What's Wrong With Our Food?

From: Monty Don * /   Common Dreams.
Date: 22 Aug 2001
Time: 04:37:06
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>"How the Chickens Came Home to Roost". The Dire Consequences of Putting Profits Before Health.

>Article from Common Dreams/News Center: <http://www.commondreams.org>

*Published on Sunday, August 19, 2001 in the Observer of London: <http://www.observer.co.uk/>

~So Lord Haskins thinks that organic food is a middle class indulgence and that the 'poor' cannot afford that luxury. What patronizing, ignorant nonsense! It highlights how profoundly out of touch this Government is with all matters to do with the countryside, food production, agriculture and the environment. They simply do not have a clue. One of the many ways that this expresses itself is in the appointment of Lord Haskins as chairman of the better regulation task force. His only qualification is that he has made himself rich out of building a huge conglomerate producing cheap food - presumably for the 'poor'.

I have spent all this year traveling around the British Isles, seeing the effects of foot and mouth wherever I have gone and talking to people about food and the environment right across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. And I am more certain than ever that the issue of health, food and the environment is not only right at the forefront of most people's interests but also at the heart of British politics.

Attitudes are changing much faster than politicians seem to be aware of. The history of organic food has belonged, until very recently, to a tiny minority. Food producers and politicians have scorned it without feeling too threatened. But BSE, genetic modification and the foot and mouth crisis have forced mass food production into the public domain. The likes of Northern Foods see themselves under real threat from food that is produced organically. Hence the attacks are becoming more orchestrated.

No surprises there. But the 'lobby' for organic, healthy food is not orchestrated but is itself organic, growing from every household in every town and city in Britain. Every parent who cares about the health of their children is deeply involved. Every member of a gym cares about their diet. Everybody who has reached an age where health can no longer be taken for granted watches what they eat. Organic food is not a passing fad for an affluent minority - it is for all us.

Food production in this country has been deliberately geared towards producing large volumes, regardless of quality. This has been Government policy since 1947. As a result farmers had an absurdly easy ride throughout the post-war decades and the environment was sacrificed on the altar of plentiful food. It is wrong to demonize farmers but many became irresponsible custodians of the countryside and as a nation we were force-fed 'cheap' junk food.

In the 1970s I spent two years working on three different farms and I saw cheap food production at first hand. It revolted me and turned me towards organic methods. But most people have little idea of how their food is produced, how cruel and unpleasant most dairy and pork production is and what a vast cocktail of chemicals is added to their fruit and vegetable and the ingredients for their bread before they even leave the farm, let alone what happens when they are processed into cheap junk.

Until recently the mass of people blindly believed what scientists and politicians told them. Some of us would say that we swallowed it hook, line and sinker. But the information was at best massaged and often downright untrue. Vast food companies finance research and suppress anything that will damage their share price. Successive Governments have been irresponsible to an astonishing degree in the management of our food and environment. But this is changing. We don't trust you any more.

But I believed Lord Haskins when he said that there are millions of poor people in Britain who spend a big proportion of their income on food. They have been paying with their health, their countryside and their future as well as in unseen but real cash.

Let's just take a few examples. Most of the chicken and turkey breasts that are produced in conditions of indescribable cruelty and squalor are water - up to 40 per cent. Is that cheap chicken or expensive water? We spends huge sums cleaning up polluted rivers from nitrate run-offs.

The nation's health bill soars as a result of poor diets and the evidence is becoming overwhelming that many of the modern afflictions - especially in children - such as asthma and eczema are a result of polluted 'cheap' food. Heart disease is soaring at a huge cost to the NHS and industry partly as a result of the fat-intensive diet of 'cheap' processed foods. BSE has so far cost taxpayers £4 billion and a hundred people have died. There will be more. Foot and mouth has cost £2.2 billion.

What about the years of vast subsidies paid to farmers to over-produce low-quality ingredients? What price do you put on the rape of the countryside - which belongs properly to all of us, town or country dwellers - by intensive food production, destroying insect, bird and mammal life? In this light only a fool or charlatan could call our current food policy cheap.

As a nation we need affordable good food. We need an organized supply of fresh, seasonal food with as much of it produced locally as possible. I believe that the way to begin this is in the back garden. Change the world yourself, starting at home. Then it has to extend to the farms and fields around us.

Give organic farmers the same subsidies as chemical growers - or remove subsidies altogether. Provide people with more money to pay for more 'expensive' food out of the billions that would be saved annually from the health bill. Stop seeing food as something to fob off on the 'poor' so that a few multinational companies can make themselves enormously wealthy, and accept that every single one of us has a right to the best food we can provide.

This is an issue that is not going to conveniently go away. People have had enough of being patronized by politicians and businessmen, cocooned in their increasingly irrelevant bubbles. In my travels this year I have had an overwhelming sense of politics taking more and more to the streets - and, Lord Haskins, in the soil.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001


Así encontró petróleo Ecopetrol en Gibraltar 1.

Date: 06 Mar 2003
Time: 05:06:04
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El Tiempo-Economía. Bogotá,Marzo 4 de 2003. Expertos de la entidad descubrieron el pozo petrolero más grande de su historia estudiando desde el gas que guardaban los granos de arena hasta el polen que dejaron las flores hace más de 40 millones de años en las rocas que sacó la Oxy durante su fallida búsqueda. En setenta días de excavación, con nueve millones de dólares, los investigadores colombianos lograron lo que la compañía estadounidense, una de las más importantes del mundo, no pudo hacer en más de siete meses de trabajo, luego de invertir 70 millones de dólares. A comienzos del año pasado, las esperanzas de hallar petróleo en Gibraltar 1 eran remotas. La Oxy le había informado a Ecopetrol su intención de abandonar la exploración, pues la perforación avanzaba y los resultados no eran alentadores. Ante el temor del abandono del proyecto y que cayera una 'condena' sobre el pozo, que espantaría a otras compañías de buscar crudo en la zona, Ecopetrol intentó disuadir a la Oxy. Tomás Villamil, vicepresidente adjunto de exploración de Ecopetrol, y Jaime Muñoz, un geólogo, hicieron un estudio técnico de la viabilidad del pozo y encontraron que sí había esperanzas de petróleo, pero tocaba cambiar el curso de la exploración. En abril, viajaron en dos ocasiones a Houston, en Texas (Estados Unidos), para tratar de convencer a los directivos de la compañía petrolera que continuara los trabajos, convencidos de que las probabilidades de éxito eran altas si se corregía el rumbo. La compañía estadounidense y otras siete multinacionales analizaron los estudios de los colombianos y descartaron su participación en el proyecto. El 6 de mayo, la Oxy oficializó su retiro del pozo. Entonces, le tocó a Villamil convencer al presidente de ese entonces de Ecopetrol, Alberto Calderón Zuleta, para que la empresa se metiera sola en la exploración del campo. "Con base en nuestros estudios, teníamos un 80 por ciento de probabilidad de encontrar petróleo. Los estudios eran científico y nuestra política era apuntarle a lo grande", recuerda Villamil. Los análisis a las rocas que sacó la Oxy del pozo, que regularmente se desechan, les sirvió para determinar que había altas probabilidades de encontrar hidrocarburos y que la perforación debería ser más perpendicular, en busca de rocas más antiguas. Aunque la decisión fue difícil, pues se trataba de invertir 9 millones de dólares en una exploración que ocho compañías, de las más importantes del mundo, habían desechado, Ecopetrol decidió, a finales de ese mismo mes, asumir la exploración con base en sus estudios. Por el mismo hueco Villamil, un experto geólogo, encabezó el proyecto y conformó un grupo elite, en los que participaban desde geólogos colombianos especializados en Estados Unidos hasta personas de seguridad, medio ambiente y funcionarios de relaciones con la comunidad. En el campo, los funcionarios de Ecopetrol aprovecharon la carretera de acceso al pozo estaba construida y con más de 40 personas, que se turnaban las 24 horas, comenzó el proyecto. El 30 de noviembre del año pasado, los expertos de perforación metieron el taladro por el mismo orificio, de casi un metro de diámetro, que había abandonado la Oxy. La broca hizo inicialmente el mismo recorrido. Cruzó la formación Mirador (en donde la Oxy ya había hallado hidrocarburos que nos son muy rentables), siguió bajando y a 10.400 pies se desvió de la ruta. "Ese punto nos lo había determinado un modelo geológico que habíamos construido y sabíamos que el objetivo estaba cerca, pero hacia abajo", dice Villamil. Hicieron dos intentos en de perforación, pero en ambos el hueco se les derrumbó. Debieron buscar a un experto de Estados Unidos en exploración para les ayudara y el sábado 8 de febrero, el taladro abrió un hueco de seis pulgadas en el reservorio Barco, a 12.050 pies (3,7 kilómetros de profundidad), con rocas de unos 60 millones de años, que nunca habían sido tocadas. En ese lugar, nombrado así por la familia del ex presidente Virgilio Barco, se calcula conservadoramente que existen 200 millones de barriles de petróleo, la producción anual actual de todos los campos petroleros del país. Tras los estudios del crudo hallado, el fin de semana pasado se prendió por fin en la superficie del campo una llama con el gas que comenzó a brotar del pozo y se prendió la esperanza de alejar el fantasma del desabastecimiento de crudo del país, pues en el área existen expectativas de hallar más yacimientos. "Esto se debe a la terquedad de nosotros, a las investigaciones, al trabajo en equipo y a la estrategia que adoptamos de apostarle a cosas grandes", dice Villamil. LUIS ALBERTO MIÑO Subeditor de Nación.