Monthly archives "November 2009"

Massive immune system collapse

I’m experiencing a massive immune system collapse, otherwise known as a cold, so it’ll be a short newsletter today. More organic veggies for me clearly.

What’s new

We have garlic from Sandveld Organics (apparently very potent!), and cucumber from Rooikrans Farm. There’s also cinnamon sticks, garam masala, granola, lemongrass, origanum, curry powder, thyme, apple cider vinegar and white lasagne from Good Life organics.

Apologies to Hout Bay customers – a glitch meant there were difficulties in ordering last week. It should all be sorted again this week.

To order, head on over to

Have a great week,
the Ethical Co-op team

Greenpeace’s new South African head, and ides of all kinds

New Greenpeace leader
South African Kumi Naidoo has taken over this month as head of Greenpeace, as I mentioned in June. He intends to make his main focus the impact of climate change on the world’s poor, and with the deal in Copenhagen under threat, has already criticised US president Obama, saying that “During his election campaign… every single speech that he gave, he talked about a planet in peril, referring to climate change… We all understood that he ‘got’ it.”

Now, this week, the oil lobbiests will be celebrating as Obama and other world leaders said it would not be possible to reach a climate change deal ahead of next month’s UN conference in Copenhagen. They also dropped a target of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, outlined in an earlier draft.

Without binding targets, the leaders of the world can continue to build coal power stations “in their national interest”, or chop down forests to “make best use of their national resources”.

As Naidoo says, “We can’t change the science. The science is clear. We have to change the politics”. Unfortunately, it’s looking like politics as usual, where the world’s leaders meet and make deals behind closed doors. Greenpeace’s renewed focus on providing a voice to the world’s poor, most vulnerable to climate change, is a welcome breath of fresh air.

Herbicides, Insecticides and Pesticides
Do you know the difference between herbicides, insecticides and pesticides or do your eyes glaze as one ‘ide’ merges into the next? It’s quite simple really. Insecticides kill insects, and herbicides kill plants. Both are pesticides, as are a range of other ‘ides’ designed to kill various other things, such as fungicides (fungi) and alvicides (birds).

It’s easy to be misled if you don’t know the difference. In the US, the use of genetically-modified crops has resulted in a drop in insecticide usage of 29 million kilograms since 1996. How wonderful! Cue organic farming is all a load of nonsense outcry. However, at the same as insecticide use was dropping, thanks mainly to these traits now being present in the crop, herbicide use grew by 174 million kilograms. More worryingly, 46 percent of the total herbicide increase occurred between 2007 and 2008, as the ‘superweed’ phenomenon spreads. Other plants are becoming less susceptible to the herbicides, so more and more are being applied.

Of course farmers who adopt this model are forced to buy a particular brand of herbicide, supplied by the same company that supplied them the seed.

A failed technology, of benefit to biotech company shareholders only.

As Naidoo said in a recent interview, “most starving people live in countries with food surpluses, and worldwide we have more than enough food to go round. The solution to hunger does not lie in genetic manipulation. It lies in resolving the social, political and economic issues that prevent food from reaching hungry people. As the U.N. said in their agriculture assessment, sustainable, ecological farming techniques can do far more to address poverty and food security than G.M.O.s”.

What’s new
Our stock levels are looking healthier again, and there are more old favourites back in stock. We still have Elgin apple juice, as well as apple cider vinegar, jams and grape juice, and Nature Fresh mouthwashes and toothpastes are back too. There’s also tofu, and stacks of new seeds from Sandveld organics. Sandveld provide a valuable service supplying organic seed as more and more seed companies are bought up and put out of business by the biotech giants.

We’re also happy to announce a new collection point in Tokai.

To order, head on over to

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

Guns, whales and onions


So many of our challenges today are worsened by poor use of government subsidies. Money being channelled towards coal power generation, pharmaceutical companies, car companies, and of course, top of the list, weapons and war.

But with ever-increasing transparency, and the realisation that it’s our money going towards supporting these practises, the spotlight is falling on governments. Backdoor deals with the lobbyist still happen every day, but now there’s more likely to be a price to pay, and by being in the open, more likelihood of a better decision.

One industry that’s survived almost entirely due to government subsidies is the whaling industry. While most European countries were active whalers and one time or another, by the 1930’s, Japan and Germany were the two largest whaling countries worldwide, with up to 55 000 whales a year were hunted and killed. The British whaling industry had collapsed after the removal of subsidies in 1840.

After the Second World War, the US encouraged Japan to continue whaling as a means of cheap food for it’s population, and a supply of cheap whale oil for the victors.

Now Japan is considering ending its whaling activities, not because of ethical or conservation concerns, but for financial and political reasons. In theory, $10 million dollars of the $90 million annual budget comes from government subsidies, and the rest from the sale of whale meat. In practise there’s widespread corruption in the industry, and whale meat sales bring in very little. The “Institute for Cetacean Research”, which runs the whaling programme under the guise of scientific research, has survived on loans which it has failed to pay back.

The Japanese political landscape was rocked in August, with the Democratic Party of Japan defeating the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in a landslide. The LDP had been the largest party since its formation in 1955.

Where the LDP used whaling as a nationalist issue, the new government seems to have come to the pragmatic realisation that whaling is inefficient and a political headache for the country.

There are many powerful financial interests in the Japanese whaling industry, and no changes have been made yet, but it looks hopeful that 1000 or so whales may soon receive a stay of execution.

Letting the sun shine

So if governments aren’t going to be spending our money on harpoons, coal, guns, drugs and paying a private company to keep Chapman’s Peak closed, what should they spending it on? Renewable energy perhaps?

For a period this weekend, Spain produced 53% of it’s electricity from wind. Spain is on track to consistently produce a quarter of its electricity by renewable means. South Africa, in spite of our miles of windy coast and abundant sunshine is nowhere near. Good news though is that NERSA, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa, has announced the second phase of the renewable energy feed-in tariffs. The first were announced in April, and the recent ones add further renewable technologies to the list, including solar photovoltaic, which receives a healthy R3.94 a kilowatt-hour.

At the same time, with the help of the April tariffs, a new wind farm has been approved for Jeffrey’s Bay, to come online in 2011.

What’s new

At long last, the highly popular Elgin Organics apple juice is back. Note that due to limited quantities it will be only be available until Sunday evening. The weather has been playing havoc with the farmer’s schedules, and there are a lot of damaged crops, and many items will be smaller than normal, having been sun-deprived.

We also have green onions, and Kleinjongenskraal oranges and lemons are back too.

To order, head on over to

Have a great week,
the Ethical Co-op team

Organic for the future

Less Chemicals?
Woolworths announced yesterday that by 2012 all of their fresh produce would be either organically grown, or a hybrid requiring less agricultural chemicals, falling under their “Farming for the Future” logo.

They’ve faced criticism, with some calling it greenwashing, while the environmental group WWF South Africa has apparently backed them.

Any step towards using less chemicals is a step in the right direction, but it’s important to keep the distinction between organic and chemical. It’s also concerning because Woolworths also claims that they’ve realised organic farming “was not a large-scale solution because the yields could be inconsistent”. Farmers who have grown chemically for years, abusing their soils, often face a drop in yields when they convert to organic. Their soils are weak, and they may not have developed the skills required to grow organically. It can take five or more years for yields to revert to pre-conversion levels.

It’s risky for farmers, and a whole new way of thinking and farming, quite different to relying on chemicals. It’s understandable that farmers are reluctant, unwilling to take a jump that could cost them everything.

In many ways, small-scale farmers are best placed to make the leap, as it’s the very scale of the large commercial farms, and their risky monocultures, that present challenges when farming organically.

Small-scale farmers, who can grow a number of crops, not being dependant on one single bug-enticing monoculture, can outperform their large counterparts. Their greatest challenge is access to markets, but their small scale means they’re often not suited to dealing with giant supermarkets.

We see it as being a critical part of our role that we support these small farmers, and won’t compromise on growing organically.

As these things tend to happen, shortly before receiving the Woolworths press release, I came across some research that linked insecticides to various immune diseases, including lupus, and arthritis. Farmers (and farmworkers) are particularly at risk because of their relatively higher exposure, but the study showed a strong link to household chemicals too.

Here today…
We have quite a few returning products as our stock availability continues to improve, including one of my favourites, vanilla pods. We also have toys from the Green Shop (under Baby and Childcare) and Vondis pet foods available this week. A reminder that these products are only offered monthly and bi-monthly respectively, so be sure you order what you need in time.

To order, head on over to

Have a wonderful week,
the Ethical Co-op team