Patenting life

Nestlé has been in the news a bit much for its liking recently. You may have followed the campaign against Nestlé’s use of tropical-forest destructing palm oil, and the now famous orangutan. It began with a spoof video by Greenpeace, playing on a well-known Nestlé advertising campaign about having a break. A bored office worker takes a break and opens a Nestlé chocolate – it contains an orangutan finger and, tucking in, blood starts spilling out all over the place while co-workers look on in horror. The campaign aimed to stop Nestlé buying palm oil from companies that destroy the Indonesian rain forest, driving the threatened orangutan towards extinction.

The campaign has been a great success, with Nestlé taking immediate steps to improve the situation – a testimony to the power of a few committed people, and the internet, to change things for the better.

Nestlé is perhaps most infamous for its baby formula campaigns in developing countries. In the 1970’s, Nestlé began unethically promoting its baby formulae over breastmilk, launching a huge, and still ongoing, consumer boycott.

Nestlé has recently received a new charge to add to its distinguished list – bio-piracy of South Africa’s genetic material. Nestlé has placed patent applications on the use of rooibos and honeybush. The patents are broad, and under South African law a company needs a permit from the government to patent the use of genetic resources occurring in South Africa. The permit is only awarded if a benefit-sharing agreement has been negotiated, and Nestlé have not entered into any benefit-sharing agreements, meaning a successful patent application would allow them to steal long-held indigenous knowledge, claiming all the financial benefits.

The patents are mainly to do with hair and skin treatment, which at first glance may seem an odd choice for a food company. But, in the tangled web of who-owns-who, Nestlé owns a large share of L’Oréal, the largest cosmetic company in the world.

Free Rooibos
We have loads of free, unpatented rooibos and honeybush available, loose, and in bags, green, red and espresso. We’ve also got a new tea this week. What, don’t we have enough already – after all, there are 25 herb and fruit tea varieties, 7 rooibos and honeybush, and 4 black and green teas?! Well, it seems not. Just this week we were gently pointed in the direction of another new tea we don’t (yet) stock. And a warming ginger green tea that’s certified organic and well-priced is just too good an opportunity to pass up.

With the winter weather well underway, the citrus is out in force. Oranges, lemons and clementines are all available, and the eagle-eyed may have spotted a new supplier – Bellevlei Biodynamic Farm in Stellenbosch. Pru Crawley’s rocky smallholding is now an oasis of life, testament to the restorative powers of nature. Read more about it and her story on the order page.

Apologies to all who didn’t receive their SOiL oils this week – our supplier double booked our delivery and an exam. I’m sure you’ll grudgingly give the exam precedence. However, we’ve been assured they’ll be available again this week.

To order, head on over to before everything’s out of stock.

Have a great, warm week,
Ian and the Ethical Co-op team