Monthly archives "January 2011"

Watermelons and GM labelling

Watermelons
Watermelon season is fast coming to an end, and we have some of the last available this week. From a certified organic farm in the Karoo, it will only be available for the next few weeks.

The rind, the white part close to the skin, which most of us discard, is used as a vegetable in some parts of the world, and can be stir-fried, as well as juiced along with the red flesh to make the juice less sweet.

They’re even good for rescue from desert islands – a Vietnamese myth tells of a man banished to an island by a king. He sees a bird dropping black seeds and grows them, producing watermelons. After feasting on a few, he decided to write his name and directions to the island on some others, and sees them floating across the seas.

Merchants find them and wanting more of the sweet juicy fruit, are soon arriving at the island trading all sorts of other produce. The king, impressed by his resourcefulness, invites him back and his isolation on the island comes to an end.

GM labelling
Today is the last day to comment on the draft regulations of the new Consumer Protection Act. While many of the sections are to be welcomed, the section on the labelling of genetically modified food is weak. In its favour, it will require labelling of all products containing genetically modified maize, soya and imported canola oil if they make up more than 5% of the total product. However, this threshold is far too high. While your favourite packet of genetically modified maize chips will be labelled, many other products containing the ingredients won’t be. The European threshold is only 0.9%, and the cost to test for 5% and 0.9% is similar, so there’s no good reason for such a high threshold.

Even worse, only those three genetically modified products need be labelled. So GM crops such as potatoes, tomatoes, rice or papaya, common elsewhere in the world, may end up here, unlabelled. And any new genetically modified crops, such as the much touted genetically modified salmon, will be unlabelled too.

You can respond at www.labelgmfoods.org.za – remember, today is the last day to sign the petition.

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

To order head on over to www.ethical.org before the site closes this week on Tuesday, 2pm

India’s 2nd Bhopal

It’s been a flying start to the year and clearly everyone’s cupboards were as bare as mine. Our overworked distributors had a tough time getting all the orders to their destinations on time – our apologies to those who were kept waiting today.

While I’d hate to subsist on a desert island with just a single food, if I had to pick a “desert island” food in the past, it would have been peanut butter at one time, and later avocados. If I had to pick right now, it’d be cashew nuts. So I’m extremely pleased that we have organic cashew nuts back in stock again.

Cashews have higher protein levels than most other nuts, and lower fat levels, which means they keep their freshness longer. I’d never figured cashews as being particularly high in pesticide use compared with, say, berries, but doing some research I was startled to discover some of the effects of cashew pesticides.

In India, the pesticide endosulfan has been heavily used on cashew crops, usually sprayed from the air. The World Health Organization classifies endosulfan as “moderately hazardous” and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as “highly hazardous”. It’s banned in Europe, but is still used in the US (where it will soon be banned), Brazil, and India.

And just how hazardous is this in practice? In the Indian state of Kerala, in 2006, the deaths of 135 people were directly linked to endosulfan use, while countless others are believed to have died or suffered serious illness and developmental problems as a result, including cancer, cerebral palsy and serious psychiatric disorders. A visit to the hamlet of Swarga found a 15-year old boy whose hair had turned grey, and a 23-year old man still crawling on all fours, unable to walk. In this tiny hamlet of 90 households, there were 49 cases of cancer (mostly liver and blood) 23 cases of mental retardation, 10 suicides for no apparent reason, 43 psychiatric cases, 23 cases of epilepsy and 20 cases of congenital anomalies – all mostly affecting young people below the age of thirty.

The situation in the cashew plantations has been described as India’s 2nd Bhopal, but it has been happening slowly, over years, and far from the cameras. And it’s this devastation to farmworkers, their families and the surrounding community we supported when we unthinkingly buy conventional cashews.

Endosulfan is widely used in other crops too, including cotton, and spices such as cardamon, and not only affects humans, but is highly destructive to aquatic life as well.

The solution, according to some, involves rigorously gathering evidence, then lobbying for years to enact a ban, as is now gathering momentum. Only to replace endosulfan with another untested pesticide. Endosulfan was first approved for use in 1954. That’s 56 years of devastation, and counting. How long will it take to realise the effects of the next pesticide?

Or perhaps we can choose a better solution, and support organic agriculture.

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

To order, head on over to www.ethical.org.za

Welcome back, intuitive baboons and heirloom crops

I hope those fortunate enough to have had a holiday feel rejuvenated, and that we’re all going to share in making a happier and healthier 2011.

It’s been a long wait, and we’ve had frantic calls and emails asking when we’d be re-opening, but here we are. “It is so difficult to cook, shop and maintain a healthy lifestyle, without the co-op.” said one. And looking at what’s in (or not in) my pantry and fridge right now, I agree!

Intuitive Baboons
We’ve all heard stories of animals intuitively fleeing tsunamis and floods, or high-tailing it away from earthquake zones before they strike, and of course avoiding pesticide-laden or genetically-modified foods.

This week saw another case of animal awareness. A farm in Citrusdal noticed that a troop arrived each year, before the season had really started, and devoured all the oranges from a particularly tree. On closer inspection they realised that the variety from that tree was much sweeter than the others, and started bearing fruit at least three weeks earlier than the others.

So, thanks to the baboons, a new variety of citrus has been discovered. Look out for it in about six years time!

Heirloom Crops
At the end of last year, Drift farm started offering a few new heirloom crops – unusual varieties you’ll never see in a supermarket. This week they’re offering mixed colour carrots.

Drift had a problem with the final order last year, and couldn’t supply everything that was ordered. They apologise profusely, and have offered an extra freebie to those who didn’t get all the Drift Farm items they ordered that week.

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

To order, head on over to www.ethical.org.za