Welcome back, intuitive baboons and heirloom crops

I hope those fortunate enough to have had a holiday feel rejuvenated, and that we’re all going to share in making a happier and healthier 2011.

It’s been a long wait, and we’ve had frantic calls and emails asking when we’d be re-opening, but here we are. “It is so difficult to cook, shop and maintain a healthy lifestyle, without the co-op.” said one. And looking at what’s in (or not in) my pantry and fridge right now, I agree!

Intuitive Baboons
We’ve all heard stories of animals intuitively fleeing tsunamis and floods, or high-tailing it away from earthquake zones before they strike, and of course avoiding pesticide-laden or genetically-modified foods.

This week saw another case of animal awareness. A farm in Citrusdal noticed that a troop arrived each year, before the season had really started, and devoured all the oranges from a particularly tree. On closer inspection they realised that the variety from that tree was much sweeter than the others, and started bearing fruit at least three weeks earlier than the others.

So, thanks to the baboons, a new variety of citrus has been discovered. Look out for it in about six years time!

Heirloom Crops
At the end of last year, Drift farm started offering a few new heirloom crops – unusual varieties you’ll never see in a supermarket. This week they’re offering mixed colour carrots.

Drift had a problem with the final order last year, and couldn’t supply everything that was ordered. They apologise profusely, and have offered an extra freebie to those who didn’t get all the Drift Farm items they ordered that week.

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

To order, head on over to www.ethical.org.za

Comments ( 2 )

  1. Marcia

    :-| Were the oranges that the baboons found not genetically modified? My understanding was that it was a natural mutation between two trees that occurred in a genetically modified crop of orange trees. Please could you give some more information about the difference between genetically modified in a laboratory and genetically modified by cross pollination in nature - would be interested to hear about that. Also, what is an heirloom crop?

  2. Ian Gilfillan

    Hi Marcia I'm not aware that any commercially-produced oranges are genetically modified, so I doubt that the oranges in this case were. There's a world of difference between genetic modification and breeding. Hybrid plants are bred naturally, while genetically-modified plants are produced in a laboratory by inserting a gene into the DNA strand to produce a particular trait, usually a pesticide. Genes produce more than one kind of protein, and what results depends on where it sits in the DNA strand. Since the foreign gene is so far removed from what could happen by breeding, the results are quite different to what could occur naturally, which is why testing needs to be much more rigorous. Heirloom crops are to my knowledge all open-pollinated, and are often sturdy varieties that aren't the usual hybridised versions found in supermarkets. The loss of genetic diversity due to increasing standardisation of food crops is a risk, so heirloom crops play an important role in reducing this risk, and reintroducing us to much more variety.