Organic movement faces split over air-freighted food
By Martin Hickman Consumer Affairs Correspondent
Published: 29 May
For the conscientious, food shopping poses many ethical
dilemmas: are organic bananas better than Fairtrade or English tomatoes
preferable to imports?
booming organic movement has been wrestling with one such dilemma for years and
the debate has become so heated it can no longer be ignored. From today, the
country’s organic farmers, suppliers and shoppers are being asked for an answer
to an awkward question: is it acceptable to air-freight organic food?
On this one question could hinge the prosperity of thousands
of African farmers, fruit and vegetable importers, the integrity of the organic
movement and, to some extent, the health of the planet itself.
If the body which certifies three-quarters or organic food,
the Soil Association, rules that the climate change pollution cannot be
justified, it may ban all flown-in food.
A ban might split the organic movement: one side with strict
environmental standards and another with looser standards that factor in the
development of the Third World. The argument arises from
the rapid rise of the UK
organic movement, which has burgeoned into a £1.6bn-a-year business.
Farmers have struggled to grow enough food and in 2005
supermarkets imported one-third of their organic range, mostly by air.
Nationally "food miles" are at a record high, with
air-freighting up 136 per cent between 1992 and 2002.
Yet flying food thousands of miles from poor farmers to
wealthy Westerners generates substantial amounts of C02 just as climate change
is being recognised as an emergency. Shoppers find the dissonance
uncomfortable: a Soil Association survey found that eight out of 10 would
prefer to buy conventional local food rather than an organic import.
biggest vegetable box supplier, Riverford Farm in Devon,
air-freighted food is banned. The self-imposed ban is sometimes difficult but
Guy Watson, its founder, believes the environment must take priority. He tells
customers: "Most out-of-season veg imported to the UK
is flown in from Africa and South America
causing horrendous emissions, or trucked from southern Europe
with less, but still substantial, environmental impact." About 80 per cent
of company’s 35,000 customers’ food comes from the UK,
with the rest arriving by road or ship.
By contrast, the importer Blue Skies in Northamptonshire
buys fresh pineapple, mango and coconuts from Ghana,
where it employs 1,500 people. "We would see any change to the rules as
unfair to us and unfair to Africa," said the
founder, Anthony Pile. "The carbon emissions for air freighted food is
something like 1 per cent of the total emissions." Why hit farmers who
have a tiny carbon footprint and often live without electricity? he asked.
In its consultation, which ends on 28 September this year,
the Soil Association is setting out the case for five options. Maintaining the
status quo would help faraway producers but might damage the organisation’s
credibility. A gradual or total ban would damage exporters but help tackle
climate change and encourage more sustainable agriculture. Warning stickers or
offsetting flights would be a compromise.
Anna Bradley, of the Soil Association’s standards committee,
explained that the rules had to evolve over time and the time had come for a
definitive answer on aviation. "It’s quite clear right now that these
issues of climate change and CO2 are much more important than they were 10
years ago and it feels much more pertinent to talk about them," she said.
organic trailblazer could lose business by raising its standards, just as it
did when it tightened its rules on poultry farms. "That cost us licensees
but it has … retained the integrity of the standard," she said.
Flown in from abroad
* PORK FROM DENMARK
When it opens its massive new 75,000 sq ft store in London’s
Kensington High Street next
month, the US
organic giant Whole Foods Market will stock many imports from all over the
world because UK
supply of organic produce is overstretched. Among products likely to be brought
in are pork from Denmark
and beef from France
* PINEAPPLES FROM GHANA
Workers in west Africa grow and pack tropical fruit such as
pineapples, mangoes and papaya which is then flown to the UK.
Countries like Ghana
say the foreign income is vital to development.
* MILK FROM THE NETHERLANDS
Supermarkets are struggling to find enough organic milk
because of the number of dairy farmers going out of business and the time taken
to convert to new methods. Organic milk is bought from the Netherlands.
Chirac faces inquiry into £30m account
By John Lichfield in Paris
Published: 29 May
The former French president, Jacques Chirac, will soon be
questioned by investigating magistrates on his alleged use of an illegal bank
account in Japan.
Although M. Chirac also faces questioning on other alleged
financial irregularities, his mysterious Japanese dealings over many years
appear to have risen to the top of the pile of his legal worries.
Two judges investigating the Clearstream affair – false
allegations of corruption against French public figures, including the present
President, Nicolas Sarkozy – will seek to question M. Chirac soon , the
newspaper Libération said yesterday.
Judge Jean-Marie d’Huy and Judge Henri Pons, investigating
the Clearstream affair, have unearthed new evidence suggesting that M. Chirac
had an undeclared account at a Japanese bank in the 1990s. The evidence
suggests the account may once have received funds from Gaston Flosse, the
former president of French Polynesia who is an old
friend and political ally of M. Chirac.
M. Chirac and M. Flosse have denied the allegations, which
were leaked to the French press. The former president has always denied having
opened a bank account in Japan.
M. Flosse, a controversial figure for many years, was found guilty last year of
illegally using his political influence to bail out a struggling hotel owned by
Although the claims seem minor in themselves, investigators
believe that the Japanese-Polynesian connections may help to explain a web of
mysterious financial dealings.
A note from the French external security service, the DGSE,
unearthed by the investigators last year, implies that M. Chirac once had ¥7bn
(about £30m) in an account opened at Tokyo Sowa bank in 1992. The bank, owned
by a since-ruined Japanese businessman, Shoichi Osada, has ceased trading. M.
Osada was a friend of M. Chirac for decades.
The investigating judges are reported by the French press to
have found new evidence linking M. Chirac to the Japanese bank account in
private notes kept by a former intelligence officer, General Philippe Rondot.
General Rondot was one of the – innocent – prime actors in
the Clearstream affair. In 2004, he was asked by the former prime minister
Dominique de Villepin to investigate fake illegal bank accounts supposedly held
by French public figures, including M. Sarkozy, in Luxembourg.
The general’s entire records have been seized by the judges.
When M. Chirac was president, he was immune from
prosecution, even from investigation. Now that he has left the ElyséePalace, he
is almost certain to be questioned about his alleged role in illegal party
funding in the 1990s when he was mayor of Paris.
The alleged Japanese bank account is part of a separate investigation.
M. Chirac is a great Jap-anophile, a fan of sumo wrestling
and an expert on Japanese art. He has visited Japan
54 times in the past 37 years, mostly unofficially. His Japanese connections
have always been a matter of great sensitivity.
While sharing power with the Socialist prime minister,
Lionel Jospin, from 1997-2002, M. Chirac became convinced M. Jospin was using
the security services to investigate his dealings in Japan.
After M. Jospin left office in 2002, M. Chirac fired the head of the DGSE. The
media then learnt that the DGSE had made a brief investigation in Japan,
although not at M. Jospin’s request. Documents from this inquiry were in
General Rondot’s files.
Eva Joly, the Norwegian-born former magistrate and a
fearless and successful judicial investigator, has called for a separate
inquiry into the Japanese affair. Mme Joly, now retired, said it was unclear
whether the Clear-stream judges would have the authority to inquire deeply into
M. Chirac’s Japanese connections.
"It seems essential to me that an investigation should
be conducted on the documents which reportedly point to a [Chirac] account in Japan,"
she said. "A democracy worthy of the name cannot continue in this
Lawmakers Push for Big Subsidies for Coal Process
By EDMUND L. ANDREWS
Published: May 29,
May 28 — Even as Congressional leaders draft legislation to reduce greenhouse
gases linked to global warming, a powerful roster of Democrats and Republicans
is pushing to subsidize coal as the king of alternative fuels.
M@: Sigánle sacando al parche. Queda un buen de tiempo.
Desperate Iraqi Refugees Turn to Sex Trade in Syria
MARABA, Syria — Back home in Iraq, Umm Hiba’s daughter was a
devout schoolgirl, modest in her dress and serious about her studies. Hiba, who
is now 16, wore the hijab, or Islamic head scarf, and rose early each day to
say the dawn prayer before classes.
M@: Y Perle no tiene nada de que arrepentirse.
Seguramente su hija también se dedica a la vida galante. Todo un éxito la
From The Times
May 18, 2007
The ghetto blaster
Former boy-band star Simon Webbe escaped from a crime-ridden
estate through his music. Now he’s helping other youngsters
attitude of these kids has got to change, not where they come from’
From The Times
May 22, 2007
Body and mind: how the power of music lifts and heals
Maxim Vengerov is considered by many to be the best
violinist in the world and commands upwards of £20,000 a performance – but few
are as rewarding as the one he gave for nothing at a hospital for those with
severe neurological conditions and traumatic brain injuries. Richard Morrison
warned me that there would probably be no reaction from the children. But one
girl started singing’