Choose Your Devil*! (Rant | Announcement)

Dear Adventurers, earlier in 2014 I wrote about algal oil – the Ecover palm oil alternative. A REAL LIFE THRILLER ENSUED: This alternative is Quite Controversial itself!

It’s like I always say: there are no safe facts anymore today.
We need to regularly question and double-check whatever is presented as a “fact”.
So let’s look together at…

…The Ecover algal oil timeline.
From Innovation to Frustration

April 2014: Good news. 
Ecover introduces a “brand new technology” to replace palm oil. Algae saving the orangutans, that’s the claim.
The technology is explained in simple terms: sugar + algae = oil.
No real details are shared.
The news seems a good news indeed as the production was referred to as natural and even local, (and I’ve saved the infographics, Ecover, we can look it up anytime) because the nice little algae would feed on any kind of sugar, or so Ecover said.

{I wrote a post about it – Don’t You Love Good News? – and was really curious if we would hear more about the mentioned “new and clean technology”.}

May 30 2014: Sneak… leak.
An article appears in the NYT saying that the algal oil technology Ecover were planning to use as a palm oil alternative was based on so-called “synthetic biology” (so we’re talking genetically modified algae).
The same article further listed companies and syn-bio products that are or might be on the shelves already.
It’s a great read, for all it’s worth, go and check it out >>> Companies Quietly Apply Biofuel Tools to Household Products

{I took my aforementioned post and freezed it, so people couldn’t share the fancy Ecover infographics from BEAUTYCALYPSE – until I knew more.}

June 2014: An open letter.
On June 2nd, North American NGOs and activist groups have published an open letter to Ecover (read it here), saying:
“We do not believe that engineered algae fed on sugarcane are a ‘green,’ ‘ecological’ or ‘sustainable’ solution to the problems of palm oil use.”
More than that, in the same letter, Ecover are accused of a not so local/sustainable approach to the sugar material, and I quote:
“As you are no doubt aware, sugarcane production on Brazil’s fragile Cerrado eco-region is associated with significant biodiversity loss and CO2 emissions from both land use change and burning of the bagasse, as well as poor working conditions that can resemble slave-labour practices. The rapid expansion of land devoted to growing sugarcane in Brazil is moving back the agricultural frontier, driving forest destruction into the Amazon.”

Now that’s not exactly a clean alternative.

So. What’s Next?

So right now I’ve been getting in touch with a few experts to fully understand the technology and the concerns.ecover-palm-oil-algal-oil-criticismWhile my update on that industry news is in the making, a friend sent me a link to BioHandel Online, a German webzine dedicated to the bio industry. In their article from June 6 (here’s the link to the article | in German), Ecover’s Head of Sales for Germany reacts to the magazine’s questions by saying that algal oil was in the testing phase, labelled as such, and that Ecover “only” made a test batch of 6,000 pieces of the new detergent.
The Ecover representative further is quoted on BioHandel as saying that the company were “discussing with NGOs” and should decide on their use of genetically engineered algal oil within six months to come.
Ecover also have taken down their algal oil news/campaign from their official website.

Stay tuned.
I want to know more about “sneaky” products that the NY Times article mentions,
and I want to hear about the technology from the NGOs.
Obviously, many people want a “safe” alternative to palm oil.
We just happen to want the real deal.


* “Choose your devil” is a phrase coined by my friend Lyss whenever we discuss what is “safer” or “healthier” or “more ethical”.
Sometimes it’s not choosing the lesser evil. Sometimes it’s still choosing a devil left or right.
It’s a Quest, you guys. It always has been.

 

4 responses to “Choose Your Devil*! (Rant | Announcement)

  1. Thanks for sharing this information, I read about the new product from Ecover on several blogs, however you are the only one that did a follow-up post. Something like this reminds me that bloggers should be careful about what to share, sometimes it’s best to wait some time until you have more info, especially from organizations besides the brand.

    • Thank you, Julchen.
      I think it’s okay for bloggers to feature promising news fast; however I was curious to find out what they would reveal (the announcement was “Sendung mit der Maus”-level: cute algae eat sugar and save the apes, everybody is happy). The leak in the NYT left a seriously bad aftertaste, and I decided to take down the post so that when people google this “new technology” they at least see that there’s more to it.

      Frankly, I don’t want any outdated info to be found on my blog. Older posts sit around forever, so I regularly check back and add an update or a further info if applies.

      However, the Ecover article is the first to be completely “frozen” – due to the importance of the matter. I didn’t want one word of praise to be left for the Google to find; not until I know more.

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