August 19, 2007
Robert Shapiro rose to the top of Monsanto Corp. with a powerful vision for transforming the company from a chemical manufacturer to a life sciences company using genetic engineering to produce "Food,Health and Hope." His logic seemed impeccable: use science,
specifically genetics, to engineer plants that were resistant to disease, drought, and insects and that produced better yields per acre using less energy and pesticides. Monsanto spent millions of dollars developing the technology and several billion to acquire
the seed companies and distributors it needed to make Shapiro’s vision a reality. Wall street applauded Monsanto’s pioneering efforts. The stock price even rose after the company slashed its dividend to help cover its heavy spending.
Monsanto’s genetically engineered products were a hit with big American agricultural companies. The soybean, corn, cotton, and other seeds, while more expensive to purchase than unmodified seeds, fulfilled Monsanto’s promise of better yields. Cultivation
of genetically modified crops in the United States soared from 18 million acres in 1997 to 58 million acres in 1998. By the end of that year Monsanto was on a path to generate $10 billion in annual revenue from a pipeline of new products to be introduced over
the next few years.
Then the problems began. A farmer in Canada reported that some canola seeds, genetically modified to be pesticide resistant, had escaped and cross pollinated with a related type of weed on the fringes of his field, creating, in effect, a "super weed" that
couldn’t be controlled by existing pesticides. A rival seed company introduced genes from a from a Brazil nut into a soybean to make it more nutritious as animal feed. But soybeans are a big source of protein for human consumption too, and some people are
fatally allergic to Brazil nuts. The product never made it to the market, but news accounts speculating that modified soybeans could kill people allergic to Brazil nuts got plenty of attention. And then there was the Terminator gene. Monsanto bought a seed
company that had patented the technology to insert a gene in crops that effectively sterilized new seeds when the crop was harvested. The idea was to prevent farmers from saving the seeds from a portion of their crop to plant the next year, in effect, protecting
the seed company’s proprietary genetic modification technology. Farmers would have to buy new seeds each year.
Everything came to a head when Monsanto applied to sell its genetically modified seed in Europe. Europeans were already reeling from a decade of health scares related to food, including Britain’s terrifying encounter with "mad cow" disease. Although the
European Union’s regulators gave Monsanto permission to sell its modified products, consumer reaction on the Continent verged on hysteria. Environmental groups and the media led the charge against Monsanto, labeling its products "Frankenstein Foods". Prince
Charles weighed in with the opinion that "I happen to believe that this kind of genetic modification takes mankind into realms that belong to God, and to God alone." The German subsidiaries of both Nestle` and Unilever said they would not use Monsanto’s genetically
modified soybeans. Polls showed huge majorities of Europeans firmly against altered foods. Monsanto’s efforts to counter the critics-a $5million advertising campaign that told Europeans that while they were new to biotechnology, Monsanto has been researching
the subject for twenty years-instead inflamed public opinion as being condescending.
Shapiro wasn’t swayed by the furor. "This is the single most successful introduction of technology in the history of agriculture, including the plow," he proclaimed. He acknowledged the opposition, but contended that "eventually, scientific proof should
win over reluctant and skeptical consumers."
But science had never been the real issue. Public opinion was what counted. A consultant whom Monsanto brought in to mediate with the company’s growing number of critics gave up, claiming that Monsanto just didn’t get it. "There is a barrier to really
listening to what people are saying." he said of the company. In the United States, where small farmers were becoming increasingly incensed over Monsanto’s efforts to collect fees and put restrictions on their use of modified seeds, Agriculture Secretary
Dan Glickman got straight to the point, warning Shapiro to keep quiet because" every time he opens his mouth, U.S. agriculture loses millions more bushels of agriculture exports." Monsanto’s stock price fell 35 percent even as the overall market rallied 30
percent in 1999.
( Source Know-How by Ram Charan)
August 17, 2007
Judge declares river dried up by diversion to LA revived
The city of Los Angeles has sufficiently restored
a stretch of river along the Sierra Nevada it siphoned off decades ago
by aqueduct and no longer has to pay fines of $5,000 a day, a judge
Inyo County Superior Court Judge Lee Cooper said the city has revived
a 62-mile section of the lower Owens River that was left essentially
dry in 1913 when its flows were diverted to the Los Angeles Aqueduct.
"I can now officially declare that the lower Owens River is a river,"
Water was directed back to the riverbed in December, marking a
concession in an infamous water war between Los Angeles and the valley
200 miles north of the city.
Ecologists said the revived river was making a remarkable recovery and
reported seeing birds, fish, and plants in the channel.
The judge had imposed the $5,000 fine per day in July 2005 when he
grew frustrated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s
long-delayed plan to restore the river.
During a hearing Wednesday, Cooper also approved an agreement between
the DWP, Inyo County officials, residents and environmentalists that
spells out requirements for the city to keep the water flowing. The
judge warned he would impose fines under the deal if the city didn’t
meet its obligations.
"The restoration of the river has been a long-term goal of Inyo County
and we are heartened that river’s recovery is well under way," Jim
Bilyeu, chairman of the county’s board of supervisors, said in a
Source: U.S. Water News Online, July 2007
August 15, 2007
Indian National Snakebite Protocol
India has now become the first country to formally approve a National Snakebite Protocol. This
includes both treatment and first aid. In addition, the Government committed to nationwide training for each
State and a comprehensive programme of research with the Indian Council
for Medical Research. This will address many of the unanswered
questions on snakebite management and identify the ever growing list of
medically significant snakes in India.
The notion of ’the Big 4’ was abandoned as being inaccurate and dated. More medically significant snakes are emerging which has serious
implications for the supply of effective anti venoms. A significant amount of training has already taken place in 6 States
and more will follow. India has now taken major steps to remove itself from the top of the mortality list where snakebite is concerned.
Wild Goa Yahoo group Posting by firstname.lastname@example.org
August 14, 2007
In recent years many western communities have shifted their reliance from drilling, mining and logging to recreational activities like camping, fishing, hunting, skiing, climbing and boating on public lands for jobs, economic growth and vitality.
According to a report prepared by Sierra Club, outdoor recreation across the American West generated more than $60 billion and over 600,000 new jobs in 2006 alone. Western communities situated closest to federally protected public lands showed the strongest
economic growth in recent years. The Sierra Club says it is working to get traction for this information so that policymakers and the public can counter industry propaganda about the need to increase drilling, mining and logging on Western lands.
“Public lands drive the tourist-based economies in our western states,” says the Sierra Club’s Keren Murphy, who authored the report. “If we protect special places, they’ll provide a source of income and enjoyment for generations to come.”
August 12, 2007
Mogiya poachers -Ranthambore
‘Tiger Watch’ is leading a highly successful anti-poaching campaign around Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, led by Dr. Dharmendra Khandal, Field Biologist.
Aditya Singh’s Blog on Ranthambore has more details of their recent raid.
All the pictures are by Dr. Khandal
and were taken when the raid was on. Dharmendra is second from right in the picture below. Read on..............
The Ranthambhore Bagh
August 09, 2007
State Bank of India (SBI) plans to create financial instruments to aid carbon credit trading and management and fund and advise clients in the eco-friendly business.
The business opportunity is linked to a growing global market in which industrial polluters in developed countries that cross administered emission limits of greenhouse gases fund clean technology projects in developing countries like India and China under
a government-monitored trading regime.
SBI said in a statement that analysts peg the global carbon trading market at $100 billion by 2010 and the Indian carbon market has the potential to supply 30-50 per cent of the projected global market of 700 million CERs by 2012.
Source: Hindustan Times, Aug. 8, 2007
August 05, 2007
Computer tools for conservation
This tool — known as the "SWAP model," short for State Wildlife Action Plan — is unique: It considers a habitat’s numerous species all at once and displays the results in maps that are intuitively easy to grasp. A cutting-edge, customized computer
tool that takes 150 years of information on at-risk animals across Tennessee and marries that data to the latest in mapping software — geographic information systems (GIS) has been in use in the U.S.A.
The SWAP model incorporates 150 years of information on:
Animal sightings in Tennessee; Their preferred habitats; Threats to these animals (such as road construction or dam building); and Conservation actions known to counteract these threats. The software tracks 664 at-risk animals across the state — on land,
in water, and in caves — with data mathematically weighted toward most recent sightings, species most at risk, and other key factors.
Then it produces maps that display color areas where at-risk species are proven to live and thrive. The darker the color, the more viable the habitat. Part of what makes the SWAP model so innovative is that it turns the longstanding conservation strategy
of preserving a habitat for the sake of a single rare species on its head.
“That’s the old, standard way of conservation thinking,” “The SWAP model allows us to see all the at-risk species in an area that will benefit by removing certain threats or restoring habitat."
Another intriguing aspect of the SWAP model is its ability to project hypothetical scenarios. What if the Conservancy were to restore a farmland pasture to wooded wetlands, for instance? Would that help the at-risk species in the area?
The SWAP model can predict the outcome.
Read the full article at http://www.nature.org
[Open in new window]
August 05, 2007
Here is a quote from a prominent African film authority, which is applicable to a large extent to the situation here in India as well.
"As an industry, wildlife and natural history filmmaking touches uniquely on three socio-economic issues which are crucial to the future of the African continent:
Firstly, in the wake of globalisation, if our rich natural resources are properly managed and developed, then independent and sustainable development in African countries will continue. It is crucial in the pursuit of African renewal and the new partnership
for Africas development that such resources need to be exploited to the advantage of African people.
Second is the crucial issue of conservation and environmental protection - an issue which is not unique to Africa and requires international cooperation and resources to develop effective strategies in combating threats to our environment. Showcasing these
issues on television internationally is an effective way to raise awareness and support for these causes.
The third issue is the development of the African film industry so that wildlife and natural history filmmaking is representative of all Africans. To achieve this, it is imperative to implement training programmes which will foster the development of black
filmmakers and to change the current status of the industry. Put simply, the challenge is how do we make indigenous Africans not only the observed but the observers and the participants in telling the story about this continent.
We need to be conscious of this fact: if we are to ensure the survival of our environment and the prosperity of this industry, filmmaking must become representative and diverse. Africans are presently the trackers, the translators and the lodge servants
in this industry, perhaps sometimes the odd ranger or national park representative... but rarely the arbiter of the story.
We are following through at pledges made at last year’s Wild Talk Africa conference to spend $1 million on developing the industry here and commissioning up-and-coming natural history filmmakers. From now on, through the NHU AFRICA, e.tv will produce 40 hours
of programming a year, ranging from lower-budget/higher-quality series to blue chip documentaries.
So far we have commissioned films on frogs in Madagascar, a lake in Venda, desert elephants in Namibia, climate change in Africa, ground squirrels in the Kalahari, a southern African travel series, a wildlife rehab series in Johannesburg, a good news conservation
series, and of course where would the NHU AFRICA be without films on cheetahs, sharks, wild dogs and crocodiles! Our aim is to work with international broadcasters on some of these productions and we are currently co-producing HD films with NHK, and Five in
the UK and are in discussion with National Geographic over a few more".
Source: WildFilmNews July 2007
August 03, 2007
To eradicate poverty, we have to regenerate our ecology
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi, announces a five-day refresher workshop on how to use the environment to eradicate poverty in rural India.
For more than two decades, CSE’s campaigns and research have shown that India’s poverty is ecological in nature. This means that to eradicate poverty, we have to regenerate our ecology. Many villages have done this. CSE has been studying their experiences.
The refresher workshop seeks to learn from these models and put in place a framework for sustainable villages. This highly interactive course is designed to clarify the linkages between environment and poverty, and to demonstrate its feasibility through a two-day
field trip to Laporiya, a village of pastoralists who have collectively drought-proofed their village and created sustainable livelihoods. In addition to experienced CSE staff, the course faculty includes eminent development experts.
Understanding India’s biomass economy
Eco-systems, land use and livelihoods: Linkages
Rainfed areas in crisis: Food security
Spectre of jobless growth: Chronic, concentrated poverty
Key indicators: Environment and poverty linkages
Poverty eradication programmes: A critique
Ecological opportunities, economic value
Decentralised governance: Ecology, Panchayati Raj
Ecological Act: The promise of NREGA, experiences
How to evaluate development effectiveness of NREGA
Case studies: Community-led village eco-restoration
Workshops: Create your own ’poverty line’; Prepare a detailed roadmap on how to create sustainable livelihoods using local ecology
Field trip: A two-day visit to drought-prone Laporiya (a community of pastoralists in Rajasthan) to experience a remarkable community-led water management initiative.
For more information
August 03, 2007
A real victory for tigers
In a key win in the battle to save wild tigers, The CITES convention on endangered species rejected a lifting of the 14-year ban on domestic trade in tiger parts in China.
“The international community has sent a clear message that the world cannot sacrifice the last wild tigers for the sake of a handful of wealthy tiger farm investors.”
The International Tiger Coalition said it commended delegates from four countries with wild tigers – India, Nepal, Bhutan and Russia – and the United States in standing firm on behalf of wild tiger conservation during a lengthy debate. The decision was adopted
by consensus, but not before China tried to soften the language.
Privately run “tiger farms” across China have bred nearly 5,000 captive tigers and are putting enormous pressure on the Chinese government to allow legal trade in tiger parts within China. They argue that their captive tigers will meet the demand of traditional
Chinese medicine (TCM) users for tiger-bone tonic wines and medicines.
“A lift of the ban would simply lead to an increase of demand for tiger parts and the ‘laundering’ of skins and parts from poached wild tigers.
“India and Nepal in particular have been heroic and spoken up strongly and passionately in defence of tigers and should be commended for their stance.”
Source: From a report by the EIA The Environmental Investigation Agency