Saturday, September 20, 2008

Three Issues.....

issues:Biotechnology and Human Development in Developing Countries:
Throughout the past century, humankind has made a tremendous effort to understand the biological intricacies of nature. It started with the traditional fermentation of food to the commercial exploitation of all types of biological cells. The most incredible advances occurred since the mid 1940s with the discovery of the life saving antibiotics, followed by the green revolution in agriculture in the 1950s to the present rapid progress in understanding the genetic basis of living cells. The latter progress has given us the ability to develop new products and processes useful in human and animal health, food and agriculture, and the environment It appears, however, that at no stage have we been able to integrate these enormous discoveries into the natural cycles of matter. As a consequence, prevention is being replaced by curing continuously occurring medical and agricultural ailments. This can easily be visualized by the enormous over- and misuse of antibiotics causing a lowering of the immune systems and an ever increasing resistance against these drugs amongst microorganisms, which in turn requires the never ending search for new antibiotics. The intensification of agriculture during the green revolution with its the reliance on antibiotics and hormones in feeding animals in so-called animal factories (i.e. chicken, pigs) as well as on irrigation and chemical inputs in crop fields has led to serious health and environmental problems. Much of Asia, for example, faces problems of severe salinity, pesticide misuse and degradation of natural resources. It is therefore not surprising to see the ever increasing development of opposition against any further biotechnological applications, especially those arising from genetical modification of microbial, plant and animal cells.. The reason for this unfortunate development must be sought in the fact that research and development, personnel and finance are concentrated in rich countries, led by global corporations and following the global market demand dominated by high-income consumers ….. Although people are the real wealth of nations, we have not been able to create an environment in which people can develop their full potential and lead productive lives in accordance with their needs and interests.In order to establish the real need for what type of biotechnology is required for developing countries, one has first to realize that there exist three major climatic zones, namely:a. the temperate zones of the developed world;b. the tropical zones of developing countries; andc. the arid zones of developing countries.Moreover, there is no escaping the fact that over 90% of biotechnological research and development are occurring in the temperate zones of our world.Secondly, the most serious problems in the developing countries concern:HealthIt is very hard to understand why our International Agencies have failed to eliminate the health problems in developing countries. Biotechnologists and in particular microbial technologists must fail to comprehend why the numerous existing technologies have neither been supported nor implemented. Basic sanitation should be made available as a first priority in human development. It is well known that the handling of human and animal excreta or manure depends on and varies with the social and religious background of a particular society, but the technologies available today caters for all aspects of human society.The basis for socio-economical integrated biosystems, recently referred to also as 'ecological sanitation'PovertyThe term poverty is very often misinterpreted with starvation. Whereas poverty is flourishing in most developing countries, this is certainly not the case with lack of food causing starvation. However, poverty may cause starvation, as the people are not able to buy the available food. Poverty is mainly caused through strong increases in urbanization, as low income rural farmers stream into the cities to find work and a better income. This depletes very efficient and productive rural agriculture, and reduces the possible maximal agricultural food or crop production. Whereas the green revolution technologies resulted in increased food production in favorable and irrigated environments, they had little impact on the millions of smallholders living in rainfed and marginal areas where poverty is concentrated in Asia. The reasons for this trend are manyfold, but can mainly be traced to changes in farm management (single crop production) as well as farm mechanization (big farms) resulting in a severe reduction of small farm holders, and a severe reduction of funding and investment into agriculture. In order to alleviate poverty and make certain that we are able to continue with feeding an ever increasing population, we need a socio-economic biotechnology revolution realizing that we have to learn from the mistakes of the green revolution and secure a proper income to the farmer. One major problem of the green revolution was that the farmers were made to believe in the production for markets, forgetting their own consumption. It is evident that farmers in some developing countries grow crops solely under contract for supplying processing factories, while they have to buy the food for their own consumption. Traditional food was demoted, whereas canned and bottled food was promoted. Local (traditional) wisdom and knowledge in food preservation and medicine were treated as an 'uncivilized way of life' and is disappearing, so the younger generation is not practicing it anymore.Such a new biotechnology revolution has to take into consideration:that farming in developing countries is profoundly different from developed countries with crops like cassava, rice, soybean, sago, etc;that farms are small and should stay small with minimal mechanization but more intensive and integrated farming;that single crop production must make way to a multi-product farming, including livestocks on the farm;that we use existing biotechnological techniques to develop biotechnological industries using locally grown biomass such as sago palm and cassava;combine the biomass waste, excessive amounts of agro-industrial wastes with human and animal waste treatments for novel product and renewable energy production.Such a sustainable socio-economic biotechnology revolution can best be established in form of so-called 'biorefineries', whereby all the biomass is used to improve the living standard of the people. Such biorefineries require a host of different biotechnological and physical techniques ranging from anaerobic digestion of wastes to surplus biomass conversion to renewable energy, food, feed and commodity product formation. All biotechnological and physical techniques are readily available and can immediately be implemented.The additional incorporation of aspects of modern biotechnological techniques will come as soon as society has learned the advantages of the existing technologies. Some biotechnological issues such as pest-resistant plants and organic fertilization will involve some GMO plants. However, one should always be aware and not forget that local breeding experience may be a better way to go initially than GMO introduction.It is very surprising, for example, that agricultural biotechnology development sofar has totally ignored plants such as cassava and the sago palm as a starch resource, as they are hardly known in developed countries. Cassava can yield up to 65 t/ha with a 65% starch content in marginal soils and the sagopalm can easily produce 25 t of starch/ha in swampy areas unsuitable for any other crop. Since the average intake of food for human is, in general, about 250 kg of grain per year, one hectare of sago plantation can feed 100 people and a 1000 ha sago plantation can subsequently save 100,000 humans from hunger, a clear example of the potential of sago as a major starch crop of the world. Both crops are ideal for obtaining a variety of bioproducts ranging from biofuel, bioplastics, biodetergents, biolubricants to bio-pharmaceuticals .The establishment of biorefineries will diversify rural farming, keep people employed in the rural areas and will also increase the income of the individual farmer, helping in the alleviation of poverty.StarvationThe elimination of starvation in the arid zones of the world is the biggest challenge to agricultural biotechnology. Much more effort should be put into the breeding or genetic modification of crops for drought resistance. Improvement of soil condition using treated human and animal manure should go hand-in-glove with the introduction of drought resistant or at least drought tolerant crop varieties. The most beneficial aspect of GMO crops in these areas would immediately improve livestock and food production. However, one has to be aware that different regions have different types of crop demands. Genetic modification for drought resistance should occur with local plants and crops used by the local societies. We should stop introducing GMO plants from temperate zones in developed countries and respect the local food demand and varieties. Such a project would cause much less opposition than genetically modified foreign crops.The elimination of starvation in arid zones could become an ideal place for combining 'old' biotechnological concepts of soil fertility improvement with 'new or modern' biotechnological concepts of increasing crop and livestock production. Soil fertility improvement should also go hand in hand with a reduction or elimination of rain and other forest clearings, which in turn would stop the expansion of the arid zone areas. Such a combined concept would create more small holding farms with a proper income, helping to stop the development of further poverty.ConclusionsThe biotechnology issues for developing countries in future requires a change from the presently commercially driven to a more human development, combining 'old' and 'modern' biotechnological techniques for the improvements in the health and living conditions of 80% of our world population It is a great opportunity for the International Organizations UNDP, WHO, FAO, etc. to take up the challenge and realizing that the so-called 'modern biotechnology' alone cannot solve the problems. As long as the present biotechnology development is driven only by commercial enterprise, human development in developing countries will lag increasingly behind and cannot progress as it would with the application of a total biotechnology concept, such as a socio-economic sustainable bio-integrated system. Sustainable development and human development should not and can not go separate directions. Technology transfer in agriculture There is every sign that agricultural productivity is stagnating and food production flatteningTHE PRIME Minister has again spoken of a second Green Revolution. The Planning Commission maintains that 4 per cent growth in agriculture is essential for making a steady GDP growth rate to 8 to 10 per cent. . The call of the Prime Minister is to revive production, and improve the value chain thereafter.What ails Indian agriculture is well diagnosed — there is low public investment, productivity stagnation, soil deterioration, post harvest waste, low value addition, low technology application in rain fed areas and appropriation of value by market intermediaries at the cost of farmers.Knowledgeable committees have given their recommendations, at the Central and State levels on reversing the trend. In the last few years, in every budget, the Finance Ministers have spoken of the need and steps proposed to be taken to improve agricultural production. But why are things not moving even after 5-6 years of public discussion?To usher in a second Green Revolution, we should recollect and learn what was the process that made the first Green Revolution possible. It was a huge collaborative effort over three decades among the Central, State governments, agriculture universities, research stations, input suppliers, particularly the fertilizer industry, community extension services of the government et al to pass on the first generation technologies of fertilizer application, use of high yielding varieties of seeds, plant protection and water management by direct farmer level contacts.The sixties and seventies were dark ages, compared to the present day, in information technology, communication facilities, research infrastructure and financial resources. The transformation of Indian agriculture was led by leaders like C. Subramaniam, scientists like M.S. Swaminathan, Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug and others.The missionary zeal seen then is absent in the present efforts. In the absence of a real food crisis (though imports are taking place), a syndrome of satisfactory underperformance has overtaken the administrators and political leadership.Indian farming is the largest or the second largest in the world in terms of population dependency (650 million people live off the farms), its arable land and land under permanent crops 169 million ha, comparing well with China's 135 million ha. There is no development model available for such a farming system. We have to shape our own model.The National Commission on Farmers has given a model for the second phase of India's agricultural revolution. Leadership with fire in the belly has to emerge at all levels to start and carry forward the second revolution. The Indian state has to take the initiative. We cannot leave the second phase of our agricultural development to domestic or multinational retail chains, or to corporatisation of agriculture, and hope for the best.There is a need to transfer the next level of technology using the bio sciences, space science, experience of countries such as Israel in water conservation and precision agriculture, biotechnology, etc., to the farmers and to establish market linkages.In this IT age, perhaps, only a fraction of the effort of the past is needed to usher in a second revolution in Indian agriculture.

issues:Poor most vulnerable to diabetes:
Most people have the misconception that diabetes is a disease that affects only the affluent. Quite contrary to this, it is the poor that are most vulnerable to diabetes and least equipped to seek care and prevent the onset of complications, according to the World Health Organisation.This year, the theme for World Diabetes Day is "Diabetes Care for Everyone."According to the International Diabetes Foundation, the number of people with diabetes will increase to over 350 million by 2025. Of this, 80 per cent people live in low and medium income countries. "The healthcare delivery system has to address the needs of poor people with diabetes. In India, although a lot of emphasis is placed on communicable diseases, we have a huge burden of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and blood pressure that have to be addressed,"India’s 2nd Quarter GDPFiled under: Business, Growth — Edward @ 12:43 pmJust following up briefly on this post on India’s industrial output, second quarter GDP results are now out. India grew at an annual rate of 8.9% between April and June, just down a touch from the 9.3% annual rate in the first quarter. This suggests that the economy is slowing slightly, but with higher energy costs and rising interest rates this is not surprising. Also the global economy is definitely slowing, so this downward movement may continue, although I wouldn’t anticipate anything dramatic. The future looks good.India has maintained its position as the second-fastest growing major economy after China as rising consumer and government spending drove manufacturing output to a six-year high.Asia’s fourth-largest economy expanded 8.9 percent in the three months to June 30 from a year earlier, after a 9.3 percent gain in the previous quarter, the Central Statistical Organisation said in a statement in New Delhi. The median forecast of 15 economists was for a gain of 8.4 percent.Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Carrefour SA, the world’s two largest retailers, are vying to set up in a nation of 1.1 billion people where retail sales are expected to more than double in the next decade as incomes rise. India is stepping up spending on ports, power and other infrastructure to attract more investment in factories and lift manufacturing to a quarter of the economy from the current 17 percent, half China’s level.“Consumption and infrastructure spending are driving growth,'’ said Sundaresan Naganath, who manages the equivalent of $2.4 billion in Indian stocks and bonds as chief investment officer at DSP Merrill Lynch Fund Managers Ltd. in Mumbai. “If India is growing at 8 percent with poor infrastructure, then with great infrastructure it can even grow at 12 percent.'’

Globalisation is responsible for the erosion of indigenous communities across the developing world, yet the policies of majordonors towards them are in disarray. Only when there is opposition to major infrastructure projects is notice taken, althoughthis is a minor element in a broad process of mining natural resources and cultural assimilation. Diversity in indigenouscommunities tends to correlate with biological diversity and to support it therefore offers more than just cultural value.Globalisation is a major cause of the rapid erosion of cultural diversity, which should be as much a source of concern as the lossof biological diversity.• Development agencies give low priority to maintenance of traditional cultural values, and these are usually decoupled fromconservation of biological resources. Ethnic diversity is strongly correlated with biological diversity at present, although this linkis being eroded wherever indigenous peoples inhabit environments with high resource-values. Valuable indigenous knowledge isbeing lost with this erosion.• The United Nations and the World Bank have recently been developing their policies on strengthening indigenous rights, whilesome national governments such as Canada, have been building participatory mechanisms for determining resource access andceding territory to indigenous communities.• A global rights-based framework for ethnic minorities that recognises issues of both control of natural resources and culturaltransmission remains to be developed. Donors should support national governments to maintain the habitat of indigenous peoplesand reinforce cultural values through promotion of educational materials in minority languages. Controls on multinationals andexploitative tourism can assist the effective adaptation of such communities to the external world.

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