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Showing posts from December, 2014

Green rice will feed a hungry world

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B. McPherson
A quiet, green revolution is taking place in the Philippines. A joint effort by plant scientists in China and the Philippines has developed “Green Super Rice” which builds on the heritage of IR8, the rice developed 50 years ago that saved millions from starvation.
Another revolution is needed now. By 2050, two billion more people will be living on Earth, many in areas where food is scarce. The changing climate is creating stressful conditions and lowered yields of many important food crops.
This revolution relies on plant scientists using selective breeding techniques but also the knowledge gained with regard to genetics. Instead of inserting non-rice genes into the plant makeup, the scientists working on green super rice can now pick and choose gene bundles from rice plants that exhibit the traits needed. For instance plant breeders looking for a drought resistant rice but high yielding can select a gene from a drought resistant rice and insert it into the high yielding…

Lima climate conference showing ragged edges

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B. McPherson
Delegates from 190 countries are spending two weeks in Lima, Peru, discussing and dealing to try to come to an agreement on reducing countries’ carbon dioxide emissions. The aim is to agree on binding limits in order to pass them at next year’s two week conference in Paris.
Already China, the world’s biggest polluter has already announced that they will not allow independent inspectors of their emissions. That may well be enough to trash the China/US emissions agreement signed in November. The US, world’s second largest polluter, is also unlikely to agree on binding restrictions.
In spite of China’s reluctance to admit inspectors, the European Union countries have made pledges to reduce their carbon releases in the range of 40% by 2025. The US and Denmark have made multi-billion dollar pledges to develop new ways to help keep the Earth’s temperature an average of only 2 degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial Revolution levels.
The trouble with pledges is that they are only…

Bhopal 30 years ago and still hurting

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B. McPherson Dow Chemical, third largest company in the world, should be able to spare a few million to clean up this mess. The people in Bhopal India are still suffering from the chemical release that has killed 25 000 to date. It has left many with respiratory problems, blindness and birth defects. Union Carbide, now wholly owned by Dow Chemicals(head offices in Michigan) had a pesticide manufacturing plant in the town. A release of methyl isocyanate gas spread over the town 30 years ago dropping small children where they stood, adults took a few minutes to die.
Residents of Bhopal marked the terrible anniversary by marching in the streets and demanding that the corporations involved and the Indian government treat them fairly. Compensation was meagre and spotty. A widow was awarded the equivalent of $3.20/month. Eventually this was increased to $12/month. Death payments were $1000 but only if deaths could have been proved to be a direct result of the gas leak.
Some Indian managers …

World Food Programme suspended for Syrian refugees

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B. McPherson
It’s a cold world that cannot feed those fleeing from warfare. Winter is coming to Jordan and Lebanon, just as the UN has announced it can no longer afford to feed the refugees from the Syrian conflict. Some Syrians left their home country with some assets but many fled with only their clothing. Many women with small children fled, their fathers and husbands dead in the conflict. The UN WFP has been issuing food vouchers in Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon to those who cannot afford to buy food. The vouchers have cost the programme about $800 million to date and bolstered the economies of the countries hosting the refugees.
Many receiving food aid live in the refugee camps have no ability to buy winter clothes or blankets. Without the calories provided under the voucher programme many will not survive. The suspension of the system puts 1.7 million people at risk.
The UN spokesperson said that $64 million is needed to cover costs for December alone.
"A suspension of…