December 21, 2009

The Palm Oil Atrocity

Originally posted on La Vida Locadore (cross posted with permission) This is a timely post from outside the aromatic community to introduce Cropwatch’s recently updated List of Endangered and Threatened plants which is now in its 17th upgrade UPDATE: Tony has updated the List of Endangered and Threatened plants to include more information about the Palm Oil Situation. (search for Palm Oil in the pdf file—it’s about the third mention).

by: Asinus Asinum Fricat

Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 10:41:56 AM PST

I loathe to use a Ballardian catchword in the title but it conveys the sheer insanity and the destructive practices that the palm oil business does to our planet (if you have five minutes to spare please peruse the preceding linked pdf)

Now, thankfully (and quite possibly because of "gentle pressure"), we have the globe's two biggest food firms, Nestlé and Kraft, who have launched internal investigations after a Greenpeace report claimed both purchase palm oil from Indonesian company PT Smart whose parent group Sinar Mas allegedly engages in widespread illegal deforestation and peatland clearance in Indonesia.

One great poster here, rossl, has written extensively on the palm oil debacle and it is worth taking a look at the first of a series of diaries.                                       

In the UK, Marks & Spencer have also made new pledges about their use of sustainable palm oil, ramping up to using only certified oil in products by 2015. But, what is certified oil?

Palm oil is used in a broad range of consumer food and toiletries products, but its production has caused massive deforestation in South Asia, placing livelihoods of humans and habitats of forest animals like orangutans under severe threat.  

The growth of Indonesia's palm oil industry is blamed for turning the country into the world's third-largest emitter of CO2 after China and the United States. Additionally Indonesia also has the fastest rate of deforestation, losing an area the size of Wales every year (every year more than 8.5 million hectares of tropical rainforests are being razed worldwide.)

According to Grist deforestation is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries, amounting to roughly 20 percent of overall emissions. 20%! The issue was also one of the key issues debated at the Copenhagen climate change summit.

Under the draft text of the rules, known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), oil palm plantations created by clearing rainforests would qualify for payments from a new scheme in which rich countries would pay developing countries for storing carbon in trees.

The Jakarta Times reported that Unilever has also decided to suspend the annual contract worth US$32.5 million after it obtained photographic evidence of Sinar Mas clearing protected rainforests, including reserves for Indonesia's endangered orangutan population.

"We have received very serious allegations against Sinar Mas and we had no choice but to suspend future purchases from them," Unilever's vice-president for communications, Gavin Neath, told The Times. Sinar Mas's actions break Indonesian law and highlight how membership of the RSPO alone is not sufficient proof of a company's environmental credentials, alleges Greenpeace. A Unilever spokesperson told "The Greenpeace claims about (PT SMART) breaking RSPO guidelines are too serious for us to ignore."

What's the benefit of Palm oil? It is a form of vegetable oil derived from the oil palm tree (Elais guineensis) mostly produced on plantations in the tropics, notably in South East Asia. In  every supermarket shelves you will find that at least 10% of all products are made from palm oil: frying oil, biscuits, chips, chocolate, instant noodles, ice cream, cakes, mayonnaise and so much more, the list is very long.

It does not stop there. Broken down to form derivative products, it is  also used in soaps, shampoo, cosmetics and detergents and in the metal and leather industries. Palm kernel meal, which is extracted from the same plant, is used as livestock feed.

Here are a few examples of the questions you might ask yourself: what links breakfast margarine with the repression of indigenous people in Indonesia? Were your leather shoes made at the expense of the rainforests? What do crisps and biscuits have to do with the enforced displacement of rural populations?

"Around three-quarters of the world's oil palm is grown in Indonesia and Malaysia where much of the recent expansion of the industry has been onto peatland and into tropical rainforest," according to Unilever's website. "The clearance and burning of South-East Asia's peat forests release 2bn tonnes of greenhouse gases every year. According to some estimates, deforestation in Indonesia alone accounts for 4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions - making it the third-highest emitter behind the US and China."

However the company believes the link between the cultivation of oil palm and climate change can be broken by creating a market that is sustainable and certified. Read my lips: sustainable palm oil is simply snake oil in a clever disguise.

Many manufacturers and retailers are using palm oil in great quantities to stimulate supply and demand regardless of its huge environmental impact in South Asia, where forests have been cleared to make way for more plantations. The devastation has displaced both humans and animals that live in forest regions, and makes a big contribution to carbon emissions.

The WWF has now graded 25 major users of palm oil in Europe (world's largest consumer), to see how much of the available "sustainable" palm oil they are using.

"The top scoring companies have shown what's possible, with some buying fairly substantial quantities but now it's a question of whether the majority will follow," Adam Harrison, WWF's senior policy officer for food and agriculture. "If they do, it will transform the market, giving producers the confidence to grow more sustainable palm oil. If they don't, there will be grave consequences for the environment."

Low-scoring retailers included Aldi, Waitrose, Boots, Morrisons, Co-op and Tesco. While no company achieved the maximum 29 points, amongst the highest scorers were Sainsbury's, Marks and Spencer, Cadbury and Nestle.

The publication of the scorecard follows an announcement from Nestle this week that it will use only sustainable palm oil by 2015. But as I said above: sustainable palm oil may not be sustainable after all. You might like to read what Friends of the Earth have to say on the matter:

After a complain from Friends of the Earth International the UK advertising watchdog has ruled that claiming palm oil is "sustainably produced" is false advertising.
The link is posted above.

Palm Oil names, what to look out for on the labels:

Sodium Laureth Sulphate (Can also be from coconut)
Sodium Lauryl Sulphates (can also be from ricinus oil)
Sodium dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS)
Palm Oil Kernel


Elaeis Guineensis
Glyceryl Stearate
Stearic Acid (may also come from other sources, but not likely in today’s environment – Rob)

Chemicals which contain palm oil:

Steareth -2
Steareth -20
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate
Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (coconut and/or palm)
Hydrated palm glycerides
Sodium isostearoyl lactylaye (derived from vegetable stearic acid)
Cetyl palmitate and octyl palmitate (and anything with palmitate at the end)

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Posted by Rob on December 21, 2009 in Conservation, Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Oil Crops | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 25, 2009

Call for Support for Firefighters/Victims in Australia

United Aromatherapy Effort is helping to mobilize efforts and donations to help wildfire relief efforts throughout Australia.  Any supplies or monetary donations would be welcome.


March 21, 2009 NEWS: CALL TO ACTION
Once again the amazing power of the internet, and all our interconnections have enabled us to network this call to Action (feel free to forward).
We are mobilizing to help out with the teams already working for the Wildfire Relief Effort. The Australian Practitioners Emergency Response Network (APERN) exists to help frontline emergency workers fulfill their duties in an emergency/critical incident and to support volunteers and victims in a caring and compassionate way. The blog: It emerged from the events of Black Saturday, the 8th February, 2009 when extensive bush fires in resulted in over 200 deaths. APERN is still in its formation stages and they are all volunteers. In addition Hands on Health Australia or HOHA aims to assist communities to improve the delivery of health and other services to marginalized people, utilizing the resource of community volunteers. They are looking at setting up 7 community clinics. At present some clinics are running and others are still in progress. Some communities around Whittlesea are only just returning to their homes to begin the rebuilding stage. There are 7000 people still homeless and living in tents, having survived one of the worst tragedies. (News links on the UAE site if you need a reminder.)
Supplies (respiratory blends, relaxation, clinic supplies like towels/base oils, etc) can be sent to Tuesday Browell ( 424 High Street, Echuca, Victoria Australia. 3564 mobile ph is.0428342957.
In addition Ron Guba/Essential Therapeutics in Melbourne is collection donations for oil supplies if you want to purchase local supplies toward the Relief effort: visit he will see your purchase is mixed into respiratory blends, or other useful products and delivered via the above organizations. Ultrasonic diffusers would be great for the seven clinics if someone wants to contribute those, contact Sheriar Irani in Sydney
This is a great quick way we can help rather than sending our own supplies.
Thank you in advance for any support as we mobilize globally to help out when we can. Please feel free to forward this to any other lists or organizations, and other caring aromatic friends.

Sylla Sheppard-Hanger

Posted by Blogmistress on March 25, 2009 in Conservation, Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Education, Oil Crops, Organizations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 15, 2008

Sandalwood – A Critical View of Developments

by Tony Burfield December 2008

Four Santalum (Sandalwood) species are present in the IUCN Red List 2008, including the extinct Santalum fernandezianum. The more familiar Santalum album L. is one of the remaining three, being assessed as Vulnerable in 1998, but a more detailed breakdown of the eco-status of individual Santalum species from various geographical locations, with ancillary notes, is available on the Cropwatch website, in the A-Z Section of the latest update of the Threatened Aromatics Plants data-base, at Aromatic Species v1.09.pdf

A comprehensive Sandalwood bibliography, together with many abstracts & (often critical) Cropwatch comments, is also available at These two resources should help empower potential sandalwood oil buyers to decide for themselves, just how ethical their purchasing intentions might prove to be.

The shortage of Sandalwood oil East Indian has been caused especially by the ravages of spike disease and to a lesser extent by fire, vandalism, animal damage & by other factors, on the existing Indian Sandalwood forests in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and the ruthless over-exploitation of this declining resource by illegal distillers, smugglers and corrupt officials. Arguably the over-exploitation of Sandalwood only came about because of the persistent market demand for Sandalwood logs for incense, wood carving & furniture making, and the demand for Sandalwood oil itself (which some have estimated at 250 tons/annum), despite warnings of serious depletion from eco-aware groups. A few years back, some aromatherapy profession officials and certain aromatherapy essential oil trading group representatives belittled the threat to Sandalwood (see Cropwatch bibliography), and inferred that if any blame was to be apportioned at all, it should be laid at the door of the major users, the fragrance industry. You will note that even now, within the EU, nationally-run aromatherapy vocational courses still feature Sandalwood oil for study, in spite of representations from Cropwatch to the organisers. The incense trade, of course, have ignored their obligations almost completely, and as far as we can tell, many parts of the conventional perfumery trade have done the same.

Alexandre Choueiri (2008), head of Lancome UK, speaking at the Sandalwood Conference 2008, Kununurra, W. Australia , notes that of 7,000 classified fragrances since the year 1750, 3212 contain sandalwood notes. Drawing on data from Fragrances of the World by Michael Edwards, Choueiri makes the point that of (only) 106 current fragrances now listing Sandalwood, only 36 detail Indian Sandalwood, and of those, only 16 detail Mysore Sandalwood. Of the 36 fragrances marketed by leading fragrance houses, I counted 3 supplied by IFF, 2 by Robertet, 9 by IFF, 4 by Drom, 2 by Takasago & 3 by Firmenich Of these 16 current fragrances allegedly employing Mysore Sandalwood, 4 are supplied by IFF, 2 by Givaudin (Quest), 1 by Firmenich, and 1 by Symrise. So what are we to gather from this? That the use of Sandalwood oil in fragrances is in decline, but that major aroma corporates are still ruthlessly exploiting what remains of the world's Sandalwood reserves? If they are, they are not alone in doing this. Another speaker at the conference, Venkatesha Gowda, who works for the R&D Dept. of Karnataka Soaps & Detergents Ltd., a long-time manufacturer of Sandalwood soap, maintains that in spite of the official figures (14 tons/annum of Sandalwood oil exported from Tamil Nadu during 2007-8), the current (2008) annual production of Sandalwood is actually 3,000 - 4,000 tons and for Sandalwood oil it stands at 120-150 tons, of which 80 tons/annum of Sandalwood oil is consumed by the domestic market. Gowda also remarks that Sandalwood oil is adulterated by polyethylene glycols, African sandalwood oil (Osyris lanceolata), castor oil and coconut oil, and that he has been involved in planting Osyris lanceolata in India (but hopefully not with trees smuggled out of Tanzania!). As a passing comment, a simple solubility test with 70% ethanol can easily be carried out by prospective Sandalwood oil buyers (if you are unaware of the details, contact Cropwatch), which is often a good indicator of the presence of adulterants such as fixed oils. OK, its not rocket science, but sometimes it’s a good on-the-spot resort!

Also of interest, is the fact that the Lush company publicly own up to using 1 ton per annum of New Caledonian Sandalwood oil (see and have forwardly contracted to buy TFS Australian sandalwood (Bird 2008), as confirmed by Mark Lincoln of Lush Australasia, speaking at the Kununurra Conference. Cropwatch has reservations about the ecological effects from the abstraction of such large volumes of Sandalwood oil from New Caledonia (bearing in mind that Lush are not the only buyers of the oil from this limited source); & none of the information presented on our various data-bases supports this rate of extraction (see for yourselves!). We remain open to persuasion that this policy can be truly sustainable, according to our strict interpretation of the word, but would only be too happy to review and post up any forwarded evidence to the contrary.

Of course it is well publicised that Australia has ambitions to become a major supplier of oil from Santalum album oil in the future (see the multitude of articles on this subject in the Cropwatch Sandalwood bibliography), and the Kununurra Sandalwood Conference 2008 can primarily be seen as a conference designed by TFS mainly to re-assure investors in Australian Sandalwood plantations. Indeed, the trade magazine Perfumer & Flavorist, once the flagship magazine for the industry, apparently reproduced the conference organiser’s promotional material without critical comment - to us, another sign of the slipping standards of this once-great magazine. Overall, Cropwatch remains skeptical of the ability of the Australian sandalwood machine to supply Sandalwood oils in the volumes estimated, of being an acceptable odour quality, & at a price that the market is prepared to pay, bearing in mind the current economic climate, the downward pressure on aroma ingredient prices, and the easy availability of cheap synthetic sandalwood aroma chemicals.

Cropwatch is persuaded that with proper policies & investments, some Sandalwood sources can be made truly sustainable, and we believe this may well the case in Vanuatu. However, taking pure Sandalwood oil East Indian as a benchmark, the odour profiles of Sandalwood oils from other geographical locations and/or other species are usually different in character, and lack fine notes, and may be over-sweet (as with East African Sandalwood oil) or predominantly woody-camphoraceous (as with Chinese Sandalwood oil), or just plain lacking in impact & character (as with Indonesian Sandalwood oil). From here, the future looks difficult for Sandalwood.

(All references can be located in the 68 pp. Sandalwood bibliography mentioned above).

Posted by Tony Burfield on December 15, 2008 in Conservation, Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Essential Oils/Plant Extractions, Oil Crops | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 11, 2008

Illegal Trade affects Medicinal and Aromatic Plants in Nepal

A headline article in the Telegraphnepal discusses the status of several medicinal and aromatic plants in Nepal and concludes that they are endangered because of illegal trade supported by "rampant illiteracy" prevailing in the local villages.

The article focuses on the mushroom Cordyceps sinensis, Fritillaria cirrhosa, (both important in traditional Chinese Medicine); Larix himalaica, (used for construction) and mentions Seabuckthorn (used in cosmetics) as well as essential oils.

The author of the article, Khilendra Gurung, is a Nepalese botanist and researcher in the non-Timber forest products of Nepal, especially including aromatic plants, with a number of published papers on the essential oils of Nepal. Eight of his papers are posted online on Scribd, an article site. They include a 44 page inventory of non timber forest Products (NTFPs) in the Manaslu Conservation Area, an an analysis of wintergreen oils, two papers on Sea Buckthorn, an MS-GC of Rhododendron oil, a specification for Lindera neesiana, and an overview of the the essential oil bearing plants of Nepal.

Posted by Rob on September 11, 2008 in Conservation, Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Essential Oils/Plant Extractions | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 22, 2008

Earth Day 2008

"The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy and sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people. We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. the rocky crests, the juices in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man, all belong to the same family. The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each ghostly reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The waters murmur is the voice of my fathers' father. The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give to the rivers the kindness you would give any brother. If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So, if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers. Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth. This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, his is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself. One thing we know: our god is also your god. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator. Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted by talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone? Where will the Eagle be? Gone! And what is it to say goodbye to the swift pony and the hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival. When the last red man has vanished with his wilderness and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left? We love this earth as a newborn loves its mothers heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children and love it, as God loves us all. As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you. One thing we know: there is only one God. No man, be he red man or white man, can be apart. We ARE all brothers after all."

      -Chief Seattle

The nature Conservancy Earth Day Ideas
Take action for climate crisis solutions at we
Recycle old computers, cell phones and other electronics
Earth Day official events and activities
Professional advice for business sustainability initiative
Earth Day Facts from Rochester, NY plus more links
Make every day Earth Day from Madison, Wisconsin
Adverse effects of palm oil by Dove from Greenpeace
We can do it! from Sierra Club
The Rainforest Initiative
Whitefeather Forest Initiative
The African Conservation Foundaton
Long list of intragovernmental, governmental and private (NGO) environmental orgs

That ought to keep us busy.

Happy Earth Day! from all of us at the aromaconnection group blog.  

Posted by Marcia on April 22, 2008 in Conservation, Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Events, Human Rights, Organizations, Politics, Regulatory Issues, Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 22, 2008

Cropwatch Threatened Species Update Feb 2008

Cropwatch Threatened Aromatic Plants Used in the Aroma & Cosmetic Industries v 1.04 Feb 2008

The fourth update of Cropwatch's Threatened Species used in the Aroma Industry is out & can be found at 1.04.pdf Its scope is now broadened to cover both the Aroma & Cosmetic Industries. For those of you who have not browsed the 81-page feature, it is divided into two parts. The first is a brief summary of topics relevant to aromatic plant conservation, and the second larger part is an alphabetical listing of the threatened aromatic species, covering geographic distribution,  IUCN status and any listings by other conservation organisations, with notes about the materials themselves. This new version also contains an updated section on unethical animal products used in cosmetics - such as oils derived from shark-livers, green turtles and emus. We have also slightly extended the biopiracy section to cover the activities of a US company which has copyrighted a Peruvian natural product used as a foodstuff and in indigenous medicine, as previously first reported in Herbalgram

Posted by Tony Burfield on February 22, 2008 in Conservation, Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Essential Oils/Plant Extractions, Regulatory Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 27, 2007

Events of Interest

ALLIANCE OF INTERNATIONAL AROMATHERAPISTS:  After 5 years of developing educational newsletters and teleconferences as well as a staging a successful conference in 2005, the group formed as Aromatics in Action has officially launched under their new name, Alliance of International Aromatherapy. Now a fully-formed 501(c)3 nonprofit, they are holding their second major conference in Denver CO October 18-21, entitled Celebrating the Past - Creating the Future of Clinical Aromatherapy.  Presentation topics are diverse and contemporary and are sure to challenge and excite those who attend, covering safety issues, sustainability, clinical research, product quality and purity, global and planetary healing and a wide range of issues confronting aromatherapy. . . including, very smartly, a session on Growing a Successful Organization presented by Sonja Simpson who will help inform strategies as a potential plan of action for the continued success of AIA.  The efforts of this emerging organization are to be commended and the event appears a welcome turn towards a more progressive organized effort for aromatherapy in the U.S.  The only downside is that the event conflicts with other important gatherings in the broad range of interest to some who might otherwise attend.

WILD PLANT HARVEST: OPPORTUNITIES AND THREAT:  Aromatic plants, along with their medicinal, food and ornamental counterparts, are more and more frequently harvested from the wild, including public lands.  If harvested in a sustainable way, these nontimber forest products (NTFP's) can provide economic benefits to forests and the people who harvest them, largely in rural communities.  The 2007 Janet Meakin Poor Research Symposium scheduled for Friday, October 19, will feature a variety of topics to address ecological implications, sustainable harvesting, policy issues and international trade, and other management issues.  Keynote luminary, Dr. James A. Duke will present a slide lecture covering Medicinal Plants of the bible featuring slides by Peggy Ann K. Duke and a highlight will be the presentation of an international, multidisciplinary collaborative effort to value the pharmaceutical potential of plant diversity of Cuc Phuong National Park in N. Vietnam, presented by Dr. Djaja Doel Soejarto, professor of pharmacognosy and biology, University of Illinois at Chicago.  Other featured speakers include Colin Donohue, executive director of the National Network of Forest Practitioners (NNFP), Dr. Tamara Ticktin, associate professor of botany U. of Hawaii at Manoa with others.  Online registration deadline October 12.

If you have a major symposium or conference you wish us to announce in this periodic column, please send information and internet link to

Posted by Blogmistress on September 27, 2007 in Aromatherapy, Conservation, Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Organizations | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 18, 2007

Vietnam promotes crassna plantation for essential oil

Vietnam is expanding the land dedicated to the production of  what they call "do tram" which is actually Aquilaria crassna, the tree that is commonly known as Aloeswood, eaglewood, or agarwood, according to a press release on They currently have more than 10,000 ha (hectares, or 25,000 acres) of do tram trees, and plan to add 30,000 additional ha (75,000 acres). It has been estimated that growers can earn a profit of 100-300 million VND ($6,200 - $18,600 in US$) per ha of do tram trees a year. According to a paper on the Conservation and use of Aquilaria crassna in Vietnam: A Case Study from 2001, the production of do tram in plantations should reduce the pressure on the wild populations, and it can be grown in plantations and is also suitable for under-canopy planting in agroforestry systems. The species has been identified as threatened in Vietnam due to exploitation of wild stocks, and it is on the 2007 IUCN Red List.

This appears to be another example of expecting the income to come soon, while in fact it may be many years before the trees grow to maturity, and in the case of this species, become infected with a fungus that actually produces a resin from the heartwood that is the valuable material that is used in incense and can be distilled into the essential oil called oud or oudh. The Vietnamese plan to transfer the technology for oil production to the farmers by 2010, which seems a bit premature. The wood must be damaged in order to stimulate the growth of the fungus. One seller of the wood claims that the best product comes from trees that are hundreds of years old, but that may just be hype. There has been research done in Thailand to see if mechanical methods can be used to stimulate aloes wood formation, but the results of one study suggest it isn't too successful.

Trygve Harris points out in this post from 2004 that the trees have been planted all over southeast Asia for the last 20 years, with the anticipation that there would be a great income from it--but that in fact the oil produced from the non-infected trees is very poor quality and has little economic value. As she points out in this post about the wild production, the process of wood collection (the best product comes from dead infected trees that have been on the forest floor) and distillation is very complex and time consuming.

So, given the probable increasing rarity of the wild trees, and the difficulties of producing fine quality oil from the plantation grown plants, we can probably continue to expect fine quality agarwood and oud oil will remain rare and expensive. And there will be those who promote the low quality oil as better than it is.

Posted by Rob on September 18, 2007 in Conservation, Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Oil Crops | Permalink | Comments (1)

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 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)