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August 22 2012

Paula Alvarado -- A landmark ruling against agrochemicals in Argentina receives mixed reactions

Argentine activist Sofia Gatica did not win the Goldman Environmental Prize this year for a small reason: for more than a decade, she has been leading a joint complaint with neighbors from her town Ituzaingo, in Cordoba province, against producers who were spraying agrochemicals too close to the community, making people sick. (The public attorney claimed 169 people from the 5,000 neighbors got cancer from pollution from 2002 until 2010.)

Argentina being the third largest exporter of soybeans and a consumer of over 50 million gallons of glyphosate and endosulfan, her efforts were not small. In fact, she became the voice for a problem nobody wants to talk about.

Since the government depends on soy exports to collect taxes and keep the economy alive, the subject is not one eagerly discussed politically. There was a call by president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to create a commission to investigate agrochemicals in 2009, but its final recommendation, as IPS notes, was, "Because there is not enough data in Argentina on the effects of glyphosate on human health, it is important to promote further research."

The media is not crazy about it either, and you can see why by flipping the pages of the Country supplements from the nation's major newspapers, filled with ads from Monsanto et al. In 2009, a local scientist presented a study with evidence of the impact of glyphosate on amphibious embryos and received death threats plus an aggressive discredit campaign.

But this afternoon, Gatica and other environmental movements pushing the issue were preparing to receive a pat in the back. A court in Cordoba Province was going to give its final ruling on whether two farmers and an aviator were guilty of causing environmental damage and potential health hazards to the people of Ituzaingo.

Five hours after the initial time of the announcement, the verdict was in: one farmer was absolved due to lack of evidence, but the other and the aviator were found guilty and sentenced to three years of jail. Well, actually, conditional jail. Which means they can very much get out of doing any time, although they will be obliged to do social work.

Read more.. http://www.treehugger.com/environmental-policy/a-landmark-ruling-against-agrochemicals-in-argentina-receives-mixed-reactions.html

Paula Alvarado -- A landmark ruling against agrochemicals in Argentina receives mixed reactions

Argentine activist Sofia Gatica did not win the Goldman Environmental Prize this year for a small reason: for more than a decade, she has been leading a joint complaint with neighbors from her town Ituzaingo, in Cordoba province, against producers who were spraying agrochemicals too close to the community, making people sick. (The public attorney claimed 169 people from the 5,000 neighbors got cancer from pollution from 2002 until 2010.)

Argentina being the third largest exporter of soybeans and a consumer of over 50 million gallons of glyphosate and endosulfan, her efforts were not small. In fact, she became the voice for a problem nobody wants to talk about.

Since the government depends on soy exports to collect taxes and keep the economy alive, the subject is not one eagerly discussed politically. There was a call by president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to create a commission to investigate agrochemicals in 2009, but its final recommendation, as IPS notes, was, "Because there is not enough data in Argentina on the effects of glyphosate on human health, it is important to promote further research."

The media is not crazy about it either, and you can see why by flipping the pages of the Country supplements from the nation's major newspapers, filled with ads from Monsanto et al. In 2009, a local scientist presented a study with evidence of the impact of glyphosate on amphibious embryos and received death threats plus an aggressive discredit campaign.

But this afternoon, Gatica and other environmental movements pushing the issue were preparing to receive a pat in the back. A court in Cordoba Province was going to give its final ruling on whether two farmers and an aviator were guilty of causing environmental damage and potential health hazards to the people of Ituzaingo.

Five hours after the initial time of the announcement, the verdict was in: one farmer was absolved due to lack of evidence, but the other and the aviator were found guilty and sentenced to three years of jail. Well, actually, conditional jail. Which means they can very much get out of doing any time, although they will be obliged to do social work.

Read more.. http://www.treehugger.com/environmental-policy/a-landmark-ruling-against-agrochemicals-in-argentina-receives-mixed-reactions.html

May 07 2012

Amish farm kids remarkably immune to allergies: study

Amish children raised on rural farms in northern Indiana suffer from asthma and allergies less often even than Swiss farm kids, a group known to be relatively free from allergies, according to a new study.

"The rates are very, very low," said Dr. Mark Holbreich, the study's lead author. "So there's something that we feel is even more protective in the Amish" than in European farming communities.

What it is about growing up on farms -- and Amish farms in particular -- that seems to prevent allergies remains unclear.

Researchers have long observed the so-called "farm effect" -- the low allergy and asthma rates found among kids raised on farms -- in central Europe, but less is known about the influence of growing up on North American farms.

Read More:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/04/us-kidsallergies-idUSBRE8431J920120504

April 25 2012

Christine Dell'Amore - Synthetic DNA Created, Evolves on Its Own

Step aside, DNA—new synthetic compounds called XNAs can also store and copy genetic information, a new study says. And, in a "big advancement," these artificial compounds can also be made to evolve in the lab, according to study co-author John Chaputof the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University. (See "Evolution vs. Intelligent Design: 6 Bones of Contention.")

Nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA are composed of four bases—A, G, C, and T. Attached to the bases are sugars and phosphates. First, researchers made XNA building blocks to six different genetic systems by replacing the natural sugar component of DNA with one of six different polymers, synthetic chemical compounds.

The team—led by Vitor Pinheiro of the U.K.'s Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology—then evolved enzymes, called polymerases, that can make XNA from DNA, and others that can change XNA back into DNA.

This copying and translating ability allowed for genetic sequences to be copied and passed down again and again—artificial heredity. Last, the team determined that HNA, one of the six XNA polymers, could respond to selective pressure in a test tube.

Read More:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/04/120419-xna-synthetic-dna-evolution-genetics-life-science/#

April 16 2012

Fungal Threats to Biodiversity, Food Supply at 'Unprecedented' Levels

An "unprecedented" number of fungus-caused diseases are threatening biodiversity and the global food supply, scientists say in a study published yesterday.

"In both animals and plants, an unprecedented number of fungal and fungal-like species have recently caused some of the most severe die-offs and extinctions ever witnessed in wild species, and are jeopardizing food security," the study warned.

In the research published in the journal Nature, scientists from the University of Oxford, Imperial College London, and institutions in the US say fungal infections destroy 125 million tons of the top five food crops - rice, wheat, maize, potatoes and soybeans. In addition to food crops, fungal infections are destroying trees, amphibians, bees, sea turtles and corals and bats.

"Crop losses due to fungal attack challenge food security and threaten biodiversity, yet we are woefully inadequate at controlling their emergence and proliferation," said corresponding author Sarah Gurr, a professor of molecular plant pathology at Oxford University.

Read More:

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/04/13-6

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