Salt, and updates on the Peruvian Amazon, Biowatch and the Wild Coast.


Salt has a long history. The Roman word “salÄ?rium”, the root of the word “salary”, is associated with salt, as it’s believed that Roman soldiers were either paid in salt, or given a specific allowance to buy salt. This then spread into terms related to working for hire, such as “being worth one’s salt”.

Salt was an extremely precious commodity at the time. Many of the first roads were salt roads, transporting the precious bounty from lands that had salt to those that didn’t. The Roman “Via Salaria” was one such route.

Salt was around long before Roman times though. The oldest verified saltworks has been found in China, and dates to 6000 BC, and salt trading was a cornerstone of the ancient Mali Empire, whose capital, Timbuktu, has become synonymous for “a place far away”. The name Timbuktu literally means “a place far away” in some Berber languages, as it was on the other end of the Sahara to them.

More recently salt has been implicated as a cause of the French revolution, where the hated salt tax, besides inflating the price of salt to exorbitant levels, was made worse by the fact that it was set at different levels in different provinces, and so used as a form of royal control.

Salt is vital to human functioning. All body fluids contain salt, which plays an important role in maintaining fluid balance. However, most people consume too much salt, and nutritionists usually advise not adding salt to our diets at all. Most diets high in refined foods contain too much salt, even before adding salt externally. Meats, cheese, butter, and almost all savoury processed foods, contain salt. If you eat any of those, you probably shouldn’t be adding any salt to your diet.

Excess salt results in high blood pressure, heart disease, stomach cancer. Although most people can flush out some degree of excess salt through their kidneys, it’s particularly dangerous for infants, because their kidneys cannot yet process the excess.

Most salts though contain anti-caking agents, iodine, and all other additives. The Ethical Co-op is offering a number of varieties of salt, none of which contain additives. There’s Himalayan Salt, a rock salt from Pakistan, Kalahari Salt, a rock salt from the Kalahari and Khoisan Salt, a sea salt from the West Coast.

There are also a range of organic herb and salt mixes from Camphill. I unfortunately don’t have information on the salt they use as I write this, but hopefully we’ll get it on the site soon. Remember you can click on any of our products to get more information, including the ingredients, the source, certification details, a picture, and general information.

A healthy alternative to salt is Dulse granules – a seaweed that has a salty flavour, but is much higher in minerals, and much lower in sodium chloride.

Peruvian Amazon

I wrote last week about the situation in the Peruvian Amazon. Well, thanks to everyone who responded – your involvement may have had a part in the dramatic changes since last week. To recap, in February Peru signed a free trade agreement with the US, which required changes to certain laws allowing access to the Amazon. Oil and logging companies licked their lips. Indigenous Amazonian people’s erupted in protest, and President Garcia sent in the military, leading to at least 30 deaths.

As a result of the outcry, Peru’s prime minister is being forced to resign, and the government is sending a bill to Congress revoking these new exploitative land laws.

Wild Coast toll road

You may remember last year that government put on hold approval of a mining project in the Wild Coast, after opposition from local communities and environmentalists. Last week though government approved plans for the construction of a toll road through the Wild Coast. The road was initially intended as paving the way for the mining project. While the mining has not been approved, the approval of the road, in the face of widespread opposition from the royal house of AmaMpondo and Pondoland communities whose homes the road will cut through, as well as environmentalists concerned about the ecological impact, is not a positive sign.

While the area is one of the poorest in the country, and there’s a great need for poverty alleviation, the proposed road may not be the best way to go about it.

Government spokesperson Vuyelwa Vika claimed that, in spite of the decision already having been made, “There will be a consultation process, to be complete within the next three months, during which stakeholders, including communities, environmentalists and everyone who has ever raised issues about the development, will be consulted”. Since the decision has already been taken, it seems the understanding of consultation is “telling you what we’re doing”

A small South African NGO vs Monstanto

Last week did see some great local news though. The ongoing saga between Biowatch and Monsanto has been going on nine years. In 2000, Biowatch took legal action requesting official information about the planting of genetically-modified crops in South Africa.

Biowatch won the case, but in a strange anomaly, were forced to pay Monsanto’s costs. They appealed, as being a tiny NGO this would have bankrupted them, and the implications would prevent any NGO’s from ever taking on the multinationals again.

Biowatch appealed this part of the ruling to the High Court, and lost. They were also prevented from further appealing to the Supreme Court. Biowatch took the case to the highest court in the land – the Constitutional Court, and luckily South Africa’s superb constitution came to the rescue. Biowatch won the case, and will no longer be required to pay Monsanto’s costs. The case is already being widely discussed, and sets an important precedent that constitutional rights need to be taken into account when costs orders are made.

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Have a fantastic week,
the Ethical Co-op team