April 19, 2011

The Cacao Story Continues

In February 2008, I was moved by the investigative journalism of Christian Parenti, of The Nation surrounding child labor in Cote d'Ivoire.  I did this blogpost at the time after further research into this disturbing issue. 

As the Ivory Coast and other African and Arab nations now fall into civil war and political/cultural disruption, this issue has not yet been addressed and conditions for the children have not changed, now worsened by child trafficking from other African nations into Cote d'Ivoire specifically as slaves to harvest the cacao.

This documentary video produced by Helle Faber of Denmark from last year is evidence that the conditions for children in the region are worsening. 

Posted by Blogmistress on April 19, 2011 in Current Affairs, Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Human Rights, Trade Issues | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 05, 2009

Notes & News

A new lemongrass variety “suwarna” has been developed by the Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants to address drought conditions with a limited amount of planting material released in Uttar Pradesh.  This new variety will produce about 200 kg of oil per hectare as compared to normal varieties that produce about 100-124 kg per hectare. This is an attempt to diversify the income of farmers, particularly those in drought-affected areas.

The International Aloe Science Council presents a scientific primer on aloe. IASC has assembled a comprehensive document exploring the different varieties of aloe, their health properties, cultivation techniques and more. Download this e-book to learn about:

  • commonly traded aloe species primarily used in the nutrition industry, and key components;
  • cultivation considerations;
  • aloe vera as a market commodity, including pricing information;
  • a detailed appendix on aloe species; and
  • details on requirements for organic certification.

The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) has appointed Aurore Boudet scientific and regulatory affairs manager. She will focus on the management and implementation of the IFRA code of practice, IFRA standards, and the compliance program.

The Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) has formed an environmental adjunct group to support the expert panel’s efforts in environmental assessment of fragrance materials and development of IFRA Environmental Standard.  The group includes Michael McLachlan, professor of analytical environmental chemistry, Stockholm University, Sweden, and Beate Escher, deputy director of the national research centre for environmental toxicology, University of Queensland, Australia.  These appointments bring expertise in advising RIFM, especially  in the areas of environmental fate and bioaccumulation.

We at aromaconnection want to remind our community to support an outstanding nonprofit effort: United Aromatherapy Effort (UAE), headed up by Sylla Sheppard-Hanger, was founded in 2001 to support emergency and disaster relief workers by providing rejuvenating aromatherapy and massage services during long and arduous rescue efforts after 9-11.  The group continues to solicit aromatherapy supplies and monetary donations to provide support to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.  We urge you to visit the UAE website to learn how you can contribute.

Posted by Blogmistress on November 5, 2009 in Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Essential Oils/Plant Extractions, Oil Crops, Organizations, Regulatory Issues, Research, Science, Trade Issues | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 29, 2009

Notes and News

Those involved in natural cosmetics and the manufacture of aromatherapy products  in the United States are not always aware of what’s percolating in regulatory circles across the pond.  There is a searchable database, COSING, established by the EU, which is extremely helpful to quickly find pertinent information.  These regs may or may not appear in our own rules here at home as the FDA continues to masticate on the globalization act of 2008.   Of the greatest interest, rules regarding the 26 fragrance allergens now required to be labeled on cosmetic packaging if in products above 10 ppm in leave-on products, or 100-ppm in wash-off products.  Perhaps 50% of these allergens are found naturally in limonene, citronellal and linalool . . . all which occur in essential oils.  In this directive, fragrance allergens are considered regardless if they come from essential oils or synthetic manufacture. 

We owe great thanks to Tony Burfield for his diligence over the past two years to provide information here on aromaconnection about EU directives, IFRA and other regulatory issues.

The volunteers at aromaconnection have all been very busy with other aspects of their lives for a bit of time, however, we hope to be back stronger than ever by the fall.      

Posted by Blogmistress on July 29, 2009 in Aromatherapy, Organizations, Perfumery, Politics, Regulatory Issues, Safety/Toxicity, Trade Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 25, 2009

Notes and News

  • March 20  Botany Photo of the Day: Mentha ×piperita is an electron micrograph of mint that shows the essential oil droplets and glands on the surface of the leaf.
  • Perfumer&Flavorist has a short note about “fair trade” sourcing of benzoin (Styrax tonkinensis) by the Swiss firm Givaudan, who have partnered with Agroforex from Spain and local villages in Laos to promote sustainable production and diversification.
  • P&F also reports that Earthoil India has received “Fair for Life” accreditation for its Indian mint growing operation. From the Earthoil media center, they have also received certification for their African grower group at the foothills of Mt. Kenya.

Posted by Rob on March 25, 2009 in Essential Oils/Plant Extractions, Notes and News, Trade Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 05, 2008

Struggles of Honest Aromatic Crops Businessmen in Afghanistan

image Yesterday's 'Morning Edition' on NPR featured an heroic effort in the hills of Afghanistan by Shafiq Azizi and his business partners to grow and extract roses and other aromatics as an alternative for the poppy growers who trade in the world-wide heroin industry.  Hoping to set an example, they have expended frustrated efforts and a considerable sum of invested money.  Sounds idyllic, however, Shafiq  and Barnett Rubin (an Afghanistan expert and owner of the company that supports Azizi's efforts) are finding the prospect of legal business in Afghanistan is not so attractive to those already engaged in growing poppies.  Also, the corrupt Afghanistan government is hindering any progress or growth of the rose production for perfumery by soliciting bribes and unduly hindering their operations.  An initial $29,000 investment funded the first rose fields and the building of a commercial still, but major setbacks have the investors backing out.  Hopefully, local entrepreneur Abdullah Arsallah's determination to break the cycle of the drug business, and the willingness of a farmer in a nearby village, Haji Ibrahim, will revive the effort. You can read this complete report by Ivan Watson and view video.  We will attempt to keep an eye on this situation and report further progress.       

Posted by Marcia on June 5, 2008 in Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Essential Oils/Plant Extractions, Human Rights, Oil Crops, Perfumery, Trade Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 01, 2008

Is This The End of The Indie Beauty Products Boom as We Know It?

handmade_toiletries The past decade has seen an explosion of small, independent aromatics products companies emerge from the kitchens and basements of America.  From aromatherapy wellness products creators, indie natural perfumers,  sultry incense  formulators,  handmade soap makers and makers of bath products galore - creative entrepreneurs have conjured up myriad offerings from bath fizzies to sugar scrubs to pampering spa products. 

Then, along came the Food and Drug Administration Globalization Act of 2008, announced last month, proposing to give the FDA authority to affect new regulations that could stop the growth of this creative movement dead in its tracks.  For some, it could be the end.  Under the new rules proposed, The FDA could mandate an annual registration fee of no less than $2,000 (possibly more) per manufacturing facility.  This could put some out of business.    

The Personal Care Products Council (formerly the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association), has already testified before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, outlining the self-regulatory efforts of the major cosmetic industry over the past several decades.  From the written testimony of Pamela G. Bailey, CFO and President of the PCPC,   "The result of manufacturer safety practices and voluntary initiatives under a existing framework of Federal law has been an outstanding safety record that has been commended by previous FDA Commissioners.  Cosmetics and personal care products are the safest category of products regulated by the FDA."  Stephen F. Sundlof, D.V.M., Ph.D., Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, also submitted testimony which included the following:  "We believe the proposed legislation should be more closely targeted and prioritized according to risk. Several of the legislative sections appear not to be sufficiently focused on high-risk products. Some of these requirements would divert resources, which could detract from important product safety and security priorities."   While these larger entities are not arguing for or against the proposed legislation, these seem to be cautionary statements that would lead us to believe the larger industry has faith in existing industry efforts to self-regulate cosmetic safety via the CIR (Cosmetic Ingredient Review) established by CFTA in 1976 and funded entirely by the industry, evaluating more than 1,300 ingredients and publishing peer-reviewed scientific literature, available to the public. 

We are fortunate to have Donnamaria Coles Johnson who because of her passion for cosmetics and beauty products has tirelessly championed for small beauty products companies.  If you are a small cosmetic manufacturer and are not a member of the Indie Beauty Network, you are missing a plethora of ideas, education and networking to assist your business development.  Donnamaria has put up a public page to address this latest FDA issue, open to the public for comments and suggestions.   She will be preparing a position paper, using members' comments that will carry our voice to be heard by the Committees in charge of vetting public comments.  You can find Donnamaria's message and governmental links here:  http://www.indiebusinessforum.com/forumdisplay.php?f=41 

We urge all small natural cosmetic manufacturers to keep abreast of this issue and join efforts as needed to make sure that indie business doesn't get left behind.     

Posted by Marcia on June 1, 2008 in Certification, Organizations, Politics, Regulatory Issues, Research, Safety/Toxicity, Trade Issues | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 04, 2008

Notes and News

  • P&F has gleaned statistics from Datamonitor on the growth of  the Fair Trade market, stating that "ethical consumerism will increasingly come to the fore as people shop for products they feel akin to politically, ethically and aesthetically."  Aromatic extracts such as essential oils, CO2's and absolutes are not even on the radar screen with the  regulators such as Transfair  and flo-cert.  My report on Cote d'Ivoire cacao production revealed that determining abuses will not be an easy job. The P&F article predicts a 15.7% growth through 2012 for the countries covered, concluding that "transparency and trust will become increasingly important currency in the emerging  'green'  marketplace." 
  • Insect repellent products made with  Nepeta cataria should carry a warning to caution people not to use when hiking in areas where Cougars, Lynx, Bobcats or other large cats are present.  All cats (even those big guys) are attracted to catnip, and forest rangers have begun using it to attract Cougars for tagging and research.  All cats will have a physiological reaction to the chemical compound nepetalactone in catnip which has been found to induce a psychosexual response in both male and female cats. One might say that catnip has an aphrodisiac effect, however some cats can be very possessive of their catnip, and some cats have been aggressive after use.  We highly recommend that product manufacturers alert their customers of this potential danger. 
  • As reported by Jennifer Minigh, PhD, in ABC's (American Botanical Society) Herbclip, a recent double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial published in BJOG (British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 2008) shows that saffron Crocus sativus L. looks promising for treating PMS (premenstrual syndrome).   Using the dried stigma encapsulated, saffron was effective in treating mild to moderate depression via serotonergic mechanisms.  This is likely the first study of saffron's effects on PMS, with 50 women participating ages 24-50 and comparisons to other studies are therefore probably not possible. 
  • An upcoming Sandalwood Conference to be held in Kununurra, WA  promises to  "Revolutionize the Global Indian Sandalwood Supply."  Rob blogged about this briefly when news of the crop development and establishment of a production plant in Kununurra came out in December.  This news is creating new excitement, as expressed by Georges Ferrando, from Albert Vieille, who says with a processing plant due to be built in Kununurra next year, the region will become a world leader within five years.  "India is number one in supplying sandalwood oil, but I think very, very quickly, Kununurra will become the supplier number one in the world".  The growers are expecting the first harvest in 2014.  The conference will  present comparisons of plantation-grown Santalum album to that grown in the wild, an overview of the international fragrance market, the uses of naturals in fragrance, setting standards for a reliable supply, as well as cover issues of indigenous participation and environmental responsibilities.  In addition to featured presentations, there will be round table discussions and plantation tours.

Posted by Marcia on April 4, 2008 in Aromatherapy, Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Events, Notes and News, Oil Crops, Research, Safety/Toxicity, Trade Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 09, 2008

Sustainable Development of Aromatic Plants in Laos

Environmental Impacts of Trade Liberalization in the Medicinal Plants & Spices Sector of the Lao PDR

While searching for something else, I happened across the above-titled paper (.pdf) posted on the website of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). A summary of the publication is available here.

The paper discusses medicinal plants and a number of essential oil species, including Agarwood, Vetiver, May Chang, and Cinnamon. An Annex at the end of the paper includes pictures of the manufacturing process (including the still) for Agarwood. One of the key findings is:

key issues facing this sector at present, include a lack of systematic and scientific approaches to harvesting, specific plans for cultivation and strict enforcement of laws and regulations, weak collaboration amongst concerned authorities (between central and local authorities and between public and private sectors), and limited awareness among rural people on the preservation of biodiversity.

Essentially, they are working on ways to increase medicinal plant and essential oil exports in a sustainable way.

Posted by Rob on March 9, 2008 in Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Essential Oils/Plant Extractions, Oil Crops, Trade Issues | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 17, 2008

Let's Talk About Free Trade in the Aromatic Industry:


Theobroma cacao

I've been mulling over the somewhat obscure issues of fair trade in our industry, however, Valentines Day presented the perfect opportunity to end my procrastination and begin a conversation here.  Rob and I start our weekday mornings with a cup of coffee and Amy Goodman on Democracy Now.  If you are not familiar with this acclaimed journalist and Harvard University graduate, she's a champion of  peace and human rights, with battle scars from her work in East Timor in 1991 where she and fellow journalist Allan Nairn were badly beaten while witnessing a mass killing of Timorese demonstrators, now known as the Dili Massacre.  Usually, on Thursdays and Fridays Democracy Now is co-hosted by another award-winning journalist, Juan Gonzales, whose work includes Ground Zero illnesses and EPA coverups after 9/11.  Amy and Juan got right to the underbelly of the chocolate industry.  While mostly concerned with the chocolate you might get for a Valentine gift, our industry cannot ignore the fact that the very same cacao is harvested for cacao oleoresin and absolute, much sought after in the perfume and cosmetic industries.  Their guests were Christian Parenti, a correspondent for The Nation magazine and author of "Chocolate's Bittersweet Economy" in the February 4th edition of Fortune and William Guyton, President of the World Cocoa Foundation,  whose members comprise some of the big corporations who basically control the ports and set the prices.  I refreshed my coffee and settled in for what promised to be an interesting and juxtaposed debate.

Parenti began with his trip to the Ivory Coast (70% of the world's cacao comes from West Africa with 40% originating in the Ivory Coast).  He cited the Harkin-Engel protocol developed after real legislation failed, with the hope of volunteer participation from chocolate and cocoa industries.   The protocol was signed by industry leaders in 2001 and laid out a series of date-specific actions to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in the growing and processing of cacao beans and their derivative products, with a deadline of July 1, 2005 for reporting labor practices in cacao farming in West Africa.  The deadline was extended to July 2008 after the industry failed to reach substantial goals.   Parenti went to the Ivory Coast last October to fact check the claims of changes by the WCF and found them wanting.  He observed no substantive changes . . . "there were still many children working, using pesticides, machetes, carrying heavy loads. . . unable to attend school and being injured due to their labor."   He also cites the First Annual Report: Oversight of Public and Private Initiatives to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child labor in the Cocoa Sector in Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana, prepared by Payson Center for Intentional Development and Technology Transfer/Tulane University.  This 271 page document is worth a complete read for those of you who like to follow the threads of bureaucratic intrigue.  The conclusion on page 50 summarizes the lack of attention or activity given (in spite of reams of reports from the companies, their trade organizations, NGO's and West African government officials) to the primary problem of child labor . . . "There is evidence that child labor is a problem in the cocoa supply chain and that the work of children is being used in Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana in a large number of agricultural tasks and at all times of the year."

The WCF claims to have spent tens of millions of dollars to eliminate child labor.  An NGO (International Cocoa Initiative) , identified by William Guyton as providing successful benchmarks, was established and Parenti found it in Ivory Coast to consist of one employee who shared an office in a basement of a law firm.  Parenti says the many claims of successful development projects did not pan out and he could find only one orphanage where most of the kids were not from the cacao sector and cited the head of the orphanage as saying perhaps 8 children over the last several months had been from the cacao sector.  William Guyton agreed with most of the findings in the Fortune  article, however, he spent a lot of time avoiding the key issue of child labor and attempting to focus on other issues - farming techniques for productivity, environmental conditions and social/health issues like HIV-AIDS.

When asked directly if raising the prices to the farmers themselves wouldn't address the need to employ child labor, Guyton cited that these are family farms with children working with their parents, not hired from other places.  He seemed to miss the point that if the farmers could afford to hire workers, it would benefit the children and free them to attend school.  The only successful program that he might be able to tout is the Sustainable Tree Crops Program, claiming that the farmers are receiving income improvements between 25-50%.  I would ask, if this is true, then why have the conditions for children (as well as the farmers themselves) not changed and improved?

What I've come away with (from the Democracy Now presentation, Christian Parenti's investigation, The Tulane Report and my own research) is:

1.)  Although farmers have attempted to establish co-operatives in attempts to circumvent the large companies who control ports/prices and establish collective bargaining for price structure as their own middle men, they are thwarted by international companies who loan them money and then claim that their crops are inferior, paying them less than needed to pay back their loans, many falling into debt.

2.)  The Cote d'Ivoire government is corrupt and not standing up to the international cocoa firms to establish better conditions for their own citizens, farmers and children.  In some instances the co-op members are arrested, after bribes are paid by the international companies to the police. 

3.)  The world market price determined globally on commodity exchanges and cocoa prices are favorable to the big companies, at about $2500 per metric ton.  International cocoa companies joined in a successful lobby in 1999 to eliminate minimum prices for farmers.  The farmers have no say in what they receive in payment, leaving them in a slave condition. 

We will address more of these issues in the future and hope that you will join the conversation as well as pass information on.

Posted by Marcia on February 17, 2008 in Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Essential Oils/Plant Extractions, Human Rights, Regulatory Issues, Trade Issues | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack