Monthly archives "December 2010"

Holidays, good news and carrots

Good News
Good news comes in a variety of forms. One is simply less bad news. The reduction in the level of Brazilian Amazon deforestation, for example. In 2004, logging hit a high, with 27,000 square kilometres destroyed. The entire country of Swaziland is only 17,000 square kilometres, so the scale of the devastation, which has been ongoing for decades, is huge.

However, the latest figures reported this month indicate that “only” 7000 square kilometres have been destroyed, the lowest in two decades, partly as a result of better government enforcement, monitoring by satellite technology, and the recession, which has resulted in a large drop in demand for meat and soya, for which much of the Amazon has been cleared to make space for.

But even better is good news of a different kind, reflecting an absolute improvement, not just less harm. In India, the forest cover has increased by 30,000 square kilometres over the last decade. The forests in Europe have been recovering for many years. Ethiopia has tripled forest cover from 3% of its land in 2000 to 9% this year, after a decade of intensive tree planting, and China too is increasing its tree cover rapidly.

For those of you who missed this last year, it’s a good time to remember how quickly things can be restored and damage undone – take a look at “A 20-year tale of hope: Re-growing a rainforest“.

Holidays and Carrots
It’s our last delivery week before we break for the holidays, and while our warehouse is slowly emptying, the farms don’t work to the same cycle. There are a few new arrivals this week.

Drift Farm specialise in heritage and heirloom crops. They were the first to sign our internal agreement committing that they grow organically, as all of our “non-certified organic” fresh suppliers have. Drift have now got their organic in conversion certification, fast-tracking the process because they have been growing organically in practice for so long.

This week they’re offering king purple beans, mixed colour carrots and golden zucchini. None of these will be in our mixed boxes, as quantities are limited

Carrots are believed to have originated in Afghanistan, and originally occurred in red and yellow varieties. They were originally grown for their leaves and their seeds, and many of the carrots close relatives, such as dill, cumin, fennel and parsley, and still grown for these.

Even I know what happens when you mix red and yellow, and an orange variety soon appeared, becoming highly popular in the Netherlands as a symbol of the Dutch House of Orange and their struggle for independence. So, while the red and yellow carrot fell out of favour as the “food of the oppressor”, the orange variety flourished, and spread around the world with Dutch colonisation.

Carrots can be white, red, purple and yellow, and I look forward to seeing what varieties Drift have on offer.

Have a wonderful festive season – after this week we’ll be open again for orders on the 13th of January, for delivery on Thursday the 20th.

Sunshine and spiderwebs

It’s almost the end of 2010, and we’re about to close for 3 weeks of much-needed holiday. That means there are only two weeks left to order before we close, so make sure you have what you need to get through to next year! The Ethical Co-op was formed in 2005 primarily to serve people such as myself, and it’s always a good reminder of why I’m involved when I have to shop elsewhere at the end of the year, and see how dismal the prospects are.

We’ll be delivering on Thursday 16 December, which is a public holiday, so a number of the usual collection points will be closed, and finally on Thursday 23 December. We open again for orders on Thursday 13 January, with our first delivery on Thursday 20th January.

While we’re gathering sun over the holidays, we wouldn’t like our stock to be gathering cobwebs in the warehouse, so there are a whole lot of reduced prices this week as we clear out, with more to follow next week.

There’s no reason for people to go hungry, or go without access to healthy food. The government reached consensus in Polokwane in 2009 around supporting family farming as a solution for food security issues. However, there’s not much in the way of an actual strategy, and little to no support for existing models already in action. The Farm and Garden National Trust is running a campaign to change this, and you can help support them. Read more on the Activist website.

Seeds of Deception
Much of the expansion of GM crops worldwide has come as a result of activities by seed companies. Biotech companies have closed down local seed companies, either by buying them out, or by offering free or cheap subsidised seed to farmers, driving the competition out of business. Once the local seed companies are out of the way, unable to compete and their market wiped out, what’s left is a de facto monopoly, with nothing but biotech seeds as the starter, main course and dessert.

The South African seed situation is equally dire. Biotech corporation Du Pont are attempting to buy out local company Pannar Seeds, and, if successful, the South African seed industry will in effect be a duopoly between Du Pont and Monsanto, both international biotech companies. With control of the market and patented GM seed varieties, farmers will then forced to buy their seed each year from the seed company, rather than saving the best of their seeds for the next year. It’s a disaster for farmer’s security, for diversity and for the long-term health of our food crops.

We’re very happy to be able to offer local and organic seed, and have two suppliers, Sandveld and Camphill. Please support their efforts to keep local, organic and heirloom seeds available.

Heading North
With the end of the year comes a reshuffle of our distributors, and we may be looking for people to help us deliver in the northern suburbs and the west coast. So, if your Thursdays are free, and you have a reliable vehicle and want to earn some extra money, let us know.

Have a fantastic week,
Ian and the Ethical team

To order, head on over to

Farewell, fleas and pesticides

November saw us say farewell to Eduardo. Ed has been with us from the very early days, and many of you may have met him at his juice stalls around the city’s markets. With more markets springing up, he’s now concentrating his energies there.

Like most of us, Ed has been involved in all sorts of roles, and for the last few years has been handling the fresh buying. We wish him all the best in his quest to bring juice to the people!

A friend’s dog recently had a seizure. The dog ate some paint, and, since many paints contain lead and seizures are a symptom of lead poisoning, it would have been reasonable to consider the option. However, the first person she took the dog to rejected the possibility, and suggested some toxic flea poison, which happens to be another trigger for seizures.

Many flea collars contain poisons that are banned for other uses. For example, propoxur, a common component, was rejected as an emergency treatment for bed bugs by the US state of Ohio, citing the unacceptable risk to children. Unfortunately, this poison is still prevalent in many flea products, where it gets absorbed by our pets, and the humans in contact with them.

Other poisons include fipronil and permethrin, advertised as killing cockroaches instantly on contact, and yet these are the poisons we apply to our pets skins, where they’re absorbed through their skins into their organs.

It’s flea season now, but luckily there are alternatives to handing over your house to the bloodsuckers. Khakibos has long been used as a safe, natural alternative.

We’re offering a khakibos flea repellent spray and powder from Vondis, who say the powder is preferred by cats, and the spray by the dogs.

More pesticides
But pesticides aren’t only found in flea poisons – they’re of course an important part of conventional farming. Most have been safety tested with small dosages over a short period of time, but not in the quantities farm workers are exposed to, nor in combination with other poisons, nor against longer periods of exposure.

It’s a game of musical chairs, as methyl bromide is being phased out thanks to an international treaty as a result of its effects on depleting the ozone layer.

However, in California at least, it’s being replaced by methyl iodide, against heavy opposition from environmental and farmworker groups due to its links with cancer. In fact, California itself includes it on its official list of cancer-causing chemicals, but it’s been approved for use under strict conditions. However, with state budgets being cut back, the chances of its use being properly regulated are minimal.

At least in California there’s an outcry!

Have a great, pesticide-free week,
Ian and the Ethical team

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