Monthly archives "July 2008"

Imidacloprid and the disappearance of the honeybees

I wrote last year about the phenomenon of honeybees disappearing. Since 1971, the honeybee population has been gradually declining, although starting in the US in November 2006, colonies began to disappear in their entirety at an alarming rate. The disappearances have occurred in the US, much of Europe, and elsewhere in the world.

Research has been ongoing into the cause of their disappearance – initial speculation covered a wide range of possible causes, such as pesticides, genetically-modified organisms, cellular technology or disease.

Some recent research indicates that a family of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, which include Imidacloprid (commonly known as Gaucho) may be primarily responsible. Imidacloprid started being used in France in 1994, and bee-keepers immediately noticed an effect on their bees. Bayer, the chemical company responsible for the pesticide, conducted some tests, and of course found that there was no evidence of any toxicity.

While the chemical company has fought to clear it’s product, resorting to tactics such as suing farmers (a high profile case brought by Bayer against Maurice Mary for defamation in 2001 was thrown out of court in 2003), there’s increasing evidence linking the chemical to colony collapse disorder.

The difficulty in proving that the chemical is directly responsible points to the problem with the whole chemical paradigm. Gaucho was granted ’emergency’ exemption in in the US in 2002, after the discovery of a minor beetle infestation in blueberries. Pancho, its close relative, was granted ‘conditional’ registration, meaning it was allowed on the market after only partial testing.

Once the chemicals have been unleashed on the environment, their interaction with other chemicals, and effects in the wild are all but impossible to track. The onus sits on those affected, such as bee-keepers and farmers to stand up to a huge, multinational chemical company with deep pockets, and reams of studies which it funded and directed. It’s a chemical free-for-all with chemicals allowed onto the market unless they are ‘proved’ to pose ‘an unreasonable risk’. As with GMO’s, the lack of testing, or testing funded and directed by the company responsible for the product, is far too weak a standard.

In the absence of proper industry or government testing, it’s up to civil society to fill the gap.

The Environmental Working Group is one such organisation, based in Washington in the USA, and which advocates for policies that protect global and individual health. They’ve accumulated the results of 43 000 pesticide tests, and come up with a list of crops that contain the highest pesticide residues.

The 12 on the top of the list, and which are therefore the most critical to buy organically, are:
* Peaches
* Apples
* Sweet bell peppers
* Celery
* Nectarines
* Strawberries
* Cherries
* Lettuce
* Grapes
* Pears
* Spinach
* Potatoes

Choosing to exclusively grow and buy organic products to begin with makes a lot more sense, and is a lot easier than following the intricacies of chemical politics!

Visit to order.

Have a great week,
the Co-op team

The guinea-pig generation

Lowering cholesterol for children, US-style

Our reliance on the pharmaceutical industry for our health knowledge continues to lead us in the wrong direction. Our unfortunate friends in the US, who face more challenges than most with their irresponsible government policies, are facing a new threat.

The American Academy of Pediatrics published guidelines this month suggesting that it’s a good idea to prescribe cholesterol-lowering drugs children as young as eight. All in the name of preventing heart disease of course.

Nothing about healthy eating, no mention of the side-effects of cholestrol-lowering drugs such as statins.

Instead a simple ‘pop a pill’ approach to health that’s got us into such an unhealthy mess, and has made so much money for pharmaceutical companies. We can guess where the funding for the studies came from.

Off-label drugs

Another study from the US shows that one fifth of all drugs used in the US are off-label, meaning they’re used for purposes other than approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (which at least requires some minimal testing of both safety and effectiveness).

Now the FDA wants to hand over even more power to the pharmaceuticals, by allowing them to market drugs to doctors for purposes other than what they’ve been approved for.

All this testing is just getting in the way of profit – why not market blood pressure pills for headaches, and open up a whole new market, seems to be the thinking.

We really are the guinea pig generation.

Rasayana Prash

If you ordered last week, you would have seen a sample Rasayana Prash pack in your latest box. Developed by an Ayurvedic clinic in India, it contains absolutely no patented drugs – rather a combination of herbs and spices chosen for the rejuvenating and immune-boosting effects.

Ayurveda, the oldest health science, has eight branches, with Rasayana, meaning rejuvenation, being one of them.

If you’re in a hurry to get those biodynamic popcorn seeds while we still have stock, head on over to now!

Have a great week,
the Co-op team

Food shortages getting worse

Rocketing food prices

As food prices continue to rocket, some countries are responding by severely limiting food exports so as to ensure they have enough food to feed their own people. 15 countries have limited wheat exports, 12 maize, and 11 rice. Imported supplies of these products are becoming rarer, and more expensive, which is all the more reason to grow your own food, and buy locally grown food. We’re offering a great range of certified organic and biodynamic seeds to get you started, which you can find in our garden section.

Zeekoegat Products
Zeekoegat Farm in Riversdale have ceased production of their cheeses for the season. It’s your very last chance to buy their products until they return after the break. Prices have been marked down to clear, and stock is limited!

Biodynamic Farming and Bloublommetjieskloof

Customers ordering last week would have seen another free sample dishwashing liquid from Bloublommetjieskloof Biodynamic Farm. The criteria for biodynamic certification are much stricter than those for organic. Whereas organic is mostly exclusionary (no chemical pesticides, and so on), biodynamic requires much more, and is always organic by default. An initiative of Rudolf Steiner (also responsible for Waldorf Schools) and based on anthroposophical principles, it sees the farm as an organism with its own individuality that needs to be nurtured to get the best results. Fermented herbal and mineral preparations are used as compost additives and field sprays, and an astronomical sowing and planting calendar is used.

Bloublommetjieskloof has been farmed biodynamically for over 30 years, and is certified Biodynamic by Demeter International. Bloublommetjieskloof products include a range of biodynamic household cleaning and body care soaps, as well as dairy and market garden produce. Rozendal and Camphill are our other suppliers who farm using biodynamic principles.

As always, go straight on over to order at

Have a great week,
the Co-op team

Winter Floods

Perhaps last week’s newsletter, with its inclusion of the ‘Oranges and Lemons’ nursery rhyme, and a mention of chopping heads, was a bad omen. After specifically mentioning Kleinjongenskraal’s products, we didn’t get any deliveries from them, as their farm was cut off by this week’s dramatic floods in the area. Apologies for those who were affected.

Another of the farms which regularly supplies us is also taking a break. Docke Farm in Noordhoek is situated next to a wetland, and every year some of the fields flood. This is great for the soil quality, as the rich nutrients from the wetland are absorbed into the soil.

Elsewhere, many crops are drawing into themselves, and growing much more slowly as a result of the cold weather.

We have Thompson’s raisins and sunflower seeds back in stock this week. Both are listed as non-certified organic, a term we’re often questioned on. It means that the product adheres to organic standards, but is not certified by an external authority. In this case, the products were certified organic until they were packed, but because our warehouse is not certified, the final product cannot be labelled as certified organic. In other cases, it’s because the farms are small, and not willing or unable to pay for the label.

With one or two clearly listed exceptions, all the food on our site is grown according to organic principles. This is one of our core principles, and we have no interest in supporting the destructive, unsustainable and unhealthy practices around chemical farming.

The certification model works well where volumes are high, and products are shipped all over the world. It provides a 3rd-party guarantee of the principles used. But ultimately, the ideal is to know how your food is grown by knowing where it is grown, and by who – which farm, or which plot of land. That personal knowledge and trust in the integrity of your food is better than any label.

A reminder too that we have Freeplay‘s windup products, and a wide range of ayurvedic and classic incense, hidden away in our ‘Other’ section.

Head on over to to order

Have a great week,
the Co-op team

Oranges and Lemons

There’s an old nursery rhyme, a version of which goes as follows:

“Oranges and lemons”, say the bells of St. Clement’s
“You owe me three farthings”, say the bells of St. Martin’s
“When will you pay me?” say the bells of Old Bailey
“When I grow rich”, say the bells of Shoreditch
“When will that be?” say the bells of Stepney
“I do not know”, says the great bell of Bow
Here comes a candle to light you to bed
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!
Chip chop chip chop – The last man’s dead.

It’s a nursery rhyme believed to be about capital punishment, and imprisonment for debt. The unfortunate victim would be alerted by the Bellman of St. Sepulchre ringing the ‘Execution Bell’ lit by candlelight at midnight, that the next morning was to be their last.

Although most of our media would have you believe otherwise, the nursery rhyme reminds me how far we’ve come. Most societies today don’t imprison people for debt, and don’t implement capital punishment. If you look out for it, there’s an explosion of positive news, wonderful innovation motivated by the heart.

If you’re the kind of person who focuses on the positive, you’re probably thinking about juicy oranges and lemons rather than debtors prison. If so, make sure you stock up now. Kleinjongenskraal, who supply us with oranges, lemons, green and yellow peppers, and dried mangoes, will not be delivering next week, so get what you need for next week now!

Firelighters are back in stock this week. Made from sawdust and egg cartons, they work very well, and the last week has certainly been a good one for a fire in the lounge, at least for those of us with fireplaces. We have limited stock, so they won’t be available for long – find them in the home care section.

We have a few more eggs in stock this week, from Draai Om Farm. The farm is a certified organic farm, but due to a shortage of certified feed, the eggs themselves are not certified organic. Again, there’s limited stock, so order early!

As you’ve probably noticed, much of our range is in limited supply, and tends to come in and out of availability. Here’s encouraging anyone with land, or a garden, or space for pots in their flat, to get growing. Nothing beats food grown right where you live – visit our garden section for seeds and other items to get you started.

Visit to order.

Have a great week,
the Co-op team