Violent agriculture and the greening of the deserts

Big money in bees

Pesticides known as neonicotinoids are widely implicated in the deaths of bees. One popular variety is clothianidin, which is restricted in France, Germany and Italy. In the UK, the Soil Association (who administer one of the most respected organic certification schemes) wants to ban them.

The US permits them, although the approval, granted in 2004, was conditional on Bayer supplying research data to back up its claim that the chemical was safe for bees, which has never been forthcoming.

So news that the British Beekeepers Association is receiving money from Bayers, and specifically endorses one of their products, Decis (not a neonicotinoid) is causing ructions, and again highlights the destructive influence of secret donations by powerful corporates with vested financial interests in the areas they support.

All of the energy spent on endorsing and fighting for one pesticide over another is just a waste. It’s arguing over the minutia of a failed system. We need farming systems that work with our understanding of nature, such as permaculture and organic farming in general, not slightly less toxic pesticides.

Violent Agriculture

Vandana Shiva is an Indian environmental activist. Shaped by the tremendous upheaval she saw from the imposition of the so-called Green Revolution, and the resulting ecological degradation, inequality and political conflict, as well as the Bhopal disaster, where a huge Union Carbide pesticide factory caught fire, killing 8 000-10 000 people within 72 hours, and an estimated 25,000 since from gas-related diseases, Shiva is dedicated to an agriculture at peace with nature, the celebration of diversity and keeping biodiversity and knowledge available in the commons.

India in particular is faced by crippling water shortages, and the wasteful use of water the Green Revolution encouraged is a major cause. These days, Shiva shares platforms with her erstwhile philosophical opposite, Dr. Swaminathan, the founding father of India’s Green Revolution, in support of organic farming.

Thanks to attention from outspoken activists like her, as well as support from previous supporters of the chemical model, there’s a growing impetus behind organic farming in India, as the harsh lessons of the Green Revolution and the rollout of genetically-modified crops is learnt.

Bottled Water

While India battles with water shortages, one brand of Indian bottled water is making waves. We’re normally not a fan of bottled water, and the associated tremendous waste of resources, but this one appeals. The recently launched B’eau-Pal is made, not from pristine spring water, nor (as is more common), bottled tap water, but rather contaminated groundwater from near the site of the Bhopal disaster. As the label says, “The unique qualities of our water come from 25 years of slow-leaching toxins at the site of the world’s largest industrial accident. To this day, Dow Chemical (who bought Union Carbide) has refused to clean up, and whole new generations have been poisoned. For more information, please visit”

Shrinking deserts

Think Namibia, and the first thing that comes to mind is desert. Rolling, huge sand dunes, and extreme heat. Namibia is actually mostly semi-desert, but one of the consequences of higher global ocean temperatures is that there has been more rainfall in certain desert areas. The pristine desert is a good place to do research, as findings are rarely affected by nearby local events, as in more populated areas. The last decade has seen record high temperatures in parts of Namibia, coinciding with record high rainfall.

Similar findings have been noticed in the Sahara, and, although the findings are still preliminary, it seems the Sahara has been entering a wetter period, and the southern Sahara in particular is slowly greening.

Perhaps soon we’ll able to bring down some organically grown carrots from Namibia. By electric vehicle of course.

To order, head on over to

Have a great week,
the Ethical Co-op team

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Comments ( 3 )

  1. Anique

    I am stoked by the locally made unbleached single-ply toilet paper. You gals/guys rock! You made my day. Is it not even using hydrogen peroxide to bleach?

  2. Ian Gilfillan

    Glad you appreciate it! I'm planning to feature it in next week's newsletter - for now, most of the information should be in the product description, when you click on the product in the order form.

  3. Kirstin

    How nice to hear you're pleased. We did request more detailed info about the paper - knowing how hungry our lovely customers are for full information on products - from our supplier, but they have in turn had to revert to their supplier :) I hope to answer unequivocally whether or not hydrogen peroxide is used (I very much doubt it) soon - but I cant swear to it until I get the official info. For now, all we officially know is that it is "unbleached".