Monthly archives "July 2009"

You say papaya, I say… paw-paw

The paw-paw, or, more correctly, the papaya, is a tropical fruit that originated in central America. Cultivated long before the Mayans existed, it’s now grown worldwide, including here in South Africa.

Extremely easy to digest, the papaya is one of those wonder-fruits high up on the list of nutritional masterpieces. It’s an excellent source of vitamin C (a single papaya providing 3 times the recommended daily allowance), provides very good quantities of folate and potassium, and good amounts of vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K and dietary fibre.

Called “the fruit of the angels” by Christopher Columbus perhaps not only for the sweet taste, but also for the effect it had on his digestion after months of havoc caused by ships rations, the digestive enzyme papain is the main reason for the digestive benefits. It’s particularly good at digesting proteins, and is used as a common ingredient in meat tenderisers.

It has anti-inflammatory effects, supports the eyes and lungs, and protects against a number of forms of cancers, notably colon and prostate cancer.

Papaya has a mild contraceptive effect, and it’s been speculated that large amounts of the unripe fruit may be a trigger for miscarriages. Eating large quantities of green papaya may be dangerous, but ripe papaya haven’t been shown to do any harm.

Excessive amounts of the papaya seeds may also be dangerous, but in normal quantities, they are healthy and assist in removing parasites from the body.

It’s paw-paw season right now, and we have lots available this week, as well a host of other goodies. Browse them all at

Have a wonderful week,
the Ethical Co-op team.

Violent agriculture and the greening of the deserts

Big money in bees

Pesticides known as neonicotinoids are widely implicated in the deaths of bees. One popular variety is clothianidin, which is restricted in France, Germany and Italy. In the UK, the Soil Association (who administer one of the most respected organic certification schemes) wants to ban them.

The US permits them, although the approval, granted in 2004, was conditional on Bayer supplying research data to back up its claim that the chemical was safe for bees, which has never been forthcoming.

So news that the British Beekeepers Association is receiving money from Bayers, and specifically endorses one of their products, Decis (not a neonicotinoid) is causing ructions, and again highlights the destructive influence of secret donations by powerful corporates with vested financial interests in the areas they support.

All of the energy spent on endorsing and fighting for one pesticide over another is just a waste. It’s arguing over the minutia of a failed system. We need farming systems that work with our understanding of nature, such as permaculture and organic farming in general, not slightly less toxic pesticides.

Violent Agriculture

Vandana Shiva is an Indian environmental activist. Shaped by the tremendous upheaval she saw from the imposition of the so-called Green Revolution, and the resulting ecological degradation, inequality and political conflict, as well as the Bhopal disaster, where a huge Union Carbide pesticide factory caught fire, killing 8 000-10 000 people within 72 hours, and an estimated 25,000 since from gas-related diseases, Shiva is dedicated to an agriculture at peace with nature, the celebration of diversity and keeping biodiversity and knowledge available in the commons.

India in particular is faced by crippling water shortages, and the wasteful use of water the Green Revolution encouraged is a major cause. These days, Shiva shares platforms with her erstwhile philosophical opposite, Dr. Swaminathan, the founding father of India’s Green Revolution, in support of organic farming.

Thanks to attention from outspoken activists like her, as well as support from previous supporters of the chemical model, there’s a growing impetus behind organic farming in India, as the harsh lessons of the Green Revolution and the rollout of genetically-modified crops is learnt.

Bottled Water

While India battles with water shortages, one brand of Indian bottled water is making waves. We’re normally not a fan of bottled water, and the associated tremendous waste of resources, but this one appeals. The recently launched B’eau-Pal is made, not from pristine spring water, nor (as is more common), bottled tap water, but rather contaminated groundwater from near the site of the Bhopal disaster. As the label says, “The unique qualities of our water come from 25 years of slow-leaching toxins at the site of the world’s largest industrial accident. To this day, Dow Chemical (who bought Union Carbide) has refused to clean up, and whole new generations have been poisoned. For more information, please visit”

Shrinking deserts

Think Namibia, and the first thing that comes to mind is desert. Rolling, huge sand dunes, and extreme heat. Namibia is actually mostly semi-desert, but one of the consequences of higher global ocean temperatures is that there has been more rainfall in certain desert areas. The pristine desert is a good place to do research, as findings are rarely affected by nearby local events, as in more populated areas. The last decade has seen record high temperatures in parts of Namibia, coinciding with record high rainfall.

Similar findings have been noticed in the Sahara, and, although the findings are still preliminary, it seems the Sahara has been entering a wetter period, and the southern Sahara in particular is slowly greening.

Perhaps soon we’ll able to bring down some organically grown carrots from Namibia. By electric vehicle of course.

To order, head on over to

Have a great week,
the Ethical Co-op team

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Fierce Light, bright yellow and a little bit of black

Fierce Light

Winter is film season in Cape Town, and there are some excellent films at the Encounters Documentary Film Festival. Last night I watched one – “Fierce Light: where spirit meets action”, which looks at how love, spirituality and positive forces inspire change. As the director says, “Old paradigm activism is lacking without spirituality, and transcendent spirituality, without grounding in the real world, is also lacking.”

The While You Were Sleeping film collective are also back with another offering, “Beyond Elections”, which offers hope and inspiration to everyone frustrated with “politics as usual”. See it at the Labia from the 19th to the 21st.


After a long hiatus, we have fresh turmeric (also spelled tumeric) available again. To make the powder we’re usually more familiar with, the rhizomes (like ginger, a relative, the part of the turmeric that we eat is a rhizome not a root) are boiled for several hours and then ground down into the yellow powder. If you’ve ever suspected dried turmeric contains some funny colourant to give it that dayglo yellow, you only have to handle the real thing to see that’s not the case. Expect lurid yellow fingers unless you scrub well afterwards. Turmeric is frequently used as a colouring for foods as diverse as mustard and pickles, and even cheese.

There’s been much research into the health benefits of turmeric, most centred around its main constituent phytochemical, curcumin. It shows a strong inhibiting effect against many forms of cancer, as well as alzheimers and it reduces inflammation. One of the likely mechanisms for reducing the incidence of alzheimers is that it has a strong chelating effect, which means it binds to unwanted visitors in the body, such as heavy metals, allowing them to be easily passed out of the body. Many of us in urban environments have high levels of heavy metals, and there’s an association between alzheimers and higher levels of metals in the brain.

The absorption of curcumin is greatly improved when taken together with black pepper, as it almost always is in traditional Indian cooking.

We have both the fresh variety from the Organic Farmers Co-op, certified organic by BCS, as well as the dry variety, listed under Dried Herbs and Seasonings, from Good Life, certified by the Control Union, available on the site. Remember you click on any of our items listed on the order form for more details.

Local bees in trouble

I wrote recently of the outbreak of foulbrood disease affecting bees in South Africa. It seems to be spreading, and 85% of the samples recently tested were found to contain traces of the spores. Only a small number of the total tests have been returned to date, and beekeepers are waiting anxiously to see how far it’s spread. Foulbrood disease has no effect on the honey, but a devastating effect on the bees, the livelihood of honey producers, and, since most fruit orchards rely on bee pollination, the fruit industry as well.

Fortunately we still have an ample supply of honey, including more rare certified organic honey from Fizantakraal, as well as from Honeywood, Bloublommetjies (honey and honey comb), Docke and Cedarfruits.

To order, head on over to

Have a fantastic week,
the Ethical Co-op team

Sulphurous ships, aberrant alfafa, lots of hot air, and hope for the seals

I see the sea

The good news keeps on coming, and, step by step, our birthright of an abundant and healthy planet is being restored to us.

When talking about pollution, we mostly notice what’s right in front of us. Cars and trucks belching out fumes, smokestacks from factories, or aeroplanes leaving brown trails in their wake as they roar overhead. Ships though, are often forgotten. A recent report said that the largest ships have engines weighing 2300 tonnes, and run for the equivalent of 280 days a year, 24-hours a day. They use low-grade bunker fuel, which is extremely dirty, and can emit about 5000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide. Try and picture 5000 tonnes of a gas.

This means that the world’s 15-largest ships produce as much pollution as all 760 million cars. It’s quite mind-boggling to think that 15 ships can produce pollution equivalent to 760 MILLION cars.

Which is why it’s great news that California has implemented emissions standards for ships. All ocean ships passing within 24 miles of the state must use cleaner, low-sulphur fuels. Even more stringent criteria come into effect in 2012, when ultra-low sulphur fuels are required. Just like with cars, the quality of the fuel going in has a huge impact on what comes out.

I haven’t seen any renewable-energy powered ships yet, but let’s hope they’re coming soon.

Monsanto and Genetically-modified alfafa

Biotech company Monsanto has hit another snag in its quest to own the world’s food supply. Two years ago, they were banned from planting genetically-modified alfalfa without an environmental impact assessment. This week, Monsanto’s appeal to the US Federal Appeals Court failed. It’s a vital case, as, until now, all genetically modified crops have been approved without environmental impact assessments, as they were assumed to be equivalent to the conventional variety.

With evidence mounting that this is naive, with the spread of so-called “super-weeds”, resistant to various herbicides used with GM crops, being just one of the outcomes, it’s hoped that relying on independent tests that look at the bigger picture, rather than flawed greenwash from the manufacturer, will reverse the spread of these crops.

Climate Change

As the US is on the brink of finally passing legislation that will legislate a reduction in greenhouse gasses. While horribly flawed, and nowhere near enough, it’s encouraging that the US is no longer a rogue environmental state, and is starting to react to the situation.

At the same time, the oil companies are upping their efforts to discredit the notion that humans have anything to do with climate change. Exxon-Mobil, one of the worst offenders, was revealed to have paid hundreds of thousands of pounds in 2008 in the UK alone to lobby groups that attempt to cast doubt on human impact. While the amount of carbon released due to human activities is more than if every volcano would erupt simultaneously, the lobby groups latch onto findings, such as sunspots, twisting them out of context so that, instead of being found to play a role in climate, as they do, they seem to mitigate the whole human impact.

It’s time we took responsibility for our own actions, and the US bill, while flawed, is a step in the right direction.


Closer to home, Namibia’s annual seal slaughter has been put on hold. It’s not due to a change of heart from the Namibian Government, which has for years resisted pressure to end the slaughter.

Rather, the European Union has banned the import of all seal products. Russia has recently banned seal killing, and Canada is considering the same, which would leave Namibia as the only country in the world to permit it. With markets drying up, Namibia has approached Seal Alert-SA to buy them out the remaining sealers, finally ending the slaughter. Seal-SA is trying to raise the money.


You may not notice in your average supermarket aisle, but the seasons have quite an impact on what food is available! Many of our suppliers have limited range, as they prepare for the spring, and the winter sun doesn’t allow much to grow quickly.

So although the fresh range is smaller (although with naartjies, guavas, avocados, pineapples, grape fruit and more, you’ll hardly go hungry), there’s lots lurking in our virtual aisles. It’s Vondis pet food week (remember we only offer them every second week), and we’ve recently got more stock of long grain brown rice, beans, and some nuts. MPower’s menstrual cup is back after a gap, and our own range of grains and seeds offer great value.

To order, head on over to

Have a super week,
the Ethical Co-op team