Sulphurous ships, aberrant alfafa, lots of hot air, and hope for the seals

I see the sea

The good news keeps on coming, and, step by step, our birthright of an abundant and healthy planet is being restored to us.

When talking about pollution, we mostly notice what’s right in front of us. Cars and trucks belching out fumes, smokestacks from factories, or aeroplanes leaving brown trails in their wake as they roar overhead. Ships though, are often forgotten. A recent report said that the largest ships have engines weighing 2300 tonnes, and run for the equivalent of 280 days a year, 24-hours a day. They use low-grade bunker fuel, which is extremely dirty, and can emit about 5000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide. Try and picture 5000 tonnes of a gas.

This means that the world’s 15-largest ships produce as much pollution as all 760 million cars. It’s quite mind-boggling to think that 15 ships can produce pollution equivalent to 760 MILLION cars.

Which is why it’s great news that California has implemented emissions standards for ships. All ocean ships passing within 24 miles of the state must use cleaner, low-sulphur fuels. Even more stringent criteria come into effect in 2012, when ultra-low sulphur fuels are required. Just like with cars, the quality of the fuel going in has a huge impact on what comes out.

I haven’t seen any renewable-energy powered ships yet, but let’s hope they’re coming soon.

Monsanto and Genetically-modified alfafa

Biotech company Monsanto has hit another snag in its quest to own the world’s food supply. Two years ago, they were banned from planting genetically-modified alfalfa without an environmental impact assessment. This week, Monsanto’s appeal to the US Federal Appeals Court failed. It’s a vital case, as, until now, all genetically modified crops have been approved without environmental impact assessments, as they were assumed to be equivalent to the conventional variety.

With evidence mounting that this is naive, with the spread of so-called “super-weeds”, resistant to various herbicides used with GM crops, being just one of the outcomes, it’s hoped that relying on independent tests that look at the bigger picture, rather than flawed greenwash from the manufacturer, will reverse the spread of these crops.

Climate Change

As the US is on the brink of finally passing legislation that will legislate a reduction in greenhouse gasses. While horribly flawed, and nowhere near enough, it’s encouraging that the US is no longer a rogue environmental state, and is starting to react to the situation.

At the same time, the oil companies are upping their efforts to discredit the notion that humans have anything to do with climate change. Exxon-Mobil, one of the worst offenders, was revealed to have paid hundreds of thousands of pounds in 2008 in the UK alone to lobby groups that attempt to cast doubt on human impact. While the amount of carbon released due to human activities is more than if every volcano would erupt simultaneously, the lobby groups latch onto findings, such as sunspots, twisting them out of context so that, instead of being found to play a role in climate, as they do, they seem to mitigate the whole human impact.

It’s time we took responsibility for our own actions, and the US bill, while flawed, is a step in the right direction.


Closer to home, Namibia’s annual seal slaughter has been put on hold. It’s not due to a change of heart from the Namibian Government, which has for years resisted pressure to end the slaughter.

Rather, the European Union has banned the import of all seal products. Russia has recently banned seal killing, and Canada is considering the same, which would leave Namibia as the only country in the world to permit it. With markets drying up, Namibia has approached Seal Alert-SA to buy them out the remaining sealers, finally ending the slaughter. Seal-SA is trying to raise the money.


You may not notice in your average supermarket aisle, but the seasons have quite an impact on what food is available! Many of our suppliers have limited range, as they prepare for the spring, and the winter sun doesn’t allow much to grow quickly.

So although the fresh range is smaller (although with naartjies, guavas, avocados, pineapples, grape fruit and more, you’ll hardly go hungry), there’s lots lurking in our virtual aisles. It’s Vondis pet food week (remember we only offer them every second week), and we’ve recently got more stock of long grain brown rice, beans, and some nuts. MPower’s menstrual cup is back after a gap, and our own range of grains and seeds offer great value.

To order, head on over to

Have a super week,
the Ethical Co-op team

Comments ( 3 )

  1. Amelia

    Thank you for bringing us these uplifting stories! There seems to be some conflicting stories in the media about the seal culling, however. Die Burger reported this morning that the culling has already started - also quoting Francois Hugo? According to Die Burger Namibia sells the fur to an Australian buyer. I am holding thumbs that your version is the correct one!

  2. Ian Gilfillan

    Hi Amelia Do you have a link to the article? I can only find this one, which, even though it was only written yesterday, seems to talk about the deadline for being bought out expiring on Wed 1 July, and the cull going ahead. Let's hope there's still time!

  3. Jeandré

    Can we have flags for non local products/ingredients on the order form? Also, vegan tags would be helpful.