Monthly archives "January 2010"

Sour what?

As a child, sauerkraut wasn’t exactly top of my favourite food list. The thought of fermented cabbage just didn’t get me salivating at the lips.

I never revisited it as an adult until, one day, a year or so ago, a friend served up a bowl of sauerkraut. I was hooked.

Sauerkraut is high in Vitamin C (as is cabbage generally), and keeps for a long time in its brine, it was used by sailors to ward off the dreaded scurvey. While British sailors used limes for this purpose, earning the nickname “limeys” from their enemies, German sailors used sauerkraut, the basis for the term “kraut”.

Making sauerkraut is easy – just add salt and water. Various lactic acid bacteria (naturally present on all vegetables) kick in and the fermentation process begins. It’s these same lactic acid bacteria that exist in a healthy digestive system preventing the growth of parasites and yeasts.

It’s easy to damage our intestinal flora. Antibiotics cause particular damage, as does alcohol, birth control pills and refined foods. The high levels of bacteria in sauerkraut are a great way to restore digestive balance. They also contain two particularly powerful cancer-inhibitors, isothiocyanate and sulphoraphane.

It’s also purported to be a powerful hangover cure. If anyone has success with this, please comment below!

Change is the only constant
For those who’ve had a long holiday, a reminder that we’re now open for orders until Tuesday afternoon, 2pm. We get our fresh produce from the farm on Wednesday, pack through the night, and get it to you fresher than ever on Thursday.

Don’t forget to keep an eye open for new collection points closer to you. This week Amber Way in San Michel, Noordhoek, is back on the map. You can set your default collection point by going to “Change Details” after logging in.

To order, paddle on down to

Have a great week,
the Ethical Co-op team

From slag to salmon

Earth has an amazing capacity to regenerate itself. Whenever people talk of “saving the earth” they usually mean “saving humanity”, or at least, saving our standard of living. The earth will be just fine.

I wrote last year of salmon returning to the River Seine. If images of salmon cruising through Paris, one of Europe’s largest cities, seems remarkable, perhaps another comeback is even a more remarkable. South Wales was once land of the coal mine, where the rivers ran black with coal dust. The River Taff alone at one point received 100,000 tonnes of colliery waste each year. Pitheads and slag heaps once dominated the landscape but the coal industry declined. From a high of 620 mines, the last mine was closed in 1994, although a group of retrenched mineworkers bought it and kept operating it until two years ago. Government and community groups have been working on water quality ever since the mines began to close, and now, for the first time, salmon have returned to all rivers in the area.

Salmon are a signature species, needing very clean water along the entire river, as they spawn at the top of the river in the shallows, then swim down to the sea, and finally back again. That the waters of south Wales are clean enough to welcome them back gives us all hope.

GM surging ahead in South Africa
Meanwhile, according to a Monsanto spokesperson, plantings of GM crops are surging ahead in South Africa. Shortly after the release of the recent study implicating three varieties of Monsanto maize with organ failure, the spokesperson estimated that 10 percent more white maize has been planted. White and yellow maize plantings are estimated at 2.5 million hectares, of which over 75 percent is GM, he said. Just in case we’ve forgotten the official line, he finished off by claming that GM technology aims to “feed the world, secure food security, and alleviate famine and poverty”, none of which are achieved by allowing our food supply to be monopolised by the world’s largest seed company, one with a proud history of producing such useful contributions to society as the chemical weapon Agent Orange and Bovine Growth Hormone.

Fresher and later
Don’t forget that we’re managing to bring you your veggies an extra day fresher, which means that you can order right up until Tuesday 14h00. Do try get your orders in early though – not everything is available right up until the end. And if there’s anything you can’t miss out on each week, you can place a standing order, which gets automatically placed for you each week.

To order, head on over to

Have a great week,
the Ethical Co-op team

Even fresher, and the maize maze

Even Fresher
It seems to have been a scorchingly hot summer so far, in Cape Town at least, and yesterday took the sugar-free goji berry cake. So it’s great timing for our move to provide you with even fresher food. Whereas before, we’d receive our fresh produce on Tuesday, pack it on Tuesday and Wednesday, and get it to most of you on Thursday, now we’re receiving all our fresh produce a day later, on Wednesday. You still get it on Thursday, but it’s a day fresher.

No sitting on shop shelves for days – we get it, pack through the night, and deliver it straight to you.

Maize, mielies, corn. Whatever you call it, it’s one of South Africa’s staple foods. And, to our shame, most of the maize we feed our people is genetically-modified. The most comprehensive study to date of the effects of genetically-modified food on mammals founds a strong link between three varieties of Monsanto maize and organ damage, in particular to the kidney and the liver.

Now proving that something like food is harmful is very difficult. The design of the study is critical. There are countless studies, funded by the biotech giants, showing no correlation between their produce and any harmful effects. Most of these are seriously flawed. They only look at short-term effects. They use such a low dosage as to be meaningless. They compare unrelated feeding groups.

All these flaws are well-known to researchers, but the volume of these flawed papers muddies the waters, justifying the approval of their produce.

Short of force-feeding humans GM food, and seeing how their organs deteriorate, this new evidence looks pretty conclusive. Expect a rash of studies showing the opposite.

But it’s not just the cobs. So many products contain maize. Take a look at those ingredient lists next time you’re buying processed good – if it contains maize, and it’s not organic, it’s almost certainly genetically-modified.

There’s no difference
One of the classic tactics to get GM-produce approved is to claim that there’s no difference. It’s just like breeding a new variety, they say. That untruth has long been exposed, but in New Zealand it got taken to a new level. A poultry farm was feeding its chickens a genetically-modified soy feed, and claiming that the chickens contained no GM ingredients. Their defence that “research confirms that animals that consume feed with a component of GM are no different to animals that have been fed a GM free diet” was overturned by the New Zealand Commerce Commission.

Company of the Year
It’s ironic then that, as I mentioned last week, Forbes magazine announced its company of the year as, no, not us – Monsanto were the worthy winners. For many, businesses are measured simply on how much money they make for their shareholders, and by this measure Monsanto has been a success. However, just a few days after the award, Monsanto surprised analysts by announcing a loss, based on reduced herbicide sales.

Here’s wishing a fantastic 2010 for all those pioneering farmers doing things the right way, for everyone.

The safety debate has been raging equally fiercely in other areas. Lead is well-known to be harmful to the body. The British and US governments have set a level of 10 micrograms per deciliter as being safe. However, another study has found that children who had blood lead levels between 5 and 10 micrograms per deciliter scored an average of 49 percent lower on reading tests and 51 percent lower on writing tests than children with levels below 5 micrograms.

Now that lead-free petrol is here, the prime source of lead contamination in South Africa is paint, particularly when it’s peeling or chipping, and children are particularly susceptible. If you’re planning a paint-job anytime soon, don’t forget our range of lead (and other nasty)-free paint in our Home & Garden section.

Have a fantastic week,
the Ethical Co-op team

2010 and the company of the year

We’re open for 2010 at last. Personally I can’t wait to get back to online shopping after being forced to venture out over the festive season. Perhaps it didn’t help that I chose the craziest days of the year, December 24th and January 2nd, but I won’t be hurrying out again anytime soon.

Monsanto wins Forbe’s Company of the Year
In a wonderful puff-piece, Forbes has annointed Monsanto as the company of the year. Repeating all the old nonsense, confusing gene insertion and plant breeding, repeating claims of how the world will starve without them, claiming farmers love having no choice of seed supplier, and calling those who disagree “enemies”, the piece begins with a sweet story of how Monsanto is working hard for our health by developing a soya bean with enhanced omega-3 fatty acids, thus saving the world’s fish stocks at the same time (fish oil is a common source of Omega-3 supplementation). Conveniently ignoring the fact that every commercially released GM crop to date contains not health benefits – rather enhanced traits such as resistance to a particular brand of herbicides, of benefit to no one but the Monsanto’s herbicide sales department.

The good news? The reaction, even on the Forbes website, has been overwhelmingly negative. It’s becoming harder to misrepresent reality, and people’s ability to see through marketing is greater than in the past.

Mustard Seeds
Mustard seeds are one of the oldest-known spices, appearing in writings from at least 5000 years ago. Very high in selenium (a mineral particularly low in South African soils, and vital for the immune system), mustard seeds are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, much better than any genetically-modified soybeans.

They’ve also been well-studied for their anti-cancer effects, and are high in isothiocyanates, which have been shown to inhibit growth of existing cancer cells and protect against the formation of new ones. Cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, as well as colon and rectal cancer, seem to be best affected.

Mustard seeds also have the distinction of appearing in many religious texts. Buddha told a story of a grieving mother, who, having lost her only son, asks the Buddha for a cure. He asks her to bring a handful of mustard seeds from a family that has never lost a child, husband, parent or friend. When she can’t find any such family, she realizes that death is common to all.

In the Quran, Allah states that on the Day of Judgement, even the equivalent of a mustard seed will be accounted for, and no soul will suffer the least injustice.

Jewish texts compare the universe to the size of a mustard seed to demonstrate the world’s insignificance and to teach humility.

In the Christian Bible, Jesus talks about the mustard seed as a model for the kingdom of God which initially starts small but grows to be the biggest of all garden plants. He also mentions that faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains.

Let’s move some mountains and make 2010 a fantastic year.

To order, go to,
The Ethical Co-op team