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Articles from 2011 In May

Sweet relief in GE sugar-beet ruling

Foot soldiers in the ongoing battle against Behemoth Biotech celebrated a small but important victory in May, after a federal appeals court threw out a Monsanto appeal and reaffirmed that the U.S. Department of Agriculture must complete an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) before permanently allowing commercial use of genetically-engineered sugar beets.

“It is precedential,” said Center for Food Safety attorney Paige Tomaselli, in an interview with New Hope 360. “It means that when the government is considering deregulating a genetically-engineered crop, it is required to do an EIS first.”

The USDA first approved Genuity Roundup Ready sugar beets in 2005, clearing the way for what Monsanto calls the “fastest adoption of any biotech crop to date.” CFS and others sued in 2008, alleging that GE sugar beets could contaminate non-GE crops, including table beets and chard, boost pesticide pollution, and spawn super-weeds. In Fall, 2009, Federal District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White ruled in their favor, saying the USDA should have prepared an EIS before making their decision, and ordering the agency to do so.

But Monsanto and other companies have since appealed, hanging the EIS up in court while planting of Round-up Ready sugar beets has continued. On May 20, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, issued a summary order rejecting Monsanto’s appeal and putting what Tomaselli believes is a “final nail in the coffin” of that case.

What does it all mean?

While an EIS may seem like a no-brainer precaution to take before approving a new technology with such vast potential environmental impacts, Tomaselli points out that after 15 years of commercialization of GE crops, sugar beets will be only the second to be subjected to an EIS (the other was alfalfa – which, by the way, was deregulated anyway). Both were court ordered.

The bad news for those concerned about genetically altered sugar making its way onto their breakfast table: this decision does not mean GE sugar beets can no longer be planted. (USDA has OK’d it under certain conditions as an “interim measure” until the EIS is completed).

The good news: The USDA now vows to complete its EIS on sugar beets by May, 2012, allowing for what CFS hopes will be “frank and public disclosure and debate” about the environmental ramifications of GE crops.

The next step, says Tomaselli: To get the government to listen this time.

Raw Mixed Berry Pie with Macadamia Nut Crust

Serves 12 / The keys to this decadent raw treat are very fresh nuts and moist dates; buy them in bulk from a store with high turnover, or look for prepackaged varieties. If macadamia nuts are expensive or hard to find, substitute cashews in the crust. Fresh mixed berries are best, but if necessary, substitute two 10-ounce packages of frozen mixed berries, thawed.

2 cups raw cashews, soaked for 4 hours

10 pitted medjool dates (soak in water if very firm or dry), divided

1/2 cup raw macadamia nuts

3/4 cup raw walnuts

1/2 cup raisins (soak if dry; drain)

½ teaspoon coconut oil

1½ cups small to medium fresh strawberries, hulled, divided

3 cups mixed fresh berries (blackberries, blueberries, or mulberries), hulled, divided

2 tablespoons raw, unfiltered honey

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup whole mint leaves, for garnish

1. Soak cashews in water for 4 hours. Rinse and drain. 

2. Place 3 dates in a small bowl and cover completely with 1/2 cup water. Let stand for 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine remaining 7 dates, macadamia nuts, walnuts, and raisins. Process on high until mixture starts to form a ball, scraping sides as needed. Lightly coat a 9-inch glass pie dish with coconut oil; press nut mixture evenly into dish, crimping top edges. Chill.

4. Remove dates from soaking water, reserving water. In a food processor, combine soaked and drained dates and cashews, 1 cup strawberries, 2 cups mixed berries, honey, and vanilla. Process 3 minutes until smooth and creamy, adding soaking water from dates if needed. Add remaining 1 cup mixed berries and pulse until berries are chopped small but still visible. Spoon filling into crust, smooth top, and freeze for 1 hour.

5. Remove pie from freezer and arrange remaining 1/2 cup strawberries (sliced or whole) around perimeter. Tuck one or two mint leaves between strawberries. Slice into thin wedges and serve. (If making ahead, remove from freezer at least 30 minutes before serving.)

PER SERVING: 299 cal, 19g fat (9g mono, 5g poly, 3g sat), 0mg chol, 7g protein, 32g carb, 5g fiber, 5mg sodium

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Q&A: Adam Ismail of GOED on krill oil's future

Q: How is krill oil better than fish oil?

A: Well, it is different. The primary difference is that krill oil contains omega-3Adam Ismail phospholipids. The science is still emerging in this area, but researchers are trying to figure out if the phospholipid form of omega-3s provides a long term, more efficient process for incorporating omega-3s into the body. There are other forms of phospholipid omega-3s, such as forms made from salmon roe and salmon heads, so krill oil is similar to those omega-3s. But krill oil is a commercial oil source that's at a higher scale.

Q: Does research support krill oil's benefits?

A: There's a lot of research on EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Krill oil is a source of EPA and DHA, so there's science on that aspect of krill. As for research on the unique benefits of krill oil, it's not at the level of fish oil or algal oil. It's getting there, and it's evolving rapidly. Companies are investing heavily in science. I think that's a positive for krill oil. In the fish oil sector, which is much more mature and a commodity, you don't see the same level of investment by companies in science.

Q: How much of the omega-3 supplement market is now supplied by krill?

A: We did a research project with Frost & Sullivan, and they estimated that at an ingredient level worldwide, there's $81.5 million dollars in krill oil sales compared to $1.45 billion for the overall EPA/DHA market. It's still a small part.

Q: How did the Whole Foods Market ban on krill oil supplements impact the sale of these products in the broader natural products market?

A: Whole Foods is a big player in the natural foods channel, so it definitely has an impact on how much is being sold in that channel. As far as other retailers following suit, it hasn't expanded beyond Whole Foods.

Q: Did the Whole Foods ban affect consumer attitudes toward krill oil?

A: Krill oil is still pretty novel and not a lot of people know about it. A lot of the concern about the Whole Foods action was actually within the industry than in the consumer press.

Q: Why would consumers take krill oil instead of fish oil? What should they consider?

A: I think that one of most important things to do—and this applies to all omega-3 supplementation—is to figure out your omega-3 index, which is a measurement of the amount of EPA and DHA fatty acids as a percentage of the total fatty acids in your red blood cell membranes. To determine this, you can take a blood test from the Internet or through your doctor. Then, you'll get a target omega-3 index. Usually people say that between 8 and 12 is the target because that's what the Japanese and Icelandic populations tend to be, and they're the ones with the lowest heart disease rates. The typical American is from 1.6 to 2—dramatically different. The idea is to figure out the target you want in your body and start supplementing to get to that level. You can experiment with krill, fish or algal oil and work over time to get to your target.

But the blood tests can sometimes be expensive. If you can't afford them, the other approach is to target your EPA and DHA toward a specific daily intake. Most nutritional scientists today recommend a minimum of 250 mg of EPA and DHA per day up to 500 mg. The Japanese government actually recommends more than 1 g a day.

Q: One of the downsides of fish oil is that it contains mercury, which has to be removed. What about krill?

A: Krill oil is a marine product, so it does have issues like anything else from a marine environment. But because Antarctic krill is harvested in an area where there's low contamination in the water, it’s less of an issue. Krill oil companies are working on a krill oil monograph, and they agreed that the same standards for heavy metals that fish oil meets are no problem for them to meet.

Q: Does the harvesting of krill for supplements rob whales and other sea animals of their food? Can it be sustainably harvested?

A: For the long term growth of this category, I think there needs to be more work done on krill's sustainability. But at our January GOED exchange conference, one of the speakers was Dr. Simeon Hill, from the British Antarctic Survey and one of the world’s leading krill environmental scientists. His view was that the amount being produced today is most probably sustainable.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, a multinational treaty organization that governs krill fisheries, has set a sustainable catch limit. The amount being caught today is extremely low compared to that limit. It's not even close. CCAMLR sets the catch limit at 9.3 percent of the biomass that's in the ocean. The operational trigger limit is only 1 percent of the current estimate—that's the super conservative estimate. I believe what's being caught today is 200,000 tons of krill oil. The estimated total biomass is 379 million tons.

The question is: Can you go up to the limit set by CCAMLR and still have a sustainable production?

Q: Can you?

A: It's a rapidly emerging market.  The key challenge—and all the krill oil companies acknowledge this—is that in order to sustainably manage the fisheries from this point forward, we’ll need cooperation  and involvement and much more research. The same applies to the health benefits. Even more research needs to be done.

Q: From a finished product perspective, how does the cost of krill oil supplements compare to fish oil supplements?

A: Krill oil supplements tend to be a premium priced product. The big concern is that there are some very cheap krill oil products out there.  The price is so low that it's impossible to see how they could produce it at that cost. The worry is—and some analytical research has shown this to be true—that these products might be just fish oil with some added soy phospholipids. This is a real challenge and quality issue for the krill space. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Q: Why are we pursuing krill oil, considering all the challenges?

A: Fish oil has many challenges too. Most of the fish oil research is on heart health. But there's a lot of unanswered questions in areas like eye health and brain health and child development. So there's a lot of unanswered questions even in an area as developed as fish oil. Krill is important, and there's a lot of work that needs to go on to understand it's true value relative to other omega-3 sources.

At the end of the day, the need for omega-3s is so great that every single source of omega-3s needs to be developed. Krill oil will be an important part of that as will be fish oil and algal oil. Even the genetically modified plant oils that haven't come to market yet will be important. Otherwise, we won't have enough to supply what the human population needs.

Q: Do you take krill oil?

A: I actually take many different kinds of omega-3s because that's the nature of my job. So, yes, I take krill, fish, algal. I eat omega-3-rich foods. I don't drink infant formula, though.

New Hope 360 Blog

Why is Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg killing animals for food?

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s new “personal challenge,” reported last week in Fortune magazine’s blog, is to only eat meat from animals that he kills himself. Yes, the world’s youngest billionaire is suddenly killing for food. Responses to Zuckerberg’s May 4 Facebook alert (“Today I killed a pig and a goat”) apparently elicited reactions from dismay to disgust to confusion.

Mark ZuckerbergInteresting, the killing is what everyone seems to be focused on. What’s missed in the chatter is Zuckerberg’s own motivation: becoming a more thankful person. In his Facebook response to the May 4 post, he elaborated, “Towards the end of last year I reflected a bunch of how thankful I was … and I decided to make this year's challenge around being more thankful for what I have.” Zuckerberg decided that the best way to implement this was by “forcing myself to get personally involved and thank the animals whose lives I take in order to eat them [as] the best day-to-day way to remind myself to be thankful.”

Is this just a self-indulgent stunt? Or an authentic attempt at character growth? As an eternal optimist, I’m hoping the latter. And for better or for worse, Zuckerberg – Time magazine's 2010 Person of the Year – has an immensely powerful voice, especially among young people worldwide. The fact that he wants to be more thankful and has decided to focus on that most basic human need, food, strikes me as encouraging.

People (especially vegetarians) may counter: “How about not eating animals at all? That would really be a positive step.” And I agree – but let’s remember, his goal is gratitude, not a diet overhaul or a statement about eating meat (at least not yet). Most carnivores are not going to give up eating all meat, all at once. But taking a serious step toward understanding what must occur to eat meat (killing, preparing) is huge, and a desire to change one’s heart and not take gifts for granted is, in my opinion, more profound than any outward change of habit.

I was also thrilled to read that Zuckerberg’s mentor in this process is Jesse Ziff Cool – a Delicious Living contributor from way back and a champion of the organic and local foods movement for decades. As Zuckerberg’s Palo Alto neighbor, Cool introduced him to local farmers and, reports Fortune, “advised him as he killed his first chicken, pig, and goat  … ‘with a knife, which is the most kind way to do it.’” (Thanks to Elephant Journal's blog for posting this video of Jesse Cool speaking at Google.)

Not insignificantly, Zuckerberg added, “This year I’ve basically become a vegetarian. … I'm eating a lot healthier foods and I've learned a lot about sustainable farming and raising of animals.” If that kind of knowledge starts making its way into his speeches (and, of course, Facebook posts), he could exponentially increase the conversation about our food supply. Ignorance is the enemy of a sustainable food world - it’s a lot easier to deny the reality of grossly inhumane factory farms when you simply pick up your food all shrink-wrapped and Styrofoam-backed at the local grocery store. So I’m thankful for this seemingly eccentric goal, and look forward to hearing about what Zuckerberg learns and how it changes him.

What do you think - virtuous goal or self-important gimmick?

Intro image by Guillaume Paumier / Wikimedia Commons, CC-by-3.0.

Safe sunscreen tips

The heat is on in the sun care department, with so much to consider when choosing safe sunscreens: Is nanotechnology bad? How do I know if my sunscreen is protecting me from UVB and UVA rays? Which sunscreens are best for sensitive skin? What are the safest options for my kids?

Questions like these prompted the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to launch its annual Sunscreen Report, and its updated 2011 edition helped us compile these 10 nontoxic sunscreen picks for you and your family. Whether you try out one of these options or head to your natural products retailer to find another product that’s right for you, heed some simple tips for making the safest choices for you and your family.

  • Look for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, nontoxic minerals that provide both UVA and UVB protection—rather than potentially toxic chemicals like oxybenzone, which also only block UVB rays (that's what SPF tells you).
  • Check the Environmental Working Group’s 2011 Sunscreen Report, which gives sunscreens safety ratings based on six criteria: UVB protection, UVA protection, UVA/UVB balance, sunscreen stability, health concerns, and other concerns. (All of its top picks are mineral sunscreens.) Plus, the EWG provides other helpful tips like why you shouldn’t trust high SPFs.
  • Consider the nanotechnology question (but not too much). The EWG’s stance is that nanoparticles are safe in lotion form but that you should avoid spray—or aerosolized—products, which pose inhalation risks. If you’re still concerned about skin absorption, look for companies that list “non-nano” before ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Some manufacturers are reformulating to create non-nano zinc options that apply sheer and offer the same UV protection. If a product's label or web site doesn’t include that info, the minerals are probably less than 100 nanometers, which is considered nano-sized.
  • Choose sunscreens with antioxidant-rich add-ins, such as green tea, vitamin E, and CoQ10, which provide additional protection from free-radical damage from the sun and environmental pollutants (but avoid antioxidant vitamin A in sunscreen, which has been linked to cancer). If you have supersensitive skin, look for products that are oil-free and pay careful attention to other ingredients on the list. You'll probably want to buy a face-specific sunscreen to avoid breakouts.
Delicious Living

Spinach and Chickpea Salad with Mango Dressing



Serves 4 / Use a super-ripe mango to ensure a smooth dressing. Toss salad with dressing just before serving; leftover dressing will keep for three days in the refrigerator. A whole-grain roll or baguette nicely rounds out the meal.

Mango Dressing

1 cup very ripe diced mango (1/2-inch dice)

6 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/8-¼ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger

4 cups (4 ounces) baby spinach leaves

1 small red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, sliced

1/8 small red onion, thinly sliced (about 10 slices)

1 (14.5-ounce) can low-sodium chickpeas (garbanzos), rinsed and drained

1/3 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

1. Combine all dressing ingredients in a blender and purée until completely smooth and thick. Refrigerate until ready to use. (Makes 1 cup.)

2. Combine spinach, pepper, onion, and chickpeas in a medium bowl. Add 6 tablespoons dressing. Toss to coat. Top with feta and serve immediately.

PER SERVING: 154 cal, 4g fat (1g mono, 1g poly, 2g sat), 12mg chol, 6g protein, 24g carb, 4g fiber, 543mg sodium

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Sustainability issues stain palm oil production

You can find palm oil in just about every type of product—hand soap, lipstick, cookies, supplements, peanut butter. It's even being used as biofuel. The relatively cheap commodity is noted for its stellar nutritional profile (similar to olive oil) and its lack of flavor and smell, allowing it to blend seamlessly into multiple applications. However, although it was once hailed as the future of "sustainable energy," palm oil is actually unsustainable and an absolute eco-nightmare, conservationists say.  

"The rainforest in Indonesia is in flames and palm is one of the leading reasons," said Chris Wille, chief of sustainable agriculture for the New York City-based Rainforest Alliance, a non-governmental organization working to preserve biodiverse land areas. "This is a terrifically biodiverse and super important rainforest area, and they [palm producers] are just pushing it aside to plant this stuff."

Palm oil plantationExperts estimate nearly 2 million hectares of Indonesian rainforest are cleared each year for palm plantations. The palm industry saw a boom as consumers began avoiding trans fats. Manufacturers scrambled to find an alternative to hydrogenated oils, and palm oil became the solution, said Mark Murphy, assistant vice president of corporate affairs for Cargill, the largest United States importer of palm oil from Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Today, it’s biofuel opportunities that are driving up the oil’s value and leading to expanding plantations.

Approximately 85 percent of palm exports come from Indonesia and Malaysia. While total exports of palm and palm products increased by only 2.8 percent in Malaysia, total export earnings in the country  jumped 20 percent in 2010, to $20 billion, said Sundram Kalyana, deputy CEO and director of science and environment for the Malaysian Palm Council, an organization devoted to marketing and promoting palm oil.  

To further bolster the already thriving industry, the Indonesian and Malaysian ministers responsible for palm oil production traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to meet with top environment and agriculture cabinet officials, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Energy Secretary Stephen Chu. Environmental advocates were up in arms over what they speculated were meetings to encourage the U.S. government to promote palm oil imports.

"Palm oil is the only oil that could make regular petroleum look green," said Glen Hurowitz, a consultant for Climate Advisers, a firm specializing in U.S. climate change policy. "The ministers are likely to push Obama administration officials to declare palm oil 'carbon neutral' despite the immense amount of greenhouse gases emitted in its production." 

The palm oil problem

Palm plantations are at the root of some startling statistics. Within 15 years, Climate Advisers forecasts 98 percent of the rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia will disappear—largely due to clear-cutting and burning to make room for palm fields. This clearing and burning has led Indonesia to be the world's third-largest emitter of greenhouse gas after China and the U.S. It's also because of deforestation in these countries that orangutans, Sumatran tigers and Sumatran rhinoceroses teeter on the brink of extinction. A study conducted by the Great Ape Trust, a scientific research facility based in Des Moines, Iowa, predicts orangutans will be the first great ape species no longer found in the wild unless rainforest deforestation is halted.

Palm plantations are also accused of a slew of social injustices, including child and slave labor and unsafe working conditions, according to reports from The Rainforest Action Network, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that promotes rainforest conservation.

To address these social and environmental concerns, the World Wildlife Fund, a nonprofit organization that focuses on conservation and endangered species, partnered with major players within the palm industry to form the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in 2004. The primary goal of the multistakeholder group has been to define and promote criteria for more sustainable practices. Even so, while the program has been under way for more than seven years, environmentalists say significant problems persist.

Green palm or greenwash?

"It has been six years after RSPO was put into operation but forests are still cleared and orangutans are continually killed," Novi Hardianto, program coordinator for the Jakarta, Indonesia-based Center for Orangutan Protection, said in a release. "All criteria on sustainable palm oil and the certification process are merely public lies."

How land is deemed appropriate for palm planting is among the criticisms of the RSPO program. Currently, as long as an area is not considered "high-value conservation forest," it's suitable for a plantation. Each country is allowed to interpret "high value" based on its own set of criteria.

Critics accuse government officials of loosely demarcating biodiverse areas in favor of aligning with the highly profitable logging industry. Indonesia has much tighter laws surrounding logging, so to skirt restrictions, outfits request to grow palm. Land is apparently cleared for planting, but in some cases seeds are never sown.

Which trees are exempt from RSPO standards is another critique. Oil can be obtained from anything planted before 2005 and still qualify as sustainable. Because the oil palm requires approximately seven years to bear fruit, palm planted in high-value conservation forest can still be RSPO certified.

Greenpeace argues that these loopholes allow palm plantations to join the RSPO, improve their image while doing very little to address sustainability.

Today, 24 growers and 100 palm oil mills are registered with the program. To obtain certification, growers and producers must adhere to eight principles, including: "commitment to transparency on environmental, social and legal issues; environmental responsibility with regard to waste, resource use, and climate; and responsible consideration for workers, individuals, and communities affected by palm oil production," according to the Worldwatch Institute, a globally focused environmental research organization based in Washington, D.C.

However, RSPO-certified producers are frequently blacklisted by manufacturers for not following the outlined criteria. A BBC documentary released last year showed Duta Palma, an RSPO-certified producer, clearing protected rainforest to make way for plantations. RSPO-certified Unilever halted business dealings with the company for the act and also froze transactions with PT Smart, another RSPO-certified producer, that same year for participating in unsustainable practices.

"The question is, if 7 or 9 percent of the palm in places like Indonesia is certified, are the orangutans safe? Is the water being conserved? Has the peat stopped burning? Has the deforestation stopped?" Wille said. "We're not sure. We think the certified plantations are better managed. But if you ask the NGOs [non-governmental organizations] on the ground there, the problems seem to continue apace."

A hard-to-replace ingredient

Palm may be high in monounsaturated fat, but that's its only similarity to olive oil. For environmentally-minded manufacturers, the ingredient is nearly impossible to replace.

"When we started developing Pangea soaps, we actually created the world's first organic palm-free soap," said Josh Onysko, founder of Boulder, Colo.-based Pangea Organics, which makes organic, fair-trade personal care products. "We used organic U.S.-grown soybean oil instead of palm. That basically led to us not trying to use palm in any of our products, although we still have one component that has a little bit of palm oil in it—and that’s glycerol stearate. Nobody in the industry has been able to make a replacement [for that]."

When Unilever, the world's biggest purchaser of palm oil, realized it wouldn't be able to find a solution ingredient to palm, the company was a key player in the founding of RSPO. The multinational conglomerate has pledged to purchase all of its 1.3 million annual tons of palm oil from certified sustainable plantations by 2015.

In addition to its ideal nutrient profile and lack of smell and flavor, the palm plant's astonishingly high yield makes palm oil the world's cheapest cooking oil. Palm plantations produce 3.6 tons of oil per hectare. Compare that to soy and rapeseed, which only produce half a ton in same land area. While palm accounts for 30 percent of the world's cooking oil, it occupies only 0.22 percent of the world's agricultural land, according to the Palm Oil Truth Foundation, an organization devoted to defending palm oil production.   

Palm oil is also highly "fractionable," meaning that when it's cooked, its properties are easily separated into different products. For this reason, experts estimate palm oil (sometimes listed as vegetable oil) appears in 10 percent of grocery store items—from dishwashing liquid to cake.

"If a [manufacturer] wanted to replace it, he may go to olive oil. He may. But it's a pretty great oil in itself," said Len Monheit, executive director of New Hope Natural Media’s Global Supply Network. "Honestly, I think we'll see much more of a movement for more responsible harvesting and sustainability before we ever see this oil go away."

Consumer perceptions put pressure on manufacturers

Increasingly, consumer awareness of sustainability issues surrounding palm is leading more manufacturers to hunt for alternatives.

"I've tried different manufacturing techniques; I've experimented with cocoa butter and coconut oil," said Justin Gold, founder and CEO of Boulder, Colo.-based Justin's Nut Butter, which uses palm fruit oil from RSPO-certified AgroPalma, a Brazil-based producer. "If I could find another oil that added value to the product, I'd use it in a heartbeat, even if it cost more. I don't want consumers to have any negative perceptions of our company."

Most recently, when two Girl Scouts discovered palm oil in the cookies they sell, they called on the Girl Scouts of America to remove the ingredient. So far, nearly 70,000 people have signed the girls' petition.

But experts say encouraging U.S. and European companies to cut palm oil isn't the swiftest way to bring about environmental change. Europe and the U.S. buy only approximately 15 percent of the total 45 million metric tons of palm oil produced annually. The rest goes to Asian markets where sustainability isn't necessarily a top priority, Murphy said.

Looking for a palm replacement also isn't a solution. A high yield per hectare makes palm attractive to conservationists. Additionally, responsible palm operations provide much-needed jobs in Third World countries where the oil is primarily produced.

"Boycotts don't work," Wille said. "Just moving the problem from one crop to another doesn't really help in the long run because we face the same questions with other crops. The trend toward palm alternatives is stimulating the planting of rape and canola and other oil-yielding vegetables everywhere—including in Europe where land is even more precious. From an environmentalists' standpoint, we prefer intensively managed, high-production plantations because that concentrates the production in the minimal land mass."

Solutions begin with producers

Organizations such as the Rainforest Alliance are working to encourage more palm producers to adopt sustainable practices. A producer's primary motivation for converting to a sustainable operation is better plantation management, including greater productivity, worker retention and efficiency. RSPO-certified plantations also have access to more credit and premium markets and buyers who often pay more per ton.

The Rainforest Alliance is also working with the Indonesian government to stop rainforest deforestation.

"No more deforestation for palm period," Wille said. "There are plenty of degraded lands, huge areas of land that have already been cutover, they're so degraded that the forest won't easily reestablish there. So, plant palm there. That's rule number one."

Retailers and consumers can get involved by encouraging the RSPO to address loopholes within its certification program by introducing a biomass standard. The standard would require the maximum amount of gases released by plantations to be based on the forest's original biomass. Areas with dense, old-growth trees or carbon-rich peat would rank higher on the biomass standard than new-growth forests.

Additionally, retailers and consumers should ensure the products they buy are RSPO certified and limit products without certification. Such a move, experts say, might encourage more manufactures to seek certified palm oil which could ripple to manufactures across the globe.

"Even if all the palm plantations are certified, how far up the sustainability scale would they be? Would deforestation stop, would the orangutans be safe? You know, we don't know," Wille said. "But at this point, it's our best option. Consumer-facing companies will drive the market for sustainable palm oil, so it's up to consumers to be aware and put pressure on the brands they use."

Sara Lee completes acquisition of Aidells Sausage

Sara Lee Corp. SLE +0.70%  announced that it has completed its acquisition of Aidells Sausage, the San Francisco-based premium meats business. The deal was originally announced on May 5, 2011.

"Aidells' passion for making great-tasting, natural and organic sausages has attracted a loyal consumer following and shaped a truly premium brand," said CJ Fraleigh, chief executive officer, Sara Lee North America. "Adding Aidells' great products and talented team of employees to our organization will expand Sara Lee's presence in the premium meats category and help us to drive even greater innovation."

This acquisition expands Sara Lee's presence into the organic and natural meats segments, while also increasing Sara Lee's coverage of fast growing retail channels, such as club stores and organic grocers.

About Sara Lee

Each and every day, Sara Lee SLE +0.70% delights millions of consumers and customers around the world. The company has one of the world's best-loved and leading portfolios with its innovative and trusted food and beverage brands, including Ball Park, Douwe Egberts, Hillshire Farm, Jimmy Dean, Sara Lee and Senseo. Collectively, our brands generate nearly $9 billion in annual net sales from continuing operations. Sara Lee has approximately 20,000 employees in its continuing operations worldwide. Please visit for the latest news and in-depth information about Sara Lee and its brands.

Solbar names Todd R. Watson as President of Solbar USA

Solbar, Israel, announces the appointment of Todd R. Watson as President of Solbar USA, effective June 1st 2011. The appointment is part of Solbar’s strategy to strengthen its position in the US market and comes as a direct enhancement to the acquisition of a new processing plant in Nebraska last year.Todd

Todd joins the Solbar Group following more than 25 years of managerial and commercial experience in the food ingredients and commodity industry. He has extensive experience in sales and marketing, working for well-known multinational companies including Cargill. He served 10 years at ABF Ingredients, with last two years as a President and Chief Executive Officer of Protient, Inc., where he successfully brought significant growth in sales and business development to the company.

“Todd’s vast experience and capabilities will augment Solbar’s ability to work closely with our customers, and help sustain our mission to become the preferred partner in creating healthier products with our isolated soy protein ingredients,” says Shaul Shelach, CEO of Solbar.

Solbar offers a comprehensive line of soy ingredients, plus expertise specific to isolated soy protein and textured soy protein concentrates applicable to a wide range of food and beverage products including nutrition bars, dry blend and ready-to-drink beverages. Solbar acquired Green Planet Farms plant in 2010 to produce soy protein isolates in South Sioux City, Nebraska, USA. The plant was built with the goal of using an eco-friendly process that separates protein from oil without the use of chemicals.

“We work closely with our customers, emphasizing the development of new formulas for our products to perfectly fit our clients’ requirements, including product processing and all related technologies,” adds Shelach. “This advantage differentiates us from our competitors, enabling our customers to develop high-quality products that have great taste.”

Solbar manufacturers a wide range of soy protein concentrates and soy isolates for meat, vegetarian, health food, nutritional bar, snacks and beverage applications. Solbar is a research-dedicated company focused on processing the soybean to produce products with improved functional properties that emphasize health benefits and bring economic value. The company meets the highest standards of quality assurance for its customers.

Joe&Seph’s popcorn launches new savory cheese range

Joe&Seph’s have released a set of three new savory cheese popcorn blends.

Using a unique technique that doesn’t leave a powdery finish, Joe&Seph’s claim to be streets ahead of their competition and are offering a savory popcorn range which doesn’t have the powdery taste.

Made from 100% natural ingredients, Joe&Seph’s aim was to incorporate the quality of savory products into their gourmet snacking range.

The cheeses have been sourced and imported from Ireland and France following months of research.

Each batch is handcrafted, air-popped and made with Joe&Sephmushroom kernels, Joe&Seph’s popcorn is designed to be full and round, without flakey bits and is fully flavored layer by layer in a bid to offer the maximum flavor.

Co-founder Joseph Sopher is keen to expand the range with flavors new to the market.

Following months of experimentation and trialing, the following three flavors have been launched;

Goats Cheese and Black Pepper (90g) - A subtle taste of black pepper followed by the creamy French goats cheese.

Mature Irish Cheddar (90g)- A mature Irish Cheddar.

Cheddar, Sweet topping and Savory Seasoning (90g) - A sweet topping with grilled Mature Cheddar.

The recommended retail price starts from £2.95 per pack and the popcorn is available at; Brent Cross Shopping Centre, Fenwicks, Brookfields Garden Centre, Burston Garden Centre, Battlers Green Farm in Herfordshire, Willows Farm in Hertfordshire and Selfridges nationwide.

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