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February 28, 2009

Help Obama Win an Impossible Fight

Obama called for something in the State of the Union that numerous others have called for before - and all have failed. He said he wants to "end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don't need them."

Let me explain WHY this is so important (start thinking environment, energy, and global warming) and why it's so difficult to get through Congress. In short, the Big Ag lobby is going to be going bonkers over this, lobbying against this. What if the citizens of America - the VAST majority of this country - told Congress that WE WANT them to keep Obama's promise.

The bottom line is that our votes matter more than agribusiness's dollars in the end (dollars are nice but they are only useful if they buy you votes... and we are the ones who vote). So let's wield our power to help Obama.

I posted the following comment in response to the referenced blog post on Daily KOS blog. It’s very clear to me that we need to end our current agricultural support system that makes big payments to large agribusinesses and leaves the small farmers and ranchers out to dry (or to have a day job to support themselves. We also need to switch to a more sustainable system of agriculture.

When my grandmother was named Eminent Farm Homemaker of 1936 in South Dakota, one of paragraphs in the Citation starts [they] "are the greatly loved parents of 7 children, all of them true to agricultural interests and in some way connected with agricultural life." My father was an agronomist and worked for the USDA Agricultural Research Service.

Of my generation, I believe that my sister was the only one who returned to the middle part of the country after college and farmed for many years (but when my nephew was ready for school they moved to town and commuted back to the farm). Most of us went into engineering and other professions and stayed on the coasts. Now that I've retired from my engineering job I've gotten more involved in agriculture via our small aromatherapy and essential oil business and my participation in the aromaconnection blog.

I've recently become acquainted with some of my cousin's children on Facebook and I don't think any of them are engaged in farming or agricultural pursuits. Several years ago, I left the city and moved to 4 acres in a (sort of) rural area. But of the 200 or so residents of our rural community, there are only two agricultural related businesses--a blueberry farm and a (now-inactive) horse training arena. Most of us who are not retired as I am commute to the city to make a living. We spend much of our local activism fighting off the developments that are trying to move into the neighborhood. Although Washington state has fairly strong Agricultural land protection, there is still a lot of encroachment and many rural residents are very upset at attempts to protect the rural atmosphere and the farming activities because they want to eventually cash in on the "development" value of their property.

We've got to expand our efforts beyond that to reform our agricultural system and get back to a sustainable economy and ecology.

I'm sure my grandmother (who died over 60 years ago) would be appalled to see where we have gotten to.

Daily Kos: ACTION: Help Obama Win an Impossible Fight

Now that I’m looking this over, I realize that the tree farm at to north end of our community is also an agricultural business. But the owner doesn’t live here. . .

Cross-posted at Three Lakes

Posted by Rob on February 28, 2009 in Ecological/Cultural Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 19, 2009

Notes and News

  • According to several Turkish newspapers are reporting that an Explosion at perfume shop injures 16 in Eski_ehir (in the central Anatolian part of Turkey. An investigation is underway, but apparently there was no gas connection to the shop, so it is possible it had something to do with perfume making.
  • Cosmeticsdesign has a feature “Cosmetics Compact” that has an audio news component.  This week they are featuring news about essential oils and their ability to turn into allergens upon contact with the skin. For more information on that topic, see Tony Burfield’s blog from earlier this month, in which he questions these findings and points out that there is conflicting research.
  • ScienceBooksChemistry reviews The Merck Index: An Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs and Biologicals, which contains information about safety and toxicity and lots of other things, of interest to us are biologicals and natural products; plants and traditional medicines; nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals; agriculturals, pesticides and herbicides; Organic chemicals used in research; and Food additives and supplements. Over 2500 pages in the book, and now includes a CD-ROM with additional information and a searchable database.
  • The Daily Green is reporting that Colony Collapse Disorder is showing up again in East coast bee hives. While you’re reading the article, scroll down to the bottom of the screen and read some of the (alarming to me) related articles. If this news doesn’t concern you, then remember that many aromatic plants are pollinated by bees, not to mention food plants.

Posted by Rob on February 19, 2009 in Essential Oils/Plant Extractions, Notes and News, Perfumery, Safety/Toxicity | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

NSF's 'made with organic' standard becomes an American National Standard

Cosmeticsdesign.com (as well as lots of other sites) report that NSF's 'made with organic' standard becomes an American National Standard. This is the organic standard that was being promoted by Dr. Bronner’s Soaps that we blogged about last year. The “made with organic” bar is set fairly low, with only 70% of the ingredients required to be organic.  Products covered by the standard include rinse-off and leave-on personal care and cosmetic products, as well as oral care and personal hygiene products. You can read the original press release from NSF at their site.

The 58 page standard (NSF/ANSI 305-2009) was published February 10 by NSF, but unfortunately costs $100.00 USD for a printed or PDF version. The Table of Contents is available in PDF format for free. The current TOC appears to essentially be the same as that in a draft from early 2008 that I have a copy of (R6), but differences in the actual content are unknown. It would appear that anyone interested in claiming compliance with the standard will have to spring for the $100 for a copy.  However, if the certification process is anything like that planned for the “Natural” standards that are being proposed or adopted ($2500 per product on one of them) it seems that the standard will be well beyond affordability for small and handmade product manufacturers who have pioneered the use of Organic products.

There will be a logo for use by those complying with the standard:

   NSF Made with Organic

One little tidbit from the Draft Standard:

7.1 The term "organic" shall only be used on labels and in labeling of raw or processed agricultural products, including ingredients, that have been produced and handled in accordance with the requirements of this Standard. The term "organic" shall not be used in a product name unless the product meets USDA-NOP criteria or criteria defined in this Standard.

Presumably this clause applies only to products claimed to meet the standard, but since this is now an ANSI standard should we worry that there might be an attempt to extend this to use by others such as essential oil vendors? 

Posted by Rob on February 19, 2009 in Regulatory Issues, Standards | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 09, 2009

We’re now on Facebook and Twitter

the aromaconnection blog is now on Facebook and Twitter. If you are set up for either of these Web 2.0 Social Networking tools, you can now support the blog and get updates whenever a new post is made.

To follow us on Twitter, search for aromaconnection, or you can go to our page from the linkbar on the right sidebar of this blog.  Just scroll down until you find Our Twitter Feed and click on Follow us on Twitter. When you get to our Twitter page, click on Follow to follow us. You’ll get an update whenever a new post is made, or you can see the previous posts, each listed with a link to the page.

On facebook search for “the aromaconnection blog” Group.  We currently have 28 members. We have a Discussion Board with the current topic “Blogroll” where I have put out a call for suggestions for sites to be added to our blogroll and Links List. If you have any suggestions, you can respond there. You will need to be a facebook member to be able to participate, but it’s easy to join. One warning if you are not already a member—it can be addicting.

I haven’t figured out how to get automatic blog updates on facebook yet, but I think there is a way.

Posted by Rob on February 9, 2009 in Notes and News, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 08, 2009

The Senate affects Aromatics Stimulus

I took a look at the list of items cut from the Stimulus package by the Senate compromise team. Several items that will be cut may affect aromatics in the US. These include:

  • $100 million cut from Farm Service Agency Modernization
  • $50 million cut from Cooperative State Resources, Education, or Extension
  • $65 million for watershed rehabilitation

What wasn’t indicated on the cut list whether there would be any funds remaining in these categories. What is clear that these cuts could potentially affect farming and farm services that might support aromatic crops. On the other hand, the proportion which might have trickled down to help aromatic crop farmers is probably small.

Final passage of the stimulus package in the Senate probably won’t come until Tuesday. There will then have to be a Conference Committee with the House to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate bills. It’s possible that some of these items might be put back in.

If you have any feelings one way or the other on this bill, you should contact your Senators or Congressperson.

Posted by Rob on February 8, 2009 in Oil Crops, Politics, Regulatory Issues | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Trouble With Theories About The Oxidation of Essential Oils

by Tony Burfield Feb 2009.

Judging by the response from Cropwatch supporters, many of you may have already read about a doctoral thesis and remarks made by Lina Hagvall, distributed via the cosmetics trade press. Many professionals have found the reported remarks condescending, as we are well aware and may have a wider understanding of the context of oxidized aroma materials than the source of the remarks. But I digress. The thesis in question is entitled “Formation of skin sensitizers from fragrance terpenes via oxidative activation routes: Chemical analysis, structure elucidation”, and Katie Bird (Bird 2009) recently covered the story for Cosmetics Design Europe, although, as with any news knocking natural products, the article is being very widely circulated on websites dealing with health interest and other matters. Many of us have found the Bird-penned article makes for confusing reading: for example what is ‘geraniol oil’? A better recourse is maybe to download the thesis itself from the University of Gothenburg website at http://gupea.ub.gu.se/dspace/handle/2077/18951. You will then be able to gather that the thesis is primarily concerned with the consideration of substances without contact allergenic properties, but which can be activated either via autoxidation in contact with air, or via cutaneous metabolism, to reactive products which can cause contact allergy. Primarily the study looks a five published articles for which the author has had a major involvement, studying the oxidation of geraniol, geranial (a conformational isomer of citral), linalool, linalyl acetate & lavender oil. For convenience these articles are referenced below (Hagvall et al. 2007; Hagvall et al. undated; Hagvall et al. 2008; Skold et al. 2008; Hagvall et al. 2008a).

If I were one of Hagvall’s invigilators, I would have insisted on a re-write of a number of parts of the thesis, where the science as presented is dubious, incomplete or, most importantly, does not present an accurate overview of the topic. Some knowledge of industrial practices would have aided its general acceptability as well, and a collection of these points will constitute a future article from this author.

Overall this author is not saying that the elucidation of underlying mechanisms whereby oxidized essential oils, which may be the cause of type IV allergy and acute contact dermatitis, is not important. But an overview to enable to put this work in perspective is importantly missing. Further, the mention of Axel Schnuch’s work (Schnuch et al. 2007) is selective, and a major omission to include the toxicological reviews of Hostynek & Maibach’s on geraniol & linalool (Hostynek & Maibach 2007a; Hostynek & Maibach) is almost unforgivable, however inconvenient their conclusions to Hagvall’s work. The reader is thus left to form his/her own independent opinion on the relevance of the study, especially against a background of an increasing number of published studies on the anti-oxidative properties of essential oils, the declining concentrations & use of essential oils in fragrances generally, the use of cold-storage & nitrogen-blanketing (amongst other measures) to prevent the oxidative deterioration of stored essential oil and natural isolate ingredients, and the addition of anti-oxidants, UV-filters and stabilizers to finished fragrances & cosmetics to extend shelf-life One is also tempted to mention that a major contributor to the cost of the studies was RIFM, a primary instigator to the culture of toxicological imperialism which has overtaken the regulation of cosmetics/fragrances in the West.

How does this thesis change anything? The lack of evidence of a clear cause-effect relationship between geraniol and linalool and cases of allergic contact dermatitis has been previously emphasized by Hostynek & Maibach (2004 & 2008), and Cropwatch would guess from its’ own experience that adverse end-user effects would tend to support the same conclusion for lavender oil. Hostynek & Maibach (2008) also comment on the relative stability of linalool, its low oxidation rate kinetics and speculate negatively about how readily linalool would oxidize in fragrances & cosmetics, as well as low consumer exposure levels to the ingredients. Great store seems to have been put on the Hagvall thesis by IFRA/RIFM juggernaut, but considering the importance of the sensitiser issue to the perfumery trade, and its impact on the use of natural ingredients in perfumery, the sponsoring of just one researcher to look (mainly) at the oxidation of geraniol & lavender oil seems an exceptionally disproportionate response to the problem. Unless of course you believe that RIFM sees the future of perfumery as entirely synthetic.

Cropwatch is trying to work towards the sponsorship of toxicological research which emphasises a risk/benefit approach towards the elucidation of the safety of natural products - otherwise we will all drown in a sea of over-cautious toxicological negativity, which, it is becoming clear, has little relevance in terms of safety risks presented to the general public from natural-product containing products.


Bird K. (2009) “Essential oils can become allergens on contact with air and skin, says researcher.” Cosmetics-Design Europe 5th Feb 2009. Link

Hagvall L. (2009) “Formation of skin sensitizers from fragrance terpenes via oxidative activation routes: Chemical analysis, structure elucidation.” PhD Thesis University of Gothenberg. Link

Hagvall L., Bäcktorp C., Svensson S., Nyman G., Börje A. & Karlberg A-T. (2007) “Fragrance Compound Geraniol Forms Contact Allergens on Air Exposure. Identification and Quantification of Oxidation Products and Effect on Skin Sensitization.” Chem. Res.Toxicol. 20, 807-814. Link to HTML Version

Hagvall L., Börje A. & Karlberg A-T. (date unknown) “Autoxidation of Geranial.” (Unpublished?) Manuscript.

Hagvall L., Baron J. M., Börje A., Weidolf L., Merk H. & Karlberg A-T (2008) “Cytochrome P450 mediated activation of the fragrance compound geraniol forms potent contact allergens.” Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol. 233, 308-313. Link to Abstract

Hagvall L., Sköld M., Bråred-Christensson J., Börje A. & Karlberg, A.T. (2008a) “Lavender Oil Lacks Natural Protection Against Autoxidation, Forming Strong Contact Allergens on Air Exposure.” Contact Dermatitis 59, 143-150. Link to Abstract

Hostynek J.J. & Maibach H.I. (2004) “Is there evidence that geraniol causes allergic contact dermatitis?” Exogenous Dermatology 3(6), 318-331. Link to Abstract

Hostynek J.J. & Maibach H.I. (2008) “Allergic contact dermatitis to linalool.” Perf. & Flav. 33 (May 2008), 52-56. Link to Excerpt

Schnuch A., Uter W., Geier J, Lessmann H. & Frosch PJ. (2007) "Sensitization to 26 fragrances to be labelled according to current European regulation. Results of the IVDK and review of the literature." Contact Dermatitis 57(1), 1-10. Link to html version

Sköld M., Hagvall L. & Karlberg A-T (2008).”Autoxidation of linalyl acetate, the main component of lavender oil, creates potent contact allergens.” Contact Dermatitis 58, 9-14. Link to Abstract

Posted by Tony Burfield on February 8, 2009 in Essential Oils/Plant Extractions, Perfumery, Regulatory Issues, Safety/Toxicity | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 01, 2009

Aromatics in Print

A review of some of the recent print magazines to come across my desk.  Links are supplied when articles are free online; otherwise you’ll have to visit your local library or subscribe.

  • The January 2009 issue of Perfumer&Flavorist reports on the IFRA workshop on Allergy Prevalence in Fragrance held in November 2008 in Brussels; Reports on the Centifolia 2008 Conference featuring an article on “The Three Pillars of Smart Sustainability in F&F” that discusses how we can increase the usage of natural products while maintaining the natural environment; an article by Brian Lawrence “A preliminary Report on the World Production of Some Selected Essential Oils and Countries” (for example, did you know that 67% of orange oil, the #1 oil, comes from Brazil—or that Hungary is the largest producer of Blue Chamomile Oil?); and Brian Lawrence’s monthly column “Progress in Essential Oils” covers Orange Oil. The print magazine also provides links to online articles, particularly “FMA Ponders Green Fragrances”.
  • The December 2008 issue of GCI (Global Cosmetic Industry) contains an article “What Do Ethical and Sustainable Mean to Today’s Beauty Consumer?” that raises some of the issues and discusses how some companies have dealt with the issues, concluding that “those companies seen to behave in an ethical and transparent manner are likely to win over today’s skeptical consumers.”
  • The September 2008 issue of DAYSPA magazine discusses how organic applies to the Spa world in “You Say You’re Organic?”, something that seems to be open to interpretation in the Spa industry. [see previous note].
  • The December 2008 issue of Economic Botany contains a paper “Traditional Tar Production from Cedrus libani A. Rich on the Taurus Mountains in Southern Turkey” (abstract) that describes how katran, a tar that has medicinal properties, from chips of old stumps that undergo a kind of distillation process involving burning them in a closed space. The katran is about half Monoterpenoids and Sesquiterpenoids, the remainder comprising hydrocarbons such as heptane. Not surprisingly, the chemical composition is similar to that of cedar essential oils.Traditional uses for katran include a number of medicinal uses for humans and animals, and as an insect repellant. Unfortunately the authors used “volatile oils” and not “essential oils” as a keyword, so the article may not be easily found by an online search.

Posted by Rob on February 1, 2009 in Aromatics in Print, Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Essential Oils/Plant Extractions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack