Organic Finland @ expo west

At BioFach in Germany 2 weeks ago I realised I had visited the show 21 consecutive years and most years exhibiting. Now I am heading to expo west in Anaheim, CA, which is a very different show but nevertheless the nro 1 show for organics in North America. This is only the 3rd time in a row to visit expo west but I’ve been there a couple of times in previous years so probably my 6th visit there.082814_EngredeaQ

I work predominantly with 2 products: the organic potato starch from Finnamyl Ltd and Aloja Starkelsen Ltd /organicpotatostarch.com and organic oats from Fazer Mill&Mixes.

Our organic potato starch has been distributed in North America for a few years now by Ciranda Inc. and we are just now starting with the organic oats after finalising the qualification process to be sure everything goes right when it is launched. You will find Ciranda Inc at expo west – or more precisely at engredea in Hall A, Booth 344. Engredea is the ingredients side show linked to expo west.

Organic potato starch is a remarkable product in terms of natural functionality. With functionality we mean water binding, viscosity forming, moisture barrier, gluing, carrier etc. It has the best functionality among the major native starches and in many applications the only starch that offers functionality. This is because it has the best water binding and viscosity creating capacity but even more because it functions in lower EW15_FaviconLogotemperatures than f.ex. corn or tapioca starch. In many cases it is the only native starch that functions in the temperatures that are relevant in the food process. This becomes very interesting when you need to develop organic products where on the conventional side you would use modified starches or other hydrocolloids. Suddenly you need to understand more about native starches than what is necessary in the mainstream industry. For further flexibility in designing the process we also offer cold-swelling (pre-gel) organic potato starch. We can offer application support in your specific product development cases. On the consumer market we are seeing increasing interest in potato starch as the best source of resistant starch. Come and visit us at Ciranda’s booth to learn more!logo

From a North-American perspective oats comes mostly from the northern parts of the continent, Canada being the main producer. Likewise in Europe oats is mainly produced in Northern Europe and Finland is the biggest producer of organic oats in Europe. With a small population of only 5 million we cannot eat it all, so it has always been also exported. The popularity of oats has been increasing in recent years all over the world – and for a good reason. It is tasty, versatile to use and healthy. Oat betaglucan contributes to lowering blood cholesterol levels, which is a recognised health claim both in USA (FDA) and in the EU (EFSA). Oats is naturally gluten-free although most operators can not guarantee it due to contamination with wheat along the value-chain. However for someone who is not celiac diagnosed but follows a gluten-free diet for well-being, oats is certainly a safe choice. (Fazer oats are not certified gluten-free.) Through Ciranda Inc. we offer oat flakes (rolled oats), steel-cut oats and oat flour to the North American market and we hope to contribute to this growing market.  An other reason to come and visit us at Ciranda’s booth and learn more!

Both the organic potato starch and organic oats enter the North American market based on the EU-USA organic equivalence agreement. For organic potato starch we can offer third countries also NOP certified organic potato starch. If you are NOP certified in a third country this enables you to use our organic potato starch in your NOP certified products.

I will be present through the whole expo west -show, but feel free to contact me for arranging a meeting. Email erkki (at) organic-finland.com

 

The Myths of Safe Pesticides

In October I participated in the IFOAM Organic World Conference in Istanbul. The IFOAM World Conferences are not really about business even though some market data is available in some presentations. It is more about the content; about what organic farming and organics in general is about. There would be a lot to tell about, but here I want to talk about a book I bought there. André Leu is the President of IFOAM but he is also an organic farmer and he has written a book – published in 2014 – about pesticides: “The Myths of Safe Pesticides“.  For someone like myself who has been in organics for decades there isn’t so much in the book that is really news, but putting it all together in a concise presentation of all the facts is impressive – and shocking. This is something more people should be aware of and therefore I’m doing my little part in promoting the book and giving a short review of the content. You should all buy the book from IFOAM and read it.

André works through 5 myths:

  1. The “Rigorously Tested” Myth
  2. The “Very Small Amount” Myth
  3. The “Breakdown” Myth
  4. The “Reliable Regulatory Authority” Myth
  5. The “Pesticides are Essential to Farming” Myth

In the following I’ll highlight some main points. Read the book for more details and the arguments for each point.

 (Erkki Poytaniemi, Erkki Pöytäniemi)

André Leu speaking at the IFOAM Organic World Conference in Istanbul 15th October 2014.

 

1. The “Rigorously Tested” Myth 

“All agricultural poisons are scientifically tested to ensure safe use.”

  • Current toxicity testing fail to represent the nature of human exposure to chemicals.
  • The actual chemical cocktails in food and water are not tested for.
  • The combination of pesticides with toxins produced by GMO-plants (Bt) is not tested for.
  • Only single active chemicals are tested, not the actual combinations that are used. F.ex. Roundup (commercial product) is much more toxic than glyphosate (active ingredient).
  • Pesticides are compounds with active ingredients and “inerts” (solvents, adjuvents, surfactants etc). Only single active ingredients are tested even though their toxicity increases by multiple factors (up to 1000 x in some cases) when combined the inerts. Most inerts are toxic.
  • Only acute toxicity is tested to determine the LD50 (lethal dose). Adverse effects must occur within 2 weeks of the chemical being administered to be considered. Other health issues including cancers, birth defects, nervous system damage etc are not considered.
  • ADI (acceptable daily intake) and MRL (maximum residue limit) are not set for any formulated products – they are only set for the “active ingredient”.
  • The vast majority of registered pesticide and veterinary products have not been tested.
  • The special sensitivity of the developing foetus and newborn are not taken into account in testing. The testing is typically done with animals in their adolescence.
  • Nervous system damage is not tested even though it is known that many pesticides function as nerve poisons that can affect adversely children’s neurological development.
  • Pesticide damage can occur in subsequent generations.

 

2. The “Very Small Amount” Myth

“The residues are too small to cause any problems.”

  • Most pesticide residues are below the ADI (acceptable daily intake) and MRL (maximum residue limit) set by authorities and therefore the food is said to be safe.
  • However there are problems as described above.
  • Especially the fact that chemicals can act like hormones means that much lower residue levels can be toxic. These are called endocrine disruptions.
    • Can cause reproductive problems in humans and animals.
    • Can cause decreasing age of breast development in girls and is considered a risk factor for developing breast cancer later in life.
    • Can cause obesity and type 2 diabetes.
    • Fetuses, newbores and growing children are most vulnerable.
  • The dose-response is not necessarily linear; in some cases the lowest doses can be more toxic that higher doses.
  • Glyphosate at residue levels commonly found in people induce human breast cancer cells to multiply – even more so if combined with genistein, a phytoestrogen found in soybean (glyphosate usage has vastly increased with planting of GMO soybean).
  • Close to 800 chemicals are known or suspected to interfere with hormone receptors, hormone synthesis or hormone conversion. Most chemicals have not been tested.
  • Regulatory authorities have no scientific basis or evidence supporting the assumption that exposure to chemical residues is safe at recommended levels.

 

3. The “Breakdown” Myth

“Modern pesticides rapidly biodegrade.”

  • Most agricultural and veterinary chemicals leave residues in food (that’s why they are tested).
  • Most pesticides leave residues of breakdown products or daughter chemicals when they degrade. Where there is any research, it shows that many of these metabolites cause health and reproductive problems. Many organophosphates’ metabolites are more toxic (up to 100 x) than the original pesticide.
  • Apart from break-down products pesticides contain impurities and by-products from the manufacturing process which are largely ignored by regulatory authorities. These include dioxins.
  • There is virtually no testing to detect residues and by-products of pesticides in our food and water and there are no safety levels for those chemicals.
  • Because not all chemicals are tested for it is not correct to say that any food is free of residues.

 

4. The “Reliable Regulatory Authority” Myth

“Trust us – we have it all under control.”

  • It is claimed that there is no risk when chemicals are used as per “Good Agricultural Practices”. However how farmers use chemicals is not monitored.
  • In developing countries many of the farmers using the chemicals are illiterate and often also the sales agents who are supposed to advice them are illiterate.
  • Consequently the highest rates of pesticide poisonings are among farmers, their families, farm workers and in rural communities in the developing world.
  • In developed countries food is tested for residues. However food is considered safe if residues are below MRL’s. Weather residues below MRL’s are safe is highly questionable (for reasons described above).
  • Regulatory authorities disregard a large body of published science that shows that the current methods of determining the safety of agricultural poisons are grossly inadequate. Instead authorities rely on unpublished industry studies commissioned for regulatory purposes.
  • Authorities do not take preventive action but instead take action only after years of public concern of the civil society and scientific community.
  • Regulatory authorities using unpublished, non-peer-reviewed, industry sponsored studies should be seen as a major problem in current regulatory decision making process.

 

5. The “Pesticides are Essential to Farming” Myth 

“We will starve to death without pesticides.”

  • Organic farming methods clearly show that using pesticides and other chemicals in farming is not necessary.
  • There are several examples of high-yielding organic systems from all over the world.
  • Organic farming is successful despite virtually all agricultural research has focused on chemical industrial agriculture for the last 100 years.
  • 85% of the world’s farmers are smallholders and 70% of the world’s food is produced by smallholders. Organic farming can increase production on smallholder farms up 3 times current production levels.
  • According to FAO , with a more than 100% increase in food production in traditional farming systems in developing countries, organic agriculture provides an ideal solution to end hunger and ensure global food security. This is without farmers needing to rely on inputs they cannot afford.
  • Pesticides can be replaced with non-chemical methods.

 

In the above I have just picked some points from the book. I recommend reading the book with al the arguments and facts that are behind these points. In the meantime if you are not sure that pesticides and other chemicals are safe for you, our children and the environment, it might be better to avoid them.

 

Don’t panic – eat organic!

 

 

The Myths of Safe Pesticides

Linkosuo Rye Crisps

The story about Linkosuo Rye Crisps is a story about Rye, how traditional Finnish bread adapted to modern times and the history of the family owned Linkosuo bakery company.

Organic rye in Karjalohja, Finland

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Traditional Rye Sour Bread drying on a pole at Peltolan Organic Farm in Vilppula, Finland.

Rye of course is the healthiest grain used for baking bread. The history of rye in Finland goes back over 2000 years and it was the predominant grain in Finland through the middle ages (replacing barley) until the early 20th century. Still a major part of bread in Finland is rye bread. The archetypes of rye bread is the “reikäleipä” or the round hole sour bread and the round sour rye bread “ruisleipä” with a simple recipe: rye, water, salt. So this is a sour bread with 100% wholemeal rye flour – no wheat and no yeast. The hole bread has the hole because in the old times the bread was hung on poles to dry close to the ceiling of the house. Western Finnish tradition stressed rare baking sessions combined with long-term storage. Of course the dry bread would be too hard to bite but it would be soaked in soups or milk. Nowadays with commercial bakeries baking fresh bread every day this tradition has largely disappeared.

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Linkosuo Rye Crisps in different sizes.

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Linkosuo Rye Chip with traditional organic Finnish "Bread-Cheese" and organic rucola..

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Linkosuo Rye Buttons with cheese, sour cucumber and paprika. All organic.

Linkosuo was the first to adapt the dry rye bread to commercial baking. The first version was just a thinner version of the traditional hole bread. It is not produced anymore because the bite was far too hard – even for Finnish teeth. The breakthrough innovation was to tear the upper part and bottom of the bread apart before drying resulting in a thinner and crispier dry bread known as “Varrasleipä”. Varrasleipä has been hugely popular in Finland for decades.

Finland, as the rest of the Western world, has developed a taste of snacking and this challenge was met by developing the hole of the traditional bread into a “Rye Button”. The Button could easily be used at home or f.ex. at parties as a kind of delicious cocktail snack by just putting butter, cheese, cutleries, vegetables etc on the Rye button.

The most recent modernization of the Rye Crisp was to develop it into a real snack – ready to eat as it is. This was achieved by adding some wheat to the dough to make the Rye Chips bite easier and crumblier and to flavor them. The non-organic range of flavored Rye Chips is already on the market in Finland but also the flavored organic Rye Chips range are in the pipeline. We have already tasted them and they are delicious! But the pure rye version “Aito Ruis” might still be the best. So keep posted and I will let you know as soon as they are available.

You can also already get Finnish Ruis – the fresh bread – in New York. Visit www.nordicbreads.com to see how two Finnish brothers bake real organic Finnish Rye Bread or Ruis Bread in Queens.

For more information about how healthy rye is visit:

The Rye info site of VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland 

and

About Rye and Health

 

 

 

 

 

New research gives further proof of healthiness of rape seed oil

The new press release from Helsinki University “Canola-type rapeseed oil reduces the level of fibrinogen, a leading cause of thrombosis and inflammation” explains the importance of lowering blood fibrinogen levels for human health. Using just 1 spoonful of Finnish spring turnip seed oil (Brassica rapa ssp Oleifera) decreased all higher-than-average fibrinogen levels by approximately 30 per cent in the research subjects.

At Virgino the healthiness of Finnish rape seed oil has been known for years. Virgino produces the highest quality cold pressed oil which means that apart from the beneficial fatty acid composition and high levels of Omega-3 the oil also contains all the vitamins, enzymes and lecithin which are lost in refined oil. The importance of consuming your food as unrefined as possible can not be stressed enough. Oil refining destroys the valuable protective substances in the oil. Lecithin for example is an extremely valuable component in rape seed oil which is totally lost in refining.

The success of Virgino in Finland has been very much based on the research and communication of the health benefits of Virgino oils. One of the last research projects specifically on Virgino oil was conducted by  Chief Physician Ari Palomäki, and the results presented to the scientific community at the Nordic Congress on Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation, held in Hämeenlinna, Finland from 12–14th June 2008. A summary of the research can be found in English hear.

The rape seed that is grown in Finland and used in Virgino oil is the spring turnip rapeseed Brassica rapa ssp Oleifera. This is not the same species as is grown elsewhere in Europe (Brassica napus) and has a better fatty acid composition – the content of saturated fatty acids is lower. Therefore Virgino turnip rape seed oil is one of the best and healthiest food oils in the world.

Virgino oil is also absolutely GMO-free.  There are no GMO varieties of rapeseed grown in Finland or Europe in general. On the other hand all Canola rapeseed oil originating from North-America either derives from GMO varieties or is in any case contaminated with GMO. Also the rapeseed oils that are on the market in Asia are mainly from North-America. The Finnish Virgino organic cold pressed rapeseed oil offers therefore a delicious, healthy and GMO-free alternative.

Apart from the plastic bottle in the photo, Virgino is also available in glass bottles for export.