Even fresher, and the maize maze

Even Fresher
It seems to have been a scorchingly hot summer so far, in Cape Town at least, and yesterday took the sugar-free goji berry cake. So it’s great timing for our move to provide you with even fresher food. Whereas before, we’d receive our fresh produce on Tuesday, pack it on Tuesday and Wednesday, and get it to most of you on Thursday, now we’re receiving all our fresh produce a day later, on Wednesday. You still get it on Thursday, but it’s a day fresher.

No sitting on shop shelves for days – we get it, pack through the night, and deliver it straight to you.

Maize, mielies, corn. Whatever you call it, it’s one of South Africa’s staple foods. And, to our shame, most of the maize we feed our people is genetically-modified. The most comprehensive study to date of the effects of genetically-modified food on mammals founds a strong link between three varieties of Monsanto maize and organ damage, in particular to the kidney and the liver.

Now proving that something like food is harmful is very difficult. The design of the study is critical. There are countless studies, funded by the biotech giants, showing no correlation between their produce and any harmful effects. Most of these are seriously flawed. They only look at short-term effects. They use such a low dosage as to be meaningless. They compare unrelated feeding groups.

All these flaws are well-known to researchers, but the volume of these flawed papers muddies the waters, justifying the approval of their produce.

Short of force-feeding humans GM food, and seeing how their organs deteriorate, this new evidence looks pretty conclusive. Expect a rash of studies showing the opposite.

But it’s not just the cobs. So many products contain maize. Take a look at those ingredient lists next time you’re buying processed good – if it contains maize, and it’s not organic, it’s almost certainly genetically-modified.

There’s no difference
One of the classic tactics to get GM-produce approved is to claim that there’s no difference. It’s just like breeding a new variety, they say. That untruth has long been exposed, but in New Zealand it got taken to a new level. A poultry farm was feeding its chickens a genetically-modified soy feed, and claiming that the chickens contained no GM ingredients. Their defence that “research confirms that animals that consume feed with a component of GM are no different to animals that have been fed a GM free diet” was overturned by the New Zealand Commerce Commission.

Company of the Year
It’s ironic then that, as I mentioned last week, Forbes magazine announced its company of the year as, no, not us – Monsanto were the worthy winners. For many, businesses are measured simply on how much money they make for their shareholders, and by this measure Monsanto has been a success. However, just a few days after the award, Monsanto surprised analysts by announcing a loss, based on reduced herbicide sales.

Here’s wishing a fantastic 2010 for all those pioneering farmers doing things the right way, for everyone.

The safety debate has been raging equally fiercely in other areas. Lead is well-known to be harmful to the body. The British and US governments have set a level of 10 micrograms per deciliter as being safe. However, another study has found that children who had blood lead levels between 5 and 10 micrograms per deciliter scored an average of 49 percent lower on reading tests and 51 percent lower on writing tests than children with levels below 5 micrograms.

Now that lead-free petrol is here, the prime source of lead contamination in South Africa is paint, particularly when it’s peeling or chipping, and children are particularly susceptible. If you’re planning a paint-job anytime soon, don’t forget our range of lead (and other nasty)-free paint in our Home & Garden section.

Have a fantastic week,
the Ethical Co-op team