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OLIO/ I semi oleosi: antiche culture e nuove tecnologie
 
Nanni Ricci (Italia)
Olio da semi oleosi. Forse uno dei prodotti, sul mercato mondiale, più soggetti ad una lavorazione industriale. Credo che oltre il 90% degli oli da seme sul mercato mondiale sia ottenuto da industrie, che hanno un metodo di estrazione a base di solventi, che da un olio che, sul mercato mondiale, viene denominato “olio di semi di”. Nella legislazione europea non è possibile chiamare un olio ottenuto direttamente da pressione, da qualsiasi seme oleoso, “olio di semi di”. Per farlo è necessario fargli subire una raffinazione con metodi industriali, con alte temperature, corrente di vapore, ecc... è una legislazione strana, deve essere superata, ma di fatto ancora oggi il mercato internazionale dei semi da olio è in mano alla produzione industriale.
Fortunatamente nel mondo, in molte realtà, si sta sviluppando una cultura della produzione di oli da semi oleosi che prevede, invece, un’estrazione per pressione e una destinazione del prodotto al consumo, all’alimentazione, direttamente del prodotto che potremmo definire, per analogia con l’olio di oliva, “vergine”, cioè ottenuto direttamente dal frutto o in questo caso dal seme.

Zoubida Charrouf (Marocco)
A nome della delegazione marocchina, che è qui presente con la comunità dei produttori dell’olio di argan e con i produttori di zafferano, vi ringrazio.
Vi illustrerò la nostra attività, che è riguarda la produzione d’olio dalla pianta di argan, una pianta tipicamente marocchina. Questa pianta è tipica della zona arida del Marocco, la zona di Agadir. La pianta di argan è di origine antichissima, discende direttamente dall’era terziaria, e rappresenta un importante baluardo contro la desertificazione. Potete vedere in fotografia i frutti d’argan, che contengono i semi da cui si estrae l’olio. La pianta di argan ha un ruolo economico, sociale, ambientale importantissimo in Marocco. Il processo di desertificazione, a cui la coltivazione dell’argan fa opposizione, comporta danni drammatici anche a livello di esodo rurale.
L’attività di estrazione dell’olio dall’argan è un’attività tradizionalmente femminile. In tutte le fasi, dalla raccolta, alla pulitura dei semi, alla torrefazione delle mandorle, alla molitura e poi alla preparazione della pasta dei semi, è un’attività tipicamente femminile. La nostra cooperativa tende a valorizzare l’antichissimo savoir faire delle comunità locali, e particolarmente il savoir faire femminile, in materia anche di medicina tradizionale. L’olio di argan è molto conosciuto per usi cosmetici, per la pelle e per i capelli, ma il suo uso alimentare è molto interessante perché è un grasso che combatte il colesterolo e le malattie cardiovascolari. Il nostro progetto ha fini scientifici, ma anche sociali ed ambientali, dunque con ripercussioni molto ampie. L’applicazione scientifica del nostro lavoro ha teso a migliorare il confezionamento dell’olio, la sua presentazione al pubblico, ma ancora prima ha teso a migliorare le tecniche di estrazione, con l’ottenimento di una resa maggiore, maggiore conservabilità ed igiene del prodotto, e dunque di una commercializzazione più facile. La composizione acidica dell’olio di argan è molto equilibrata e ricca di acidi insaturi, una grande quantità di oleico, altri acidi grassi in una composizione molto equilibrata. Inoltre contiene un 1% di frazione saponificabile che ha la sua importanza, anche perché contiene sostanze antiossidanti, fondamentali per il metabolismo umano e per la salute. L’olio ne contiene 700 milligrammi per chilo, con una prevalenza di gammatocoferolo. Le sostanze antiossidanti sono oggetto di studio continuo in medicina e in fisiologia, dove si vanno evidenziando sempre di più effetti positivi contro acne, villosità, calvizie, radicali liberi, ipertrofia della prostata e molte altre cose. I fitosteroli sono ben presenti nell’olio di argan, da 1000 a 1500 milligrammi per chilo. Si vanno scoprendo i motivi dell’uso tradizionale in medicina dell’olio di argan: è stato confermato l’effetto cicatrizzante, di protezione e idratazione della pelle, dovuti alle sostanze che si stanno individuando nell’olio stesso. Tutte le proprietà dell’olio si vanno confermando grazie alle analisi scientifiche. Dunque la composizione acidica degli acidi grassi monoinsaturi permette all’olio di raggiungere un’alta qualità biologica dei grassi che contiene, mentre la presenza della frazione polifenolica dona una funzione antiossidante, anti-invecchiamento e antidegenerativa. Tutto questo conferma che l’olio di argan è un olio di alto valore biologico.
Sotto il patrocinio della facoltà di scienze di Rabat, che segue tutto il progetto e fornisce assistenza scientifica, sono in attività cinque cooperative che portano avanti progetti di sviluppo per la produzione dell’olio di argan.
Questa attività tipicamente femminile ha permesso di occupare oltre 500 donne analfabete, organizzandole in varie cooperative che si occupano di raccogliere e di lavorare i frutti e i semi di argan. Il primo e più importante proposito di tutto questo è la promozione della condizione economica e sociale della donna rurale, in termini anche di alfabetizzazione. È importante anche la diffusione della cultura relativa alla lavorazione dell’argan ed è fondamentale l’estensione delle coltivazioni, dato il loro valore ambientale: ogni donna ha l’impegno di piantare almeno 10 alberi all’anno. L’aspetto ambientale è fortemente appoggiato dalle stesse cooperative di donne.

Fatou Samba Njai (Gambia)
My name is Fatou Samba Njai, and I come from Gambia. I am part of the sesame growers in Terra Madre, but right now in Gambia I am working with the National Women Farmers Association. We deal with sesame. We have a total membership of 48,000 farmers. Our organization definitely stands up by itself; it’s only women. No men. The men can produce, and we buy what they produce, but we don’t allow them to join. We have about 1,070 groups countrywide, and we also have about 72 clusters, also countrywide. Those clusters have producers, and all those women in those groups produce sesame individually, and also by groups. We produce sesame, and other crops like groundnuts (peanuts), which is an oil seed and which is also the cash crop of the Gambia. We’ve introduced sesame because of the erratic rainfalls that are happening in Gambia. Most men are into it now, because it has a market. When we produce it, we process it into oil. We also export. The amount of sesame we produce is about, let’s say, 500 tons, which we sell to individual buyers. Like the company Anguc, and we discuss with them and we sell. Prior to that, we give money to sesame growers to purchase whatever their groups produce. So we do it internally. And out of that, we have other buyers to sell it outside. With sesame oil production, firstly we started with mortar and pestles. They were using mortar and pestle to produce oil, which is very hectic. Later they were provided with a manual press. Then later, one with a with a motorized generator. We still, however, produce little quantities of oil. That means that even now we are far behind in our processing of oil. Because even with a good processor, if they process it into oil, the women will have to go and fetch firewood, put that in a bucket, put it on fire, and boil it, and then extract the oil, which will take them a number of days to finish. Even then, the oil expressers are not enough. We have about 27 oil expressers in the country, which is not enough. Still now we are far behind. So we are inviting donors and strong NGOs to help us on that side.
The other thing we produce is groundnuts. Groundnuts are our export crop, as I said earlier. As for groundnuts, there is one farm that is called Premier AgroOil. It produces it into (peanut)oil, and they told me that they produce about 25,000 tons, which they export. So for groundnuts, I think we are okay, but with sesame I think we are still trailing behind. Although we are producing, the women are organized; we taught them in literacy and numbers; we call it the “literacy for self-management.” They are organized, but we are still far behind, because of their resources and because of their literacy level.
Let me go back. We are sponsored by CRS, that is the Catholic Services. They only pay our salaries and our operational costs, and that’s where they stop.
I’ll stop there, but I want to show this. (She holds up posters.) We do not only stop at sesame production, as I said earlier. We also organize a seed fair, whereby we invited vendors to come and sell seeds to our various farmers. Various seeds: rice, maize, millet, and groundnuts. This money was provided by the US-AID government program, from America. When we gave these seeds to the farmers, we had a follow-up program: we called it the seed-fair follow-up. All the farmers that were given seeds were followed, so that there would be enough seeds the next year. It was the Seed Security Project. Some farmers grew groundnuts, some grew rice, some grew maize, some grew millet. So when they brought the seeds to their various groups, the following year they will sell it among themselves, so that the seeds would be secure and the lack of seeds would not be a problem. That has happened for sesame and the other crops. Now, for this: we had a media campaign for sesame, because we saw that most of the farmers were not following the production practices, which has retarded their yields. So we decided to organize a media campaign, whereby Video One was taken worldwide to where people were gathered together, and this message was done over the air and on the TV and it was done in villages too. So this was an effective program. This year we are expecting a wonderful harvest from all of the farmers.

Tony Marshall (Canada)
t’s an honor to be here and to share the podium with a group of such distinguished people. My name is Tony Marshall. I’m a certified organic farmer from Alberta, Canada. That’s the western part of Canada. The farm that I farm on with my wife and family is a 100-year old farm. It’s a farm that my great-grandfather farmed, and my grandfather, and my father before me, so I’m a fourth-generation farmer on this piece of land. So it’s rather ironic that when we switched over to certified organic farming, we were going back to some of the same techniques and philosophies that were used on this farm nearly 100 years ago. Today, however, at Highwood Crossing Farm, we are certified organic by choice, not by default. Unlike my grandfather, who really had no choice or no alternative, we have made a conscious choice not to use chemicals. But while we do embrace many of those same philosophies of those ancestors who farmed at the turn of the century, for us many things have changed. For example, we have added many new crops to the crops that my grandfather and great-grandfather would have grown. We grow field peas, we grow flax, rye, wheat, barley, hay, and oats. We have also experimented with specialty crops, such as black medic, evening primrose, borage, and Echinacea. We also have a certified organic garden, where we grow specialty heirloom vegetables for some restaurants in the city near where we live.
In 1996, we added value-added processing to the farm. Through friends, I learned of a company in Germany that manufactured an oil expeller, so I traveled to Europe and visited the company and toured a number of oil-pressing facilities and ended up purchasing one of their machines. It’s a similar machine to the one my friend from Morocco uses in her production. So in 1997, we delivered our first orders of fresh-pressed canola and flax oil. Our primary customers are health-food stores, but we also sell to restaurants and bakeries and other health professionals. Most of our customers are in Alberta, the province that we live in, but we do ship our products across Canada on a regular basis. We press flax and canola oil. Our oils are cold-pressed, expeller-pressed in a light and oxygen free environment. We press them in small batches, to order. We take our orders on Monday from our customers, and then we press that week, and we bottle at the end of the week and ship out to the customers the same week the oil is pressed. So we don’t keep any inventory on hand; we only press to order.
I’d like to talk a little bit about canola oil. As I mentioned, we press canola and flax oil. The flax is used primarily in the health food industry. It’s very, very high in the essential fatty acid omega-3; it’s the highest vegetarian source of omega-3 essential fatty acid. But today, I’d like to talk to you a little more about canola oil and canola seed, because it’s something that’s unique to Canada. Canola is Canada’s major oilseed crop. It’s grown for consumption around the world, in such places as Asia, Africa, Australia, and of course in Europe and the United States and Canada. The botanical origin of canola is rooted in a plant called rapeseed that was once a source of edible oil in Canada, until the late 1960s. It was at this time that research identified a potential health concern with the erucic acid in rapeseed. As a result of that, it was stopped being used as an edible oil source in Canada. Through traditional plant breeding techniques – not genetic manipulation – plant breeders developed a nutritionally superior strain of rapeseed, by reducing the erucic acid in the oil, as well as other nutritive compounds call glucosinolates, which were found in the canola meal, which is also used for animal feed.
In the late 1970s, the name “canola” was developed, to distinguish the new plant from rapeseed. “Canola” means “Canada oil.” In 1988, the trademarked definition of canola was registered, and in 1995, after extensive research, canola oil was granted GRAS, Generally Recognized as Safe condition by the United States Federal Department of Agriculture. Although rapeseed oil is still used for industrial purposes, it has not been used in the Canadian or American food industry since the late 1970s, when it was replaced with the nutritionally superior canola oil. So to reiterate, canola is not rapeseed, as the two plants differ in their chemical composition and their nutritional qualities.
To attest to its safety and its widespread applicability in foods, canola oil is used in Canada in nearly 90% of all domestically-produced salad and cooking oils and 50% of all shortening and shortening-oils. Canola oil represents in America about 8% of total oil consumption and is used in all food products requiring an oil source.
So what is the nutritional significance of canola oil? Canola oil is nutritionally significant because of its unique fatty acid profile; in fact, it has been stated that canola oil has the best fatty acid profile of any edible oil. This has been attributed to its very low levels of saturated fat, approximately 7%, a moderate level of polyunsaturated fat, approximately 32%, and a high level of monounsaturated oil, approximately 61%. As well, canola oil contains a healthy balance of the very essential polyunsaturated fatty acids, linoleic and alpha-lineoleic acid. Both these acids cannot be produced by the body and therefore must be obtained through our diet.
As indicated, canola oil contains the lowest amount of saturated fat of any commonly used vegetable oil, and is second only to olive oil in the level of the important monounsaturated fat, oleic acid. Olive oil has about 15% saturated fat, and canola about 7%. In addition, canola oil contains a healthy ratio of the omega-6 lileic acid, and the omega-3 alpha-lineic acid. Essential fatty acids act at the cellular level in the body and are responsible for many physiological effects, such as anti-inflammatory effects that are useful in the treatment of skin conditions, allergies, arthritis, the dilation of blood vessels that helps to prevent high blood pressure, the reduction of blood clotting that helps to prevent heart attacks, as well as other cardiovascular diseases. In addition, essential fatty acids are critical for brain and retina development and have shown promise in the prevention and treatment of several other disorders, such as diabetes, compromised immune function, and cancer prevention. Canola oil is also a rich source of vitamin E, tocopherol, which is an important antioxidant that has been shown to reduce the risk of coronary disease.
What are the health benefits of canola oil? During the past decade, a considerable amount of scientific research has been conducted on canola oil. These studies have not only concluded that canola oil is safe, but that it’s inclusion in the diet can impart many health benefits. The majority of these benefits involve its positive role in the reduction of CDH, coronary heart disease, through several mechanisms, as well as its impact in reducing cholesterol, which is a major factor in coronary heart disease.
So, you probably know that canola, since it was developed, has been genetically engineered. Because we are certified organic, we do not use any genetically modified seeds; we cannot do that on our farm. But that does not prevent our neighbors from using genetically modified seeds. Four years ago, we had to stop growing canola on our farm, because all of our neighbors around us were growing genetically modified varieties. So we no longer grow our own canola seed, but I have to go up far into northern Alberta and purchase organic canola seed from a farmer who has a very isolated farm; he’s an organic farmer, but he is many hundreds of miles from any other farm, so there’s no potential for any contamination. Even doing that, we still have the seed that we buy from him DNA-tested, to ensure that it has not been genetically modified.
So I think I will wrap up at this point; I will invite you, if you’re interested, to come up, because I have brought a small sample of our cold-pressed canola oil. We don’t grow any olives in Canada, so we say this is Canada’s olive oil, because it has a fatty acid profile that’s similar to olive oil.
 
 
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