Monthly archives "July 2012"

Rough riders and sweet oranges

The genetically-modified maize I wrote about last week has been approved for import into South Africa. Not much has changed, and you can still assume that, unless otherwise indicated, all products available for sale containing maize and soya will contain genetically-modified material.

In the US, there’s the phenomenon of ‘riders’, often unrelated clauses attached to another bill that comes up for discussion in the Senate or Congress.

A recent example was the so-called “Monsanto Rider. A single line was included amidst a 90-page bill, in essence requiring (not just allowing) illegally approved biotech crops to still be planted, even if ruled in court that they were illegally approved.

The US has extremely lax regulation and biotech companies get away barely any oversight, but provisions like these that aim to further weaken any regulation are incorporated in bills all the time.

That’s the way US democracy functions. Industry lobby groups have huge teams and pay millions to get industry-friendly regulation approved by their representatives, and when citizens rally and take great effort to reject one decision, they simply include another.

So the situation in the US is dire. How about here? In the US at least there exists the trappings of democracy, even if one subverted by corporate influence and lack of oversight, and at least an opportunity for citizens to have an impact. In South Africa, so much more is under the table.

A spokesperson for the Agriculture Department said that a safety review process was followed, but refused to say whether this review was independent or simply based on the data submitted by Dow Chemicals to US regulators.

Industry must find South Africa a lot cheaper to influence.

Thanks to everyone who added their name to the petition last week. What can you now? Continue to let people know about what’s in their food, the impact it has on our systems, and to support organic farmers.

Citrus Season
Citrus season is in full swing again. Some varieties have come and gone, but for our newer customers, who’ve never seen kumquats, Sevilles and cara-cara oranges, here’s a quick explanation.

Kumquats are a tiny orange citrus, very tart, with the skin being sweeter than the inside. Some people have been known to eat only the skin! They can also be sliced and added to salads.

Cara-cara oranges are a beautiful rose-tinted orange, relatively sweet and low in acid.

And Seville oranges are extremely bitter, usually used for marmalades.

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

To order, head on over to to place your order before Tuesday 2pm, and remember that you can follow us on Facebook and on Twitter.

The best there is

I saw a cartoon today of an Aztec soldier leading a victim up the steps to be sacrificed. Naturally the victim looked a little unhappy, but the soldier said to him. “It may not be a perfect system, but it’s the best one there is”.

Beyond the laugh, it’s quite profound. Pointing out the flaws in the current system is not that helpful if no alternative is provided. The ceremonial executioner needs to find something new to give their energy to before they’ll happily drop their role.

In our society, so much time is spent criticising what is, without understanding how we mirror the very same patterns in our own lives, and without looking at what concretely we can do to change it.

New GMO maize
A new genetically-modified maize has been approved for importation to South Africa. There are many who reject all GMO crops without really understanding how the technology works, but my opposition comes from the fact that the intention is to extend corporate control of the food supply, and that each genetically-modified crop needs to be thoroughly tested, as they’re all different.

So, the new maize has been developed as a result of the failed properties of previous GMO maizes in the US. Most commercial GMO crops have been developed with a particular herbicide resistance, so allowing farmers to apply large quantities of herbicide on their farmlands without damaging their crops (never mind the farmworkers). Such chemical warfare has an obvious consequence, with farmers having to apply more and more herbicides as other plants develop immunity. Many of the first generation GMO maize plants are now worthless, and farmers have to pay increased prices for new varieties that have inbuilt resistance to stronger herbicides.

The latest maize has been modified to be resistant to Dow Chemical’s 2,4-D, famous as one of the two active ingredients in Agent Orange, the poison that the US military used to devastating effect in Vietnam, and linked with numerous severe health problems, including thyroid cancer.

So, the effects of the maize will be to grant Dow Chemicals control of the maize supply, as they supply seeds and the herbicide required for use with the crop. Heavier doses of herbicide as other plants develop immunity, more illness and death amongst marginalised farmworkers.

A flawed technology when one that is so much more effective, organic farming, is available without all these side-effects.

There’s a petition available to sign which will be delivered to parliament.

New delivery fees
After three years without an increase to our delivery fees, we’ve had to increase them, especially for the more outlying areas. Delivery fees have been increased by R10 for outlying areas and by R4 for central areas. Our countrywide delivery fees remain the same, as orders outside of Cape Town are delivered via the post office.

To order, head on over to to place your order before Tuesday 2pm, and remember that you can follow us on Facebook and on Twitter

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

Cumin – the aroma of Indian cooking

Looking back at my newsletters over the years, I’ve written often enough about the vibrant colour of tumeric and its health benefits. Clearly I’m more of a visual than olfactory person. While tumeric can be considered the colour of Indian cooking, cumin is the aroma. I love inhaling the scent of freshly ground cumin, and if I can distinguish the cumin in a meal, I know it’s going to be a good one.

Cumin was very common in ancient Greece, where it was kept on the table much like salt and pepper today. It was so well-known that an ancient insult was to call someone a cumin-splitter – someone too stingy to share a whole seed. Stingy isn’t the word I’d use for someone diligent enough to split a single cumin seed!

However, the Middle Ages saw Europe develop a collective sweet tooth, and cumin was surpassed in popularity by sweet spices such as cinnamon.

Cumin has traditionally been used for the digestive system, with recent research indicating that cumin may stimulate pancreatic enzymes, important for digestion and nutrient absorption. It’s also showing promise in protecting from certain cancers, in particular stomach and liver.

In slightly less useful fashion, it was also apparently commonly used as an ancient cosmetic to create a pallid complexion on the skin. The reason? The first source I came across rather dubiously said that it was to mislead teachers into thinking the student had been up all night studying! However, apparently a pale complexion was the aesthetic feature of great scholars, presumably distinguishing them from the common person who actually sometimes went outdoors.

A number of people have queried how to clean their water bottles if they start to go a bit green. I’ve used mine since we launched the Newlands Spring water collection service in July 2011. Although I’ve never had to clean mine, so can’t give any personal advice, to prevent them turning green in the first place make sure you store the bottles away from light, and that when the bottle is empty you shake the drops out and then leave the top off so that all the moisture can evaporate. Water tends to collect in the corners, so you’ll need to shake thoroughly. We call it the rain dance in the warehouse when we get the returns!

Green Map
Those that ordered in the middle of June would have received a complementary copy of the Cape Town Green Map in their box, but we still have ample copies left if you wish to get hold of one. It’s a map of all things green

To order, head on over to to place your order before Tuesday 2pm, and remember that you can follow us on Facebook, , Twitter, and on our blog