explanations for the bee dieoff include pesticides, GM Crops, or bee diseases but the bottom line is no one knows.

In my previous post I stated that honey bees were responsible for the pollination of many plants, "almost certainly including many aromatic species." I've now done some research online to determine which one are on the list.  Solid information is difficult to find, since even McGregor, supposedly the most authoritative source, isn't sure of the extent that bees are the pollinators and how that affects the production of the plants.  McGregor looks mainly at domesticated species, but does include "drug plants" in general and includes a more detailed discussion of the following plants:

Carrot, Coriander, Fennel, Lavender, Parsley, Anise, Cardamom, Clove, Nutmeg, Allspice, Vanilla, and Dill.

Some of the species on this list are hand pollinated, but there is considerable evidence that at least one species (lavender) shows an increase in essential oil yield when bees are present, presumably pollinating. The lack of presence on this list doesn't mean that a species is not bee-pollinated; it merely means that no one cared enough about the plant to pay attention. So at present we can't tell which essential oils may be affected, but the answer is likely to turn out to be most.

One of the implications of all this is the increasing reliance on single domesticated species in our food chain. So far the information presented discusses the problem with the honey bee, since that is what can easily be noticed by beekeepers.  I have found no current information about the status of native bee species, which are [more likely?] to be pollinators of wild-crafted plants, but this paper from 2002 is about the loss of habitat for native species of bees (I'll bet you didn't even know that there are wild bees, since we all tend to think in terms of the honey bee, which is a European species apparently brought to America in 1620 by colonists.) And it is likely that all pollinating species are affected, not just the honey bees.

With the loss of species diversity we  leave ourselves increasingly vulnerable to the effects of diseases, pollution, or climate phenomena such as global warming. Whether it is our essential oil crops, or our food crops, we could face a future of deprivation.

After I listened to the Podcast and understood its implications, I exclaimed to myself "We are all doomed!". However, as I got out of the car in the driveway last night I heard a bee buzzing nearby, and I thought "well maybe not quite yet . . ."

Posted by Rob on March 26, 2007 in Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Oil Crops | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

March 23, 2007

Cosmetics “Hotlist”

The Cosmetics Division at the Consumer Product Safety Bureau, Health Canada have published a March 2007 version of their “Cosmetics Hotlist” replacing the previous May 2005 version. If a substance in the Hotlist which appears in a marketed cosmetic, then the manufacturer is advised to take remedial actions from a range of options which might include removing or reducing the concentration of the offending ingredient, or being prepared to prove that its use is safe for the purpose intended.

Several of the Hotlist inclusions on the aromatic ingredients side seem to have been poached from previous Brussels regulatory developments. For example, one of the items on the previous 2005 Hotlist is benzyl cyanide, a substance now moved into Annex II of the EU’s Cosmetics Directive. Benzyl cyanide is a naturally occurring substance which appears in the headspace of many flowers, and is a component of certain perfumery absolutes, including the much-sought after and difficult to source karo karunde from Leptactina senegambica Hook. f., and genet from broom flowers Spartium junceum L. It is also given off in large volumes by the sickly sweet & decidedly unpleasant odour of the yellow flowers of mustard seed rape (Canola), grown in Europe for its fixed oil. As I have mentioned elsewhere, since I used to live next to a rape field, and thanks to the local farmer, I did not escape an annual toxic communal gassing from cyanides & isocyanates which these flowers emit for 12 consecutive years. Of course no legal action can ever be taken against farmers, but the cosmetics industry, responsible in my case for considerably less than a millionth of the annual body-load dosing that farmers are responsible for, has restrictions placed upon it. 

Next, no doubt, the authorities will be banning bringing flowers into our houses - many of which, of course give off the alleged rodent carcinogen methyl eugenol, already heavily restricted in cosmetics by IFRA, and on the Canadian Hotlist since 2004. Most leafy trees give off large annual volumes of alpha- & beta-pinenes to the extent that these are measurable in normal atmospheric air. So no doubt trees and flowers will be soon be classified as hazardous to health on the basis that they emit dangerous chemicals which are already restricted or banned in cosmetics. Presumably this explains why no legal action is ever taken against logging companies who are doing a fine job in many parts of the globe of ridding the planet of our forests, err, I mean, dangerous botanical hazardous chemical emitters.

Returning to the Hotlist, you will also see that the Canadian Cosmetics Division have (in the new 2007 list) copied across new restrictions on chemicals toxic to children, namely camphor (limited to 3%) and eucalyptus oil to (limited to 25%). The eucalyptus species is not identified by a Latin binomial (going against their own stated policy guidelines) but the CAS No. indicates that the ruling pertains to Eucalyptus globulus.  The status of other high-cineole containing eucalyptus oils e.g. E. polybractea & E. smithii which are also listed as eucalyptus oils in many national pharmacopoeias is not clear, and Cropwatch has written to Health Canada for clarification.

Previously, the previous May 2005 Hotlist had included several allegedly photo-toxic ingredients such as methyl N-methyl anthranilate, and an oil which contains large amounts of this substance, Citrus reticulate leaf oil (mandarin petitgrain oil). The previous list had also included tagetes oil & absolute, going further than IFRA/the SCCP opinion by banning it completely on photo-toxicity grounds. As with many of these precautionary-principle type restrictions, arising from the conclusions of in vitro studies, Cropwatch has previously been unable to find a single literature reference to any end-user adverse reaction(s) due to the inclusion of tagetes oil in cosmetics. 

Posted by Tony Burfield on March 23, 2007 in Regulatory Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 21, 2007

Seaweed Extraction

A study in J. Chromatography reported on the SeparationsNow website studied three methods of separating essential oils from a crude ether extract of the brown seaweed Dictyopteris membranacea. The methods hydrodistillation (HD), microwave-assisted hydrodistillation (FMAHD) and supercritical fluid extraction (SFE) obtained similar yields of oil, but interestingly, the FMAHD process produced more sesquiterpenes, which have a lower volatility.

SeparationsNow is published by John Wiley & Sons dedicated to sample preparation, Electrophoresis, GC, HPLC and other chemical separation processes. I looked in their archives for other relevant articles, but didn't find any recent ones.

Posted by Rob on March 21, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 20, 2007

The sweet smell of Fez

Lumen blogs about the sweet smell of spring, orange and rose blossoms, and distillation in Fez, Morocco.

Wandering about in the medina now, just before the blossoms start to appear on the streets, you might come across men making and selling some strange-looking silver contraptions with various protuberances. These are stills, and every home will have one.


Lots more pictures where this one came from.

Posted by Rob on March 20, 2007 in Aroma Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 13, 2007

Notes and News

  • As reported in the Manchester Evening News, "Microbiologists at Manchester Metropolitan University have developed a unique blend of natural oils which destroy infections such as MRSA."
    They are using the blend in a diffuser and have seen reductions of bacteria by as much as 90% while the diffusers are running. Actually, the devices they are using utilize airflow technology and are the high-priced unit from Scent Technologies, and more information on the study is on the ST web page at the link.
  • A study reported in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy reports on In vitro susceptibility of Madurella mycetomatis, prime agent of Madura foot, to tea tree oil and artemisinin and concludes that "Artemisinin was not active against M. mycetomatis, but tea tree oil did inhibit its growth. Since tea tree oil's prime component easily penetrates the skin, tea tree oil could be a useful agent in the treatment of eumycetoma." The study suggests that tea tree could replace two currently used pharmaceuticals that are become ineffective in this application.
  • Most people use some kind of home fragrance, according to the Home Fragrance Association. Last year, Americans spent nearly $8 billion on scented candles, diffusers, air fresheners and aromatherapy products.
    Or so it says in an article in STLToday, touted as the #1 Website in St. Louis. The article gives a minimally researched newspaper view of the world of fragrance.  The "Home Fragrance Association" doesn't Google; perhaps they got the name wrong. Other sources include The Fragrance Foundation and some local manufacturers. A sidebar lists a number of products, mostly Fragrance products, but includes the word "aromatherapeutic" in one of its blurbs; typical of the usual confusion of terms in the media.
  • A new article on Lavender essential oil and gynecomastia is making the rounds of the Internet and the Sunday newspapers. The article, written by Andy Dworkin, first appeared on February 28 in the Oregonian and actually contains new material about the issue, based on interviews with lavender growers in the Northwest and the authors of the study. It also appears to contain some misinformation, and the author apparently didn't contact the aromatherapy community. (His e-mail address is at the end of the article.) The latest publication was a syndicated version in the St. Paul Pioneer-Press on 3/11/07.

Posted by Rob on March 13, 2007 in Notes and News, Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 07, 2007

Notes and News

  • The Nevada legislature is considering a bill that will require unlicensed alternative medicine practitioners, such as Aromatherapists, to declare that they are unlicensed, but in return exempts them from prosecution for practicing without a license.
  • WASHINGTON, D.C. - February 20, 2007 - Things could get ugly for investors who ignore glaring health risks in the cosmetics industry, warns a new report from the Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN), which represents 20 investment organizations with $22 billion in assets under management. A powerful convergence of forces - including shareholder resolutions, improved health risk information, European and U.S. regulatory changes and growing consumer pressure -- could drive sweeping changes in the U.S. personal care and cosmetics industry, with significant implications for investors, according to IEHN.
  • basenotes gives IFRA's Jean-Pierre Houri a chance to respond to Tony Burfield's anti-Amendment 40 article last month. It's not much of a response--appears to be a standard PR piece and doesn't engage any issues.
  • The Washington Post features an article on the buchu boom in South Africa, complete with poachers. Buchu (Agathosma spp.) is used to make artificial black current flavoring and also has medicinal uses.
  • Brian Lawrence weighs in on the Lavender/Tea Tree/Gynecomastia controversy concluding pretty much in line with other essential oil and aromatherapy experts already reporting here, stating, "the conclusions from the study are not substantive based on the tests performed."

Posted by Rob on March 7, 2007 in Notes and News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 03, 2007

Misinformation and Misregulation

I've observed that about 3/4 of our reporting to date here on Aromaconnection has been to counter misinformation.  Misinformation that not only ill-informs the public, but gravely threatens the natural aromatic products industry, especially small business. Regulations written in secret without public input could hamstring the efforts of the indie artisan natural perfumer and small natural products business as well as the end user, and deal crushing blows on down the supply chain to the indigenous producer of raw aromatic materials and extracts.  Ironic that on the one hand the UN Industrial Development Organization has funded research and development of essential oil crops, while the other regulatory fist bangs the legislative gavel that will ban or restrict the use of some of those same botanical extracts through agencies responsible for setting standards, such as IFRA and RIFM.  This sweeping move, is now effectively germinating in the IFRA 40th amendment. This amendment stunned the natural aromatics community with its wide-ranging list of natural fragrance materials to be removed from the palette of currently-available natural raw materials for perfume and cosmetic use.  Reporting and discussion spearheaded by Cropwatch resulted in an online petition urging IFRA members to boycott, which petition (having gathered over 700 signatures) has now been submitted to IFRA.  The latest from IFRA is that they believe that the benefits of synthetic fragrance outweighs the use of natural fragrance materials, making the frightening and controversial revision of its code now appear to be a slam dunk.         

Next, our community was outraged at the bad science published in the NEJM linking gynecomastia in prepubescent boys to lavender and tea tree in lotions and wash-off products like shampoo and soap. This flawed paper led to a media frenzy essentially recommending discontinuance of any products containing lavender and tea tree essential oils. Robert Tisserand, noted aromatherapy guru, renowned essential oil safety expert and author presented his challenge to the article, as did the Australian Tea Tree Industry Association who actually called for a retraction of the claims made by the article regarding Tea Tree.  There can be little doubt that the science was flawed, yet we see no hastening from the medical community to right their wrong. Nor do we see the mainstream media behaving as real journalists and showing the other superior, well-reasoned side of the coin.

Then, I questioned a poorly written syndicated article by Judy Foreman that hit several newspapers, including the New York Times and LA Times claiming that aromatherapy benefits are hard to prove.  Ms Foreman could offer no documented research, which she claimed supported this assertion when I contacted her. She also did not respond to my questions whether the neuroscientist she consulted was an appropriate expert in the use of essential oils in therapy, since I found no research citing essential oils in the database of the Monell Chemical Senses Center  the corporate-sponsored research institute where he works.  I also offered a challenge to the aromatherapy community at that time to help sort out the reason that aromatherapy is so poorly depicted and even ridiculed in mainstream media.  Aromatherapists need to heed the wake-up call . . .

There could be a sinister and more disturbing explanation linking all of this, and an excellent paper (PDF) by Herbalist Jonathan Treasure may help us better understand what's going on.  He takes us through the legacy of the political suppression of herbal medicine from the time of the Rockefeller-financed Flexner Report on Medical Education that dealt the killing blow to botanical medical schools of the early 1900's and solidified the authority of the AMA, allied with the emerging pharmaceutical companies up to today.  Treasure also points out the irony that current political leaders are 'arrogantly anti-science . . .to the absurd point of advocating creationist ideologies . . . ".  In this excellent treatise, Treasure rightly recognizes the dangers facing herbal medicine (the birth mother of aromatherapy and essential oil use as medicine).  Now, medical science has achieved a stranglehold of authority that can demand that their "gold standard" of clinical trial data be imposed upon herbal research, relegating herbal medicine but a poor stepchild, rather than the rightful place as founding father of all medicine.  Treasure charges such oft-used databases like MedLine of "pseudo-scientific epiphenomenon that I call the 'mainstream manufacture of misinformation' about herbal medicine."  I, as well, have oft lamented the thrust that some of our better-known herbal educational institutions are embracing the 'scientific method' and reducing herbal medicine to 'complimentary' or 'integrative', which certainly makes herbal medicine the subservient slave to the expanding and powerful Medica-Pharmica-Insurica trifecta.

Treasure sees hope in the movement for open access to scientific publications, which subject will be covered here more in depth.   

Posted by Blogmistress on March 3, 2007 in Aromatherapy, Regulatory Issues, Research | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 01, 2007

Endangered Rosewood

Herbalgram #73 contains a major article on sustainable harvesting of the endangered rosewood tree (Aniba rosaeodora)in Brazil.

For the past several years, a group of women in Brazil have struggled to promote and perform sustainable harvesting of endangered rosewood trees.1 The group, called AVIVE for its acronym in Portuguese (meaning “Green Life Association of Amazonia” in English), was founded in 1999 and is composed of 43 women from the Silves district of the northern Amazonas state of Brazil. These women manufacture and sell soaps and products scented with rosewood oil and other natural aromas, while tending rosewood plantations for future sustainable use. Such practices aim to both reduce local poverty and improve the survival of a species sadly depleted over the years.

The article is long enough and detailed enough to present the entire picture with respect to rosewood, including an email from Chrissie Wildwood arguing "that the organization’s use of IBAMA-donated rosewood oil from heartwood inadvertently promotes the decimation of the species," and requesting that "I only wish they would drop the rosewood oil from their products until such time as the sustainable version of the oil becomes a reality." Chrissie Wildwood's article on her site.

This issue of Herbalgram, The Journal of the American Botanical Council, features Lavender on the cover of the printed edition and in an Herb Profile.

Posted by Rob on March 1, 2007 in Conservation, Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Oil Crops | Permalink | Comments (0)

IFRA Petition Submitted

1st March 2007

Dear Sirs,

Please find attached the petition posted up at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/ifra40/ proposing the Boycott of the 40th IFRA Amendment, for reasons set out at http://www.cropwatch.org/40thpetition.htm.
You will note that there are approx. 740 signatories to date, including perfumers, natural perfumers, MD's of aroma ingredient companies, aroma technicians, academicians, soap makers, staff from cosmetic & natural products companies as well as natural products commodity end-users from countries as diverse as Russia, Iceland & USA. There are a number of anonymous signatories, and to avoid any unfair accusations of ballot-rigging or signature duplication, we are quite willing to submit the owner's version of this petition (which reveals fuller identity details), to an independent 3rd party (who will need to agree to absolute confidentiality), if the need should arise. I think you if you read the comments section of the petition - scroll through  http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/ifra40/signatures.html - you will be taken aback by the depth of feeling many have about over-regulation in cosmetics and interference with respect of freedom to use natural products generally.

Cropwatch believes IFRA has lost its way in recent times, and has effectively become over-influenced by the views of aroma megacorporations and career toxicologists, to the detriment of the perfumery art. We believe that IFRA's precautionary-principled interpretation of health & safety, does not find widespread public support, is sometimes based on selective interpretation of the available scientific evidence, & has knowledge gaps & shortcomings, some of which may due to limitations of available funds. Further, the window-dressing provided in the Jan 2007 IFRA Newsletter, designed to 'soften-up' industry over the 40th Amendments QRA scheme, does not fool us. The fact is that perfumery has become a somewhat tawdry money game, where the principle players have nothing to do with the art.

We believe that it is a very unhealthy situation: that IFRA/RIFM, being such influential bodies, are not independently financed. We believe that their findings & policies should be completely opened up for public discussion, and the existing exclusive & secretive 'Brussels regulatory club' reorganised in the interests of transparency & democracy. Further and most importantly, RIFM needs to be overhauled so that its capabilities can cover a proper risk/benefit analysis for all cosmetic ingredients - rather than delivering a mere risk analysis, as at present. Additionally RIFM/IFRA as powerfully influential bodies, have a social responsibility to those people they disadvantage and put out of work with their safety policies. Where natural ingredients are restricted or prohibited, they need to work with producers & manufacturers to find ways of reducing adverse reactions, which can be applied across the board to all natural ingredient producers - including the economically disadvantaged ones.
Finally, as is indicated by of the petition comments, IFRA needs to show 'joined-up-thinking' with other regulatory bodies as far as ingredient legislation is concerned. It's no good that FAO  other EU Commission Depts, or Nation State Government Departments providing funds to farmers & producers to grow aromatic crops, if IFRA or the SCCP are subsequently going to recommend their restriction or banning in cosmetic commodities. It just makes for more unnecessary regulatory incoherence and social hardship.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Burfield for & on behalf of Cropwatch - the Independent Watchdog for Natural Ingredients. www.cropwatch.org

Posted by Tony Burfield on March 1, 2007 in Regulatory Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack