Monthly archives "May 2009"

Disappearances and reappearances

The disappearances

As I write this the thunder is roaring and the rain bucketing down. Cape Town is turning green. However, many areas of the world are moving the other way. The Earth Observatory website is celebrating its 10th Anniversary, and has put together a visual package of some dramatic landscape changes. It shows the disappearance of the Arctic Ice and the evaporation of the Aral Sea, the 4th largest inland sea in the world, as countries have diverted rivers for the production of cotton, one of the world’s most destructive crops in terms of its water usage and its pesticide usage.There’s of course Amazon deforestation and the Mesopotamia Marches (drained by Saddam Hussein in a political battle with the Marsh Arabs, they recovered dramatically after his downfall, but are threatened by drought again), as well as solar activity (which is having a mild cooling effect on the earth right now, counter-balancing the dramatic human warming effects).

View the pictures here.

You are brilliant

It’s easy to fall into despair, but don’t let the doom-mongers get you down. The dramatic recovery in the Mesopotamia Marshes is just one example of what can be done, and how quickly the earth can heal itself. The following was recently addressed to students graduating from the University of Portland:

“There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: YOU ARE BRILLIANT, AND THE EARTH IS HIRING. The earth couldn’t afford to send any recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done…”

Source: Paul Hawkin’s May 3rd commencement address at the University of Portland


Our destructive habits aren’t just making for dramatic pictures. Thousands of plant species are on the brink of extinction, but here’s an example of where some have leapt into action. The Millennium Seed Bank is the largest of a number of projects around the world that are attempting to store as many seeds as possible while we still have them, in the hope that when we stop destroying our planet, they can be propagated again. Jonathan Drori discusses the project in this week’s video.

While seed companies around the world are being bought up by multinational biotech companies, and diversity destroyed as they replace multitudes of varieties with one or two genetically-modified versions, we’re lucky enough to have two seed suppliers giving us a great variety of local seeds. View our garden section for an offering of both Camphill Farm and Sandveld Organics seeds.

Order in good time

Good produce is in high demand and sells out quickly. In some cases, we have to place an order with the farmer before the closing time, Monday, 2pm. So if you leave your order to the last minute, you’ll be missing out. To have a better chance of getting what you want, place your order well before 12 on Monday. Remember, if you order early, you’ll be guaranteed a spot at your collection point before it fills up, and you can always make changes to your order up until just before 2pm.

Scarborough Collection Point

Deep South customers take note there’ll be a new collection point in Scarborough for the next few weeks, as Rebecca is going to the UK. Full details are on the website.

To order, head on over to

Have a great, thundery week.
The Ethical Co-op team

Millenium Seed Bank

In this week’s video, Jonathan Drori discusses the Millenium Seed Bank, a project to store and germinate the world’s threatened seeds.

South Africa, with our rare and endangered fynbos, features prominently.


You say potato…

GM Potatoes and GM Maize failures

You may remember in August the campaign to stop the introduction of genetically-modified potatoes into South Africa. This was supported by Potato South Africa. The permit application hasn’t yet been considered, which at least means there are no GM potatoes here at present.

You may also remember the recent crop collapse experienced by maize farmers growing various varieties of GM maize. Monsanto has compensated farmers, but at the same time barred them from speaking to the media or public. Monsanto has also submitted evidence to government about the failures, but this too remains secret.

There is widespread doubt about the South African regulatory authorities impartiality and ability to make the correct decision, given the unquestioning ease with which they gave Monsanto rights in the first place, and Monsanto’s reputation of flashing the cash in other parts of the world to facilitate the decisions that benefit them financially.

Secrecy breeds distrust – you can sign the petition demanding information on the failures be made public, and that an independent panel investigates, over at

Hout Bay deliveries

Please note that deliveries to Hout Bay customers will now be on Thursday, not Wednesday afternoon.


We’re still looking for more distributors. If you, or someone you know has their own vehicle, and can deliver to selected areas of the city for one or perhaps two days a week, please contact Daniel, our distribution co-ordinator,

To order, head on over to

Have a great week,
the Co-op team

Global warming and icy weather

Some icy weather

As more evidence builds that Arctic and Antarctic ice is disappearing faster than ever, there are still campaigns by oil and coal interests to discredit the notion of climate change, and claim that oxymorons like “clean coal” can continue to play a part in our development, or that we can continue to rely on plastics.

One of the consequences of climate change locally is that we’re likely to see more extreme weather events, and this weekend could be one. Notoriously unreliable weather forecasters have predicted severe storms. I’m planning a trip to the mountains, so I’m hoping they’ve got this one wrong!

This week’s video is another of the superb presentations recently released by TED2009 – Al Gore talking on climate change and in particular industry attempts to sell clean coal.

We’re building quite a collection of videos on the site – browse them all in our video section .

Shortages predicted

With the storms expected this weekend, some of our farmers have been warning us that they’re likely to be affected, and supplies could be short. Expect a few more “not availables” in your order than usual next week, so you may want to order slightly more of the local produce likely to be affected than usual, or cover yourself by ordering from different suppliers.

Herbs and Spices

There are various herbs and seasonings in stock again after a long absence. Tumeric, pepper, mustard seeds, cloves, bay leaves. View them in our herbs and seasonings category.

You live where?

It may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how often someone moves and forgets to inform us. If you lived in Scarborough, and have moved to Somerset West, you need to let us know by updating your details on the site! If you change your email, your phone number, the instructions to get past your rotweiller – please let us know by clicking “Change details” and updating your profile, it helps us deliver not only a better service to you but sometimes even your veggies!

Muizenberg Collection Point

A new collection point is opening in Muizenberg this week. We’ve had quite a few changes to collection points, and there’re more coming, so keep an eye out, as there may be one even more convenient for you.

Remember as well that some collection points are reaching capacity. If you wait until Monday to order, you may find that your favoured collection point is full, and you won’t be able to collect from them. To ensure your order gets there, order early. You can always change your order up until Monday afternoon 13h45.

To order, head on over to

Have a fantastic week, stay warm and dry!
The Ethical Co-op team

Climate Change and the myth of clean coal

In this video, Al Gore looks at recent finds about climate change, the effects on the Arctic and Antarctic, and the continued attempts by the coal industry to discredit scientists findings about climate change.

Honeybees and mushrooms


Until now, honey bees in the Western Cape have not been affected by the woes affecting honeybees worldwide. But now, an outbreak of foulbrood disease, the first in 150 years, has affected local honeybees. This is not the same as the colony collapses experienced in North America and Europe, and now Japan too, but is also very serious. While the disease has no effect on humans, it has a devastating effect on honey bee hives. The only treatment being applied is burning infected hives, so it’s likely there’s shortly going to be an increase in the price of honey, a reduction in quality, as well as significant shortages.

The disease is extremely infectious, and spores can remain active for 40 years. It was probably brought to South Africa in imported honey, or bee-keeping equipment.

Bees, just like humans, also have a natural immunity to disease, and commercial forms of beekeeping weaken the honeybee. Artificial breeding, and artificial feeding all have an impact on bee immunity, and coupled with pesticides, GMO’s and wireless technologies, the poor old honeybee is having a hard time.

The impact is not just on honey – bees are vital to agriculture, which is highly dependant on pollination by bees. No bees, no fruit. Honeybees on organic and biodynamic farms are in a much healthier state than their counterparts on chemical farms, supplemented with a diet of white sugar, and artificially bred.

We’re lucky enough to have a wide range of honeys available, including honey and honeycomb from Bloublommetjies biodynamic farm, rare certified organic honey from Fizantakraal, as well as honey from Honeywood, Cedarfruit and Docke farms. Docke, Fizantakraal and Honeywood all offer raw honey too. Hopefully our suppliers will be unaffected, but if you’re a honey fan it may be wise to stock up!


It’s autumn, and with the recent rains, mushroom picking time in the forest. At a dinner I attended this evening, someone had brought a whole lot of delicious mushrooms she had found in the forest. There was also one suspected poisonous one she was trying to identify.

While nothing beats harvesting your own wild food, it’s not recommended if you don’t know what you’re doing! A less risky way is to simply order some from us. This week we’re offering shiitake, black lar, oyster and button mushrooms.

Mushrooms have been used medicinally for thousands of years, and there’s heaps of evidence as to their benefits. In this week’s video, David Wolfe looks at candida and the “noble” mushrooms, which include shiitake.

Oyster mushrooms are one of the few carnivorous mushrooms. But fear not, it’s not people they’re after. The microscopic roundworm is their favoured delicacy. The mushroom’s rings constrict and grow through the nematodes, and start to digest them. Oyster mushrooms contain a natural form of statin drugs, which reduce cholesterol for those at risk from cardiovascular disease. They’re sometimes associated with a pleasant anise smell, but unfortunately this is due to the presence of benzaldehyde when grown chemically!

There’s been even more research on shiitake, given it’s long medicinal history, and the shiitake mushroom has strong anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, hence its beneficial effect on candida. They’re a rare vegan food source of Vitamin D, and recent studies have shown promise in their effects on HIV (human immunodeficiency virus-1).

Supply shortages

There were some teething problems (not least some suppliers getting lost) in our first week in our new warehouse, so many of you who ordered this week would have had a disappointing number of products not available. Apologies to everyone affected – this week will be back to normal.

To order, head on over to

Have a fantastic autumn week,
the Ethical Co-op team

Related posts

Mushrooms and candida

In this video, David Wolfe talks about the noble mushrooms, which include shiitake, and their effect on candida.

Swine flu, and the CSA comes to an end

CSA comes to an end
This week was the last on our 11-week CSA journey. The Community-Supported Agriculture scheme run in partnership with the Sustainability Institute and Slow Food Cape Town has come to an end. It’s been of tremendous benefit to Eric, the farmer, and the stability has helped him in his planning immensely.

If you’re interested in joining a possible winter CSA, whether you participated in this one, or missed out and would like to in future, or have any comments on the CSA, please email Kate Schrire,

Swine Flu
I don’t have a TV, but spent some of this evening visiting a friend with DSTV, and got to “enjoy” the saturation coverage about swine flu. The media’s not the best source of information, full of short soundbites with an inbuilt bias to keep you watching or reading. And the internet is a minefield, as you can come across anything from swine flu being confirmation of a conspiracy that Obama is readying the prisons for the New World Order takeover, to sources proclaiming imminent apocalypse. Of course, there’re also those who’d love you to panic at the slightest sniffle and rush off to get your flu shot.

So, while the media enjoys the frenzy, and salesmen use the opportunity to sell some flu shots, bear in mind some facts about swine flu. During flu season, in the US alone, up to 1000 people a week die from flu. This particular strain, while attracting interest because of its unique makeup, has to date caused one death in the US. By contrast, you’re much more likely to die being struck by lightning, of heatstroke (466 US deaths) or, yes, even “accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed” (573 US deaths).

Much of the coverage sees us as the helpless victims of an out-of-control virus. But it’s also a fact that some of us get flu multiple times a year, and others almost never. The difference is in how well our immune system functions, and a key factor is what we eat. Minerals such as selenium, zinc, iron and copper all play an important role.

Selenium is a mineral that’s very low in South African soil, so even organic food, which in general has much higher levels of minerals, if it’s grown locally, will be low in selenium. As a result most South Africans are deficient. But before rushing off to get your selenium shot, there are easier and tastier ways to get it. Brazil nuts, for example, are one of the best sources of selenium.

Collection Point comings and goings
Zest Health Store in Lakeside is closing, and will no longer be available as a collection point. Thank you to everyone at Zest for their support, and we wish them well in their new ventures.

Many of our collection points have limited space, and have a limit on the number of orders they can take. This means if you order late, your favoured collection point may have already reached capacity, and no longer be available. If you order early, you can make sure you get in in time. Remember that you can update or cancel your order up until the site closes on Monday, just before 2pm. At that point the orders are placed with our suppliers, and no more changes can be made.

You can also place a standing order, which is placed first thing when the site opens. Although only a limited number of items are available for standing orders (the more reliable products that we usually have weekly stock of), you can always add more to your order afterwards.

Visit to order.

Have a fantastic week,
the Ethical Co-op team

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