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Surprising Views Towards Olive Oil Revealed by Survey
29 April 2014

Despite conventional thought in recent years that olive oil should not be used for cooking, consumers do it anyway, according to a UC Davis Olive Center report, which is great to see.

The report was based on a survey designed to discover consumer attitudes and perceptions towards olive oil. Among six areas surveyed, Executive Director Dan Flynn was most surprised by consumer responses about cooking with olive oil.

Research shows that olive oil’s smoke point, the temperature at which it gives off smoke and degrades in quality, is high enough to support most cooking, but the “media, cookbooks and celebrity chefs tell people not to cook with olive oil,” said Flynn. Consumers “apparently did it anyway and found the sky didn’t fall.”

More than 2,200 consumers responded to the Olive Center’s online survey. After analyzing the results, researchers concluded that “consumers believe that they know more about olive oil than they actually do.”

As an example of the disconnect between perceived and actual knowledge, no more than 25 percent of survey respondents correctly answered questions testing their understanding of “extra virgin,” “pure,” and “light” grades, even though the majority indicated that they knew the differences between the grades.

Nearly half of the participants thought that the label “pure” designated the highest quality oil, and many consumers believed that olive oil labeled “light” pertained to its calorie count, when it actually means that the oil was refined and is more neutral in flavor than higher grades.

The survey showed that flavour was the top factor affecting consumer purchases of olive oil, but descriptive words used by the industry to describe the positive taste attributes of olive oil, do not always have a corresponding impact on consumers. Consumers agreed that that the word “fresh” describes good-tasting oil, but the words “fruity,” “peppery,” and “grassy,” did not resonate well as indicators of tastiness.

The report also revealed that consumers choose olive oil over other fats because they perceive it as healthier and tasting better, even though a large percentage of responders did not think that olive oil is good for consuming as it is. Many make their olive oil selection based on “best before date,” although a UC Davis Olive Center study showed that the date bears little correlation to quality.

Flynn believes that the report provide insight that producers or industry associations could use to improve marketing and to help consumers better understand olive oil.
Although the survey focused on U.S. customers, it “would be interesting to see how the results would compare to other countries,” said Flynn.


Test your Olive Oil knowledge and do the Olive Oil General Knowledge Test - click on the link


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Brazil to release British GM mosquitos to combat dengue fever
29 April 2014

Brazil has authorized the use of genetically modified (GM) Aedes aegypti mosquitos in an attempt to take an important step forward in the fight against the most common transmitter of dengue fever. The disease infected 1.5 million people last year in the country, causing 545 deaths. The National Technical Commission on Biosafety, an organization run by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, approved the commercialization of the male OX513A strain of the species on April 10 with 16 votes. There was one vote against the measure.

The project involves the modification of male Aedes aegypti mosquitos to carry two additional genes that prevent the production of viable offspring. The mosquitos can breed but their offspring will die before reaching adulthood – a method that could result in a significant reduction in the Aedes aegypti population. Some organizations, however, say there is no scientific evidence to validate this thesis or evaluate the environmental risks of eradication.

British firm Oxitec will be in charge of mass producing the modified strain after three years of experiments in collaboration with Brazilian organization Moscamed. The decision of the Brazilian government is based on two trials carried out in Juazeiro, in Bahia state, where, according to researchers, the release of transgenic mosquitoes led to 81 percent and 93 percent reductions in the population of the species.

The Commission has warned that large-scale release of these insects should be accompanied by comprehensive control of the population of the other carrier-species, Aedes albopictus, “due to the risk that it may take over the ecological vacuum caused by the eradication of Aedes aegypti.” These observations are already being implemented in a third trial in Jacobina, a town of 80,000 in Bahia, where Moscamed is releasing millions of transgenic mosquitos to analyze the behavior of the Aedes albopictus. In order to guarantee a reduction in the Aedes population, researchers say there is already proof that 500 GM insects per resident will need to be released .

“As a scientist, I cannot state that there is zero risk, just as a vaccine is never 100 percent effective,” said Margareth Capurro, a molecular biologist and researcher who specializes in mosquitos. “What I can say is the project is working and the potential of this genetically modified insect is very good. It’s important to take precautions such as ensuring quality control measures in the production. We cannot release defective mosquitos on the market or allow females to escape. That would be like selling contaminated milk.”

According to the Ministry of Health, 321 cities in Brazil are at risk of suffering an epidemic and 725 others are on alert. Every year, during the rainy season that starts in March, a state of collective hysteria overtakes countless Brazilian municipalities as a result of dengue fever. The disease causes vomiting, fever and muscle fatigue and there is no known effective vaccine against it. The variant that causes hemorrhages is the most feared because it can lead to death. For now, the only preventive measures are to avoid spaces with stagnant pools of water, which become breeding grounds for Aedes aegypti; to use repellents; and to spray pesticides – an option that may present health risks.


After the green light from the Commission, which only limited itself to endorsing the safety of commercializing GM mosquitos, the National Health Surveillance Agency will have to approve the sale of the product and control its entry in the market.

Capurro assures the release of transgenic insects “does not aim to eradicate the species, but rather to reduce the population to levels that minimize the transmission of dengue fever.” She points out that in the 1950s insecticide use eradicated the species, which is originally from Singapore and arrived in Brazil aboard ships and planes, in the country, but it returned in the 1980s.

According to Oxitec CEO Hadyn Parry, “the beneficial environmental profile, coupled with excellent efficacy to date, make the Oxitec mosquito a valuable new tool for health authorities around the world to complement their existing efforts in tackling the mosquitos that spread dengue fever.”

“There is no evidence that shows the mosquito reduces the incidence of dengue fever,” says Gabriel Fernandes, a consultant for Brazilian organization AS-PTA, which supports family farming and sustainable rural development.

“Ineffective and dangerous, the transgenic Oxitec insects are a showcase for British exports to Brazil,” says Helen Wallace, director of British organization GeneWatch. “A desperate attempt to support British biotechnology and to reward venture capital investors should not blind the governments of the United Kingdom and Brazil to the risks of this technology,” she added.

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