Tuesday, July 10, 2012

567 Christchurch cardboard Cathedral. Traditional Maori canoes sail to Easter Island

Christchurch cardboard Cathedral. Traditional Maori canoes sail to
Easter Island

(1) Christchurch cardboard Cathedral designed by Japanese architect who
specializes in simple structures for disaster zones
(2) - (5) Traditional Maori canoes complete NZ to Easter Island expedition
(6) Frugal Innovation: China making high-tech goods in a low-tech way
(7) Miracle rice varieties fail the salt test. Preserving India’s
traditional varieties
(8) Toxic chemicals in furniture mandated by California anti-fire Nanny laws
(9) GM crops promote superweeds, food insecurity and pesticides
(10) GM crops sneak into 43 varieties of food we eat
(11) Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement GM risk

(1) Christchurch cardboard Cathedral designed by Japanese architect who
specializes in simple structures for disaster zones


{To see photos of the cardboard cathedral:
http://www.google.com/images?&q=Christchurch+cardboard+Cathedral}

http://sg.news.yahoo.com/n-z-quake-city-puts-faith-cardboard-cathedral-041115552.html

N.Z. quake city puts faith in cardboard cathedral

By Neil Sands

AFP News, Singapore

December 27, 2012

{photo}
Japanese architect Shigeru Ban posing in front of the new Christchurch
Cathedral
{end}

When Japanese architect Shigeru Ban designed a new cathedral in
earthquake-devastated Christchurch, he chose the most unlikely of
materials -- cardboard -- for the landmark project.

The New Zealand city's magnificent Gothic revival cathedral hewn from
local basalt was irreparably damaged in the 6.3-magnitude earthquake
that claimed 185 lives on February 22 last year.

Urgently needing a temporary replacement, the Anglican Church
commissioned Ban -- who donated his services gratis -- to draw up plans
for a place of worship to house Christchurch's faithful.

The result is the so-called cardboard cathedral now taking shape on the
quake-scarred city's skyline.

Built from 600-millimeter (24-inch) diameter cardboard tubes coated with
waterproof polyurethane and flame retardants, it will be a simple
A-frame structure that can hold 700 people.

"It will be a huge milestone towards recovery for Christchurch," project
manager Johnny McFarlane said.

"It's going to be a great building to walk into, it's very light and
airy and gives a good sense of dominance and scale."

Ban, a world-renowned architect who has been hailed by publications such
as The Wall Street Journal and Time magazine, sees the cathedral as a
way his profession can help Christchurch's shattered community recover
from the quake.

While the 55-year-old takes on major commercial projects such as office
buildings and tourist resorts, he is also a pioneer in "emergency
architecture" which can be rapidly erected in disaster zones.

He began in the mid-1990s, working with the UN to erect temporary
shelters for refugees after the Rwanda genocide and has since helped
with relief efforts in scores of humanitarian emergencies from Turkey to
his native Japan.

"This is part of my social responsibility," he told AFP. "Normally we
(architects) are designing buildings for rather privileged people ...
and they use their money and power for monumental architecture.

"But I believe we should build more for the public... people who have
lost their houses through natural disaster."

He said many so-called natural disasters such as earthquakes were
worsened by the failure of man-made structures and architects had an
obligation to help.

"People are not killed by earthquakes, they're killed by collapsing
buildings," he said.

"That's the responsibility of architects but the architects are not
there when people need some temporary structure because we're too busy
working for (the) privileged. Even a temporary structure can become a home."

A common feature of Ban's emergency architecture is the use of recycled
material, including shipping containers and beer crates, which were
filled with sandbags to act as shelter foundations after the 1995 Kobe
earthquake.

But his signature material is cardboard tubes, which he says are readily
available after disasters, unlike traditional materials such as timber
and steel.

He has used them to build everything from a concert hall in L'Aquila,
Italy, a schoolhouse in China's Chengdu and a "paper church" in Kobe,
which was erected in just five weeks.

"The material is available everywhere in the world," he said. "Even when
I was building a refugee shelter in Rwanda I found the paper I needed
for my structure in Kigali.

"So anywhere I can go I can find this material, it's very inexpensive
and normally this is not a building material, so it's easy to get in the
emergency period. It's also lightweight and cheap."

Christchurch's new cathedral, due to be completed in April next year --
132 years after the consecration of the original stone version -- is the
largest cardboard structure Ban has designed.

The church, insurance and public donations are paying for the NZ$5
million project ($4.2 million) for which local builders have offered
discount prices.

It has a concrete base, with the cardboard tubes forming two sides of
the A-frame and containers helping brace the walls.

One end of the cathedral will be filled with stained glass and a
polycarbon roof will help protect it from the elements, giving a
lifespan estimated at 50 years.

Church authorities envisage it being used as a cathedral for only 10
years, until a permanent replacement is built, although Ban said the
enthusiastic response in New Zealand to his innovative plans could
change that.

"If people love it, it will be permanent, I hope that's going to
happen," he said.

Building authorities in Christchurch pored over the plans and declared
they fully meet earthquake standards, while even locals initially
sceptical about the cardboard concept have been won over.

"I thought it was a bit of a strange idea but now I think it's really
cool," Christchurch resident Hunter McKenzie said.

"It's actually good just to get the cathedral up and running and try to
get the city back to normal." ==

(2) Traditional Maori canoes complete NZ to Easter Island expedition

{Thor Heyerdahl would have been pleased. I travelled on similar
double-hulled ocean-going canoes, east of Port Moresby (in Papua New
Guinea), in 1972, but they were powered by outboard motor. - Peter M.}

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-12-06/an-tradition-canoes-complete-nz-to-easter-island-journey/4413052

Traditional canoes complete NZ to Easter Island expedition

December 6, 2012

Two double-hulled canoes have arrived on Easter Island after a
three-month journey from New Zealand using only traditional navigation
techniques.

The expedition, named Waka Tapu, or Sacred Canoe, left Auckland in
September and covered over 10,000 nautical miles on waka hourua, or two
traditional sailing canoes - Te Aurere and Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti.

Karl Johnstone, Director of the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts
Institute, was in Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, for the arrival.

"Everybody's feeling very elated - it's been a long time at sea and
obviously it's had its challenges," he's told Radio Australia.

"It has been longer than we initially predicted, but then when you're
navigating by traditional systems there's no real telling how long it's
going to take if you're at the mercy of the environment."

{photo}
PHOTO: Te Aurere and Ngahiraka Mai-Tawhiti anchored off Easter Island,
in front of the historic Moai site Ahu Tongariki
{end}

Mr Johnstone says the canoes had arrived a few days ago, but those
involved and the community on Easter Island wanted to pay tribute to the
man behind the mission, Master Builder Te Hekenukumai Busby.

"The wakas have been sitting out from the island for a few days now
waiting to come ashore," he said.

"They've had to wait there while Hector Busby, who's the waka builder -
he's the 80 year old whose vision this whole project has been for 20
years - so they've been sitting out there almost tormented, but not
being able to come onshore, because it's really important from a
protocol perspective that Hector be on board when they came in."

Map: Waka Tapu's planned journey
It's not known if the journey between New Zealand and Easter Island has
been attempted before.

Mr Johnstone says it is the last remaining leg of the Polynesian
Triangle - which stretches between Hawaii, Easter Islabd and New
Zealand, to be conquered.

"[Hector's] vision has always been one of reconnecting Pacific cultures
through the practice of waka, and I guess the remaining element that
hadn't been completed in modern day times, for anyone in the Pacific,
was the voyage between Rapa Nui and New Zealand," he said.

"For it to happen - he was very emotional. Two years ago I don't think
he thought it was going to happen, or that it was very likely to happen,
or was going to happen, and then all of a sudden we fell into the
planning of this significant project."

http://www.wakatapu.com/

THE VOYAGE TO RAPANUI

Over a thousand years in the making. 10,000 nautical miles across the
world's most expanisve ocean. Guided by the habits of the stars,
currents, sun and moon. Two traditional double hulled sailing canoes. 24
voyagers following in the wake of their ancestors. One legacy... closing
the Polynesian Triangle

(3) Waka crews set off on 10,000-mile ocean journey

By Yvonne Tahana

5:30 AM Saturday Aug 18, 2012

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10827729

Johnson Tumai-Totorewa, 17, wasn't worried about the potential for
20-metre ocean swells as he embarked on a 10,000-nautical mile voyage on
a waka hourua, double hulled sailing canoe today.

When his waka Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti, and its elder sibling Te Aurere
reach Rapanui/Easter Island in October it'll be the start of the cyclone
season. He's not worried about that either.

The Mangere teenager, who said the trip was the first off the North
Island, is the youngest of 23 sailors. But the only thing giving him
twinges was how it would feel to miss someone, he said with a smile.

"My mummy. I'm a mummy's boy but everything else - well, I have
confidence in all those around me. Most of all for me I think it's going
to be awesome following in the footsteps of our tupuna."

The trip has been the dream of Hekenukumai Busby, the master waka
builder who built both vessels. At 80 he is won't do the full trip but
hopes to hop back on board as they get closer to the eastern tip of the
Polynesian Triangle. Today, Mr Busby along with the Royal New Zealand
Navy, a couple of hundred whanau and well-wishers farewelled the canoes
with song and haka, the sounds echoing out over glassy Waitemata water.

Ngahiraka captain Jack Thatcher, senior navigator, said being based down
at the viaduct had given the crew a chance to talk to Emirates Team New
Zealand members - mostly the groups shot the breeze, sailors talk, he joked.

He is hoping for a good push from westerly winds on the first leg. Crew
members will understand what being alone on the ocean and navigating by
the stars, ocean currents, birds and marine life will be like once the
waka pass Great Barrier, Mr Thatcher said.

"The biggest challenge will be Sunday morning because we'll be out of
sight of land...that's when the enormity of what they're about to do
will hit home. But they need to realise that we've just done ten months
of training and they'll be good.

"We're following te ara kumara [the migration of kumara] some have
suggested we might keep going to South America, not this trip but
there's every chance we'll do that in the future."

Stanley Conrad is captaining Te Aurere which is crewed by men only,
while its sister-ship has a mix of women and men.

Te Aurere and Ngahiraka
* 17.5 metre long
* Made of kauri, weigh between 7-11 tonnes
* Expected to take six to eight weeks to reach Rapanui/Easter Island
* Travelling up to 100 nautical miles a day
* Crewed by 23 18-62 year-olds

(4) NZ-made canoes complete Pacific voyage

6:45 PM Monday Aug 8, 2011

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10743817

Six traditional voyaging canoes have completed their journey to San
Francisco. Photo / NZPA/David Rowland
Six voyaging canoes from Pacific islands, including New Zealand, have
completed their journey to San Francisco.

The 100 crew members, from New Zealand, Samoa, Fiji, Cook Islands,
Vanuatu, Kiribati and Hawaii, greeted locals at an open day in San
Francisco Bay.

The voyage was organised by a wealthy German philanthropist Dieter
Paulmann, who wanted to highlight the role traditional knowledge could
play in saving the ocean from environmental threats.

He thought of the Pacific Voyagers expedition three years ago at a
Pacific arts festival in Pago Pago, American Samoa, and seven
double-hulled fibreglass canoes were built in Auckland.

Five left Auckland's Viaduct Harbour in mid-April and sailed to a
rendezvous in French Polynesia's Tuamotu Islands with the rest of the fleet.

Mr Paulmann told the San Francisco Chronicle that he was alarmed by
increasingly acid levels as seawater absorbed carbon dioxide from the
atmosphere: "Each time we run the car we put another drop of vinegar in
the ocean".

He wanted ways to illustrate the problem and chose the tradition of
voyaging canoes, which Polynesians used to explore and settle the ocean.

"The vaka is safe, it brings solidarity and joy, it's driven by solar
power, it's simple, and it brings us back to our roots," Mr Paulmann said.

"It's a metaphor for everyone to think of their own story for the next
10 or 20 years. What should the world look like? When I think about it,
everyone who is coming to see the vaka who is impressed starts to change
a little."

Tahiti's canoe stayed in Hawaii, but, combined, the fleet travelled the
equivalent of five times around the globe, Mr Paulmann said, "with no
accidents, no big problems, very minor little damages. ... This is proof
how reliable, how fast and safe these vaka moana are".

The crews witnessed the effects of increased ocean acidity on sea life
and logged pages and pages of floating trash.

The journey was filmed for a documentary with the working title Our Blue
Canoe.

Mr Paulmann said he hoped that it would help people realise that
everyone in the world was effectively in the same boat, when it came to
saving the ocean and our environment.

Some of the canoes are expected to travel down the Californian coast to
San Diego, then return across the Pacific with calls at the Cocos
Islands, Galapagos, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji.

They are expected to rendevous again at the 2012 Pacific arts festival
at Honiara in the Solomon Islands.

- NZPA

(5) A rapturous welcome to Rapanui

11th Dec 2012

http://www.northernadvocate.co.nz/news/a-rapturous-welcome-to-rapanui/1655378/

More than 1000 Easter Islanders have given the crews of two Far
North-built waka a rapturous welcome after an epic three-month journey
from New Zealand.

The 20 sailors on board the waka hourua Te Aurere and Ngahiraka Mai
Tawhiti first set eyes on Rapanui (Easter Island) late last week, but
anchored offshore while 80-year-old master waka builder Hekenukumai
(Hec) Busby flew to the island from his home at Doubtless Bay.

It had long been Mr Busby's dream to "close the Polynesian triangle" by
sailing from Aotearoa to Rapanui using only traditional navigation
techniques. The other sides of the triangle, from New Zealand to Hawaii
and Hawaii to Easter Island, have already been sailed.

Once Mr Busby arrived the two waka completed their journey, chief
navigator Jack Thatcher saying they were greeted by a rapturous
welcoming party of more than 1000 people. They arrived at Anakena, on
the northern side of Rapanui, at 9am on Thursday local time.

Mr Thatcher said the arrival was highly emotional because many sailors'
family members had travelled from New Zealand to see them for the first
time since they left Auckland in August.

The welcoming ceremony involved the exchange of gifts and the placing of
'eyes' in the moai, the giant stone heads Easter Island is famous for,
which Mr Thatcher said had not been done for 100 years. It also included
a ceremony to lift the tapu placed on Te Aurere when it left New
Zealand, and the placing of three Mauri stones carried on board Te
Aurere on an altar to symbolise the three corners of the Polynesian
triangle.

The ceremony also paid special tribute to Mr Busby.

"The people of Rapanui have huge admiration for Hector. He has
contributed to waka culture across the Pacific, including building many
waka, and has generously passed on his navigational knowledge to others.
The fact that he was here to see his dream of closing the Polynesian
Triangle come true was a special moment for all of us," Mr Thatcher said.

All the sailors were honoured and grateful for the huge welcome they had
received, he added.

The crew was to rest for a week before sailing for Tahiti, where the
waka will lay over for the cyclone season. Most will fly home from
there, returning in April to sail back to Auckland.

Meanwhile, associate Minister of Tourism Chris Tremain hailed the voyage
as a fantastic accomplishment.

"Not only has this historic voyage allowed the crews to retrace the
steps of their ancestors back to Eastern Polynesia, it helps retain and
document indigenous navigational and environmental knowledge for future
generations," he said.

The expedition, which used only the sun, stars, moon, currents and
marine life to navigate 5000 nautical miles of open ocean, was organised
by the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute and Northland's Te
Taitokerau Tarai Waka.

Te Aurere was captained by Stanley Conrad, from Te Kao.

(6) Frugal Innovation: China making high-tech goods in a low-tech way

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2012/12/19/chinas-new-approach-to-renewable-energy/

China’s new approach to renewable energy

December 19th, 2012

Author: Eric Knight, Oxford University

Chinese companies are using innovative business models to change the
cost structures and capabilities involved in delivering renewable energy
technology.

Through strategic partnerships with technology-led companies in the US
and Europe, they are rapidly reducing the cost of production and
effectively entering the value-added parts of the global technology economy.

In the popular imagination, China’s industrial base is largely built on
agriculture and manufacturing. This is still generally true. Agriculture
employs an enormous proportion of the workforce and vast lands are
dedicated to the painstaking process of growing rice or harvesting
wheat. More recently, attention has been given to Chinese farmers
leaving their hometowns in search of a better life in the city. Many of
these migrant workers have moved into manufacturing or servicing China’s
immense construction boom. (The Chinese government alone has committed
to building 20 new cities a year for the next decade.) But value-added
goods and services are an increasingly important part of the Chinese
economy — and the renewable energy sector is chief among them.

Many Chinese businesses in the clean tech space are adjusting their
strategy in two ways. The first has been dubbed ‘frugal innovation’ by
The Economist. Chinese businesses have found ways to make money from
manufacturing high-tech goods in a low-tech way. Take BYD, China’s
leading battery manufacturer. Over the company’s first 10 years its
founder, Wang Chuan-Fu, brought the cost of the lithium ion battery down
from US$42 to US$12. He is reported to have taken designs he had seen in
Japan and replaced Japanese machinery with the hands of Chinese workers.
Wang proved that it was possible to train large workforces to do
repetitious tasks with minimal human error.

The significance of ‘frugal innovation’ is that it has enabled Chinese
companies to dramatically reduce the production costs of certain clean
energy technologies. Wang’s lithium ion batteries now feature in
electric cars, which are taking Silicon Valley by storm. In the
mid-2000s, when Wang had first proposed his electric car model to auto
executives in Detroit, they had laughed at him. Within a few years even
Warren Buffett was queuing up to invest.

‘Frugal innovation’ is one trend which is shaping the Chinese
entrepreneurial landscape. The other is Chinese businesses
‘leapfrogging’ parts of the traditional value chain. A number of Chinese
renewable energy companies have skilfully moved from being low-tech
manufacturers to owning intellectual property (IP). They have done this
through a process of inorganic growth — acquiring the intellectual
property of strategic partners in Europe and the United States, and
deploying it via their low-cost workforce.

Skills and training is the main challenge for Chinese companies making
this leap. A workforce trained to build steel sheets cannot necessarily
manage complex engineering designs. However, a number of Chinese
companies have overcome this by training their employees through
internships, secondments and knowledge-sharing agreements with strategic
partners.

Take the case of Goldwind, China’s largest wind company. Through the
1980s and 1990s, Goldwind was stuck at the low-tech end of a high-tech
industry. They were given wind turbine designs and were commissioned to
produce component parts at commodity-like prices. Goldwind had the
foresight to reposition itself further up the value chain through
strategic partnerships. The company sent its most talented employees on
secondments to clients in Europe and the United States. In particular,
it set up partnerships with REpower and Vensys—two European companies
who were leaders in the market. In exchange for well-priced
manufacturing contracts, Goldwind made sure its engineers learnt how to
design wind turbines from scratch.

The process was extended over a decade. But in 2008, Goldwind raised €41
million (US$53 million) and bought a 70 per cent stake in Vensys. The
deal gave Goldwind special access to the European company’s intellectual
property — something which was extremely valuable. Instead of patiently
originating its own R&D and trialling new designs, it pursued inorganic
growth and strategic partnerships. The resulting company had the best of
both worlds — lean manufacturing and sophisticated intellectual property.

The leapfrogging model has been seen in other parts of the renewable
energy sector in China. Sinovel and Suntech both have close strategic
partnerships with IP-led companies in America and Australia
respectively. They are ambitious deals and it is too early to evaluate
their final impact. But both have taken a strategic approach to
developing their employees’ skills.

The implication of these case studies is to rethink how foreign
companies partner with Chinese businesses in the renewable energy sector
and beyond. Building relationships makes short-term sense. But
partnerships have long-term implications — and whom you choose as a
partner is strategically important.

China, and Asia more broadly, is more than the engine room for the
world’s low-cost manufacturing. Increasingly, it is home to some of the
world’s most industrious and well-educated employees. Encouraging their
ambitions — whilst retaining the integrity of intellectual property
developed abroad — is the real challenge facing us in the Asian Century.

Eric Knight is the author of best-selling book Reframe: how to solve the
world’s trickiest problems. He is a Visiting Research Fellow at the
University of Oxford and Visiting Research Associate at the Australian
National University.

This article appeared in the most recent edition of the East Asia Forum
Quarterly, ‘Energy, Resources and Food’.

(7) Miracle rice varieties fail the salt test. Preserving India’s
traditional varieties


From: "Sandhya Jain" <sandhya206@bol.net.in>
Subject: Preserving India's rich rice bio diversity-K P Prabhakaran
Nair-31 December 2012
Date: Mon, 31 Dec 2012 08:19:24 +0530

http://www.vijayvaani.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx
?aid=2622

Preserving India’s rich rice bio diversity

K P Prabhakaran Nair

31 December 2012

In May 2009 super cyclone “Aila” swept the Sunderbans in eastern India
and thousands of hectares of rice were ruined overnight and the area
completely submerged in salt water. A handful of traditional rice
farmers sowed three salt-tolerant rice varieties. These farmers were the
only ones who harvested some rice in the following winter. These are not
the imported and cross-bred “miracle high yielding hybrid rice”
varieties about which our rice experts keep boasting day in and day out,
all of which were devastated by the titanic Aila. Rather, they are the
result of the painstaking work of one person, who, over the years, in a
remote village in Odisha (Orissa), is preserving our age-old traditional
rice varieties for posterity so that India does not lose its invaluable
rice germplams.

Lit by a kerosene lamp, the two room hut just outside a sleepy hamlet in
Odisha’s Rayagada district can easily pass off as any other farmer’s
house in this tribal region. Step inside and one will be taken aback by
the hundreds of earthern pots labelled with coded stickers stacked in a
corner as well as under a bed. These pots treasure over 750 varieties of
rice grains, some on the verge of extinction. The keeper of the seed
bank, Debal Deb, has been collecting and conserving these rare native
varieties over the last two decades. He does not hire “trained”
agricultural experts. His only help are the farmers who continue to
depend on “heirloom” (traditional) seeds, which have a glorious past.

Odisha is home to some of the rarest rice germplasms of the world. It
has the Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI), now under the control of
the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). Its first Director,
late Dr Riccharia, was perhaps the best rice breeder the world has ever
seen, a rice breeder par excellence who was not a “run of the mill”
agricultural scientist like those of the present day, but a committed
scientist with a great vision for the future of rice in India and who
wanted to preserve our rarest of rare rice gene bank so that the
poaching West could not snatch them away, through a “hand-in-glove”
operation as had happened in early 1960s when some of our own
“scientists” gifted these to the Americans through the back door.

Had he been allowed to live and work peacefully, India’s agricultural
destiny would certainly have taken another route, certainly in rice
agronomy. He was not just a gifted rice scientist, competent and
committed, but, above all, a patriot to the core. But, because he would
not succumb to the Western lure of money and “awards”, he was hounded
out of office, to the detriment of India, but that is another story.

A modern day Riccharia is Dr Debal Deb, a PhD from Calcutta University
and post-doctoral research in ecological economics and marine and
estuarine resources from the University of California, Berkeley, USA,
and at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. He has now set out to
accomplish what late Dr Riccharia could not. Adjacent to the hut, the
“Rice Gene Bank” of Deb, is a field where he grows these varieties to
conserve their germplasm. But this is no easy task.

Barely half a hectare means Deb gets just 4 square metres of land to
grow each variety, where he can plant only 64 paddy hills. This is just
above the minimum viable size of about 50 hills required to maintain the
genetic resource of a crop. Then there is the problem of maintaining the
genetic purity of landraces grown next to each other. The
internationally recommended isolation distance of at least 110 metres is
an impossible task to maintain on such a small-sized farm.

Yet Deb had managed to overcome this constraint by planting each variety
surrounded by the ones with different flowering dates. After harvesting
and threshing the rice plants, he saves some seeds in his earthern pots,
and distributes the rest among the farmers to promote their use and make
people aware of their advantages over the “imported” hybrid varieties.
His conservation strategy was recently published in the reputed science
journal, Current Science.

What does it take to maintain this rice gene bank and help the poor farmers?

It takes a lot of planning. Every year, it takes Deb and his committed
“farmer assistants” several days and nights to map and allocate
appropriate plots to all the 750-odd varieties before transplanting
their seedlings. Even though rice is a self-pollinating crop, there is
always the risk of cross-pollination. That is why, to avoid this, he
surrounds planted variety with ones which flower on different dates and
prevents cross pollination.

Following this, he eliminates the “off-type” plants within each
population at different life stages of the plant, based on their basal
sheath colour, presence or absence of awn (a needle like plant part),
grain colour and grain size. Based on matching these characteristics for
eight years, he succeeds in obviating the likelihood of genetic
inter-mixing. Thus, all the seeds distributed among the farmers are 100%
genetically pure, except some occasional or undetected mutations.

What is the greatest challenge to this strenuous path in preserving
India’s rich rice bio diversity?

This rare rice gene bank, named Vrihi, faces the greatest threat from
two sources: First, an unscrupulous farmer who might clandestinely hand
over some of these rare seeds to multinationals or their compatriot
Indian poachers. Recently a committed organic farmer of Odisha, 80-plus
retired school teacher, Natwarbhai, who has a collection of 360 rare
rice varieties from the state, including the rarest of rare black
coloured Kali Jiri, sadly recounted how an institution from Chennai, run
by a famous scientist, had taken some samples of this rare rice variety
from his rice fields, and then claimed credit for the variety as its
own! The second threat is official apathy. The hugely funded ICAR and
CRRI will simply have nothing to do with Vrihi. One cannot fathom the
(scientific) reason!

It is very important that some patriotic organization comes forward to
take the torch forward, ensuring that even when Dr Deb is no more this
unique work is not lost to the nation, or falls into the hands of
unscrupulous persons. It is not just a question of accession, but also
of keeping all the varieties alive in situ, every year, maintain their
genetic purity, and distribute the seeds free of cost to the needy
farmers, and train them in seed saving techniques which are
unfortunately getting forgotten very rapidly.

The indigenous farmers are willing to grow these rare varieties for
their intrinsic, aesthetic and rare cultural traits (tolerance to
salinity, diseases etc.), not for pecuniary or quantitative gains. It is
just a matter of immense faith in the traditional rice culture of the
land. These farmers must remain the custodians of the treasure created
by Dr Deb. He has applied for registration of some landraces with the
Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Acts and hopes to
secure Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in the name of farmers’
communities. He has also tried to secure the IPR of the knowledge of the
folk rice varieties by publishing a book in 2000 and conferring the
copyright on Vrihi. Dr Deb confesses his inability to vouch for absolute
protection from bio-piracy. It will be a tragedy if any part of the
heirloom falls into the wrong hands, as happened in the case of
Natwarbhai’s Kali Jiri rice variety. Before such unfortunate things
happen, a patriotic organisation with committed persons should come
forward and help Dr Deb preserve this monumental work of the last few
decades so that India’s very rich biodiversity in rice remains with
Indians and not anyone else.

The author is former Professor, National Science Foundation, The Royal
Society, Belgium and Senior Fellow, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation,
The Federal Republic of Germany and Chairman, Independent Expert
Committee on Bt brinjal; he can be reached at drkppnair@gmail.com

(8) Toxic chemicals in furniture mandated by California anti-fire Nanny laws

http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Chemicals-in-furniture-hard-to-avoid-4072857.php

Chemicals in furniture hard to avoid

Stephanie M. Lee

Published 4:02 a.m., Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Toxic flame retardants pervade the nation's households, especially
California's, and little can be done to keep them out of our bodies, two
new scientific studies find.

The studies, published Wednesday, arrive as state and federal lawmakers
are pushing for stricter regulations on potentially hazardous chemicals
that go into furniture, electronics and other products.

California has been a prominent force behind fire retardants because of
a 1975 state law, the only one of its kind in the nation, which requires
foam in furniture to withstand a 12-second open flame without catching
on fire.

Gov. erry Brown now wants regulations to reduce the number of chemicals
permitted in furniture, but experts say the law has already done damage
nationwide. In a bow to California's powerhouse economy, they say,
manufacturers saturated furniture with flame retardants.

Consumers rarely know what chemicals are in the furniture products they
buy because they are considered trade secrets. As a likely result,
levels of flame-retardant chemicals in California children are among the
world's highest, according to 2010 studies.

Some fire-retardant chemicals were banned and phased out in 2005. But
the new studies, which were conducted separately and appear together in
the journal Environmental Science and Technology, add to a growing body
of research that shows that homes have not become significantly safer.

One of the new studies, led by UC Berkeley and Duke University
scientists, found toxic or untested flame retardants in most of the
couches they examined from across the nation. The other study also found
that hazardous and potentially hazardous chemicals in dust from couches
and other products pervaded 13 of 16 homes tested in Northern
California. Both studies turned up substances that, when inhaled or
ingested, are linked to cancer, changes in DNA, hormone disruption,
lowered IQ, decreased fertility, hyperactivity and other serious health
issues.

Chemicals in all couches

Anyone who wants a sofa will find it virtually impossible to avoid these
chemicals, experts said. ...

For the couch study, Blum and her team studied chunks of foam from 102
sofas that were bought between 1985 and 2010, sent to them by people
from various regions of the nation.

Toxic or untested flame retardants were in 85 percent of the couches
overall and in every couch bought in California since 2005. There was no
easy way for consumers to know, because California law does not require
that furniture be labeled for flame retardants. Researchers also
compared couches purchased before 2005, the year a main flame retardant,
PBDEs, was banned, with those purchased afterward.

Even that ban did not significantly reduce hazardous exposure in
households, the researchers found, because PBDEs remain in humans for up
to 12 years after exposure and many couches bought more than seven years
ago are still in use.

In addition, when the ban took effect, PBDEs were seemingly replaced by
another chemical, chlorinated Tris, the researchers found. It was
detected in half of the couches purchased after 2005 that they studied.

Changes to DNA

The dangers of chlorinated Tris are well-known. The chemical was removed
from baby pajamas in 1977 when it was found to change the DNA of people
exposed to it, and California now lists it as a carcinogen. ...

(9) GM crops promote superweeds, food insecurity and pesticides

GM crops promote superweeds, food insecurity and pesticides, say NGOs

Report finds genetically modified crops fail to increase yields let
alone solve hunger, soil erosion and chemical-use issues

* John Vidal, environment editor * guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 19
October 2011 16.53 BST

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/oct/19/gm-crops-insecurity-superweeds-pesticides

This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 16.53 BST on Wednesday
19 October 2011. A version appeared on p22 of the Main section section
of the Guardian on Thursday 20 October 2011. It was last modified at
09.48 BST on Thursday 20 October 2011.

Genetic engineering has failed to increase the yield of any food crop
but has vastly increased the use of chemicals and the growth of
"superweeds", according to a report by 20 Indian, south-east Asian,
African and Latin American food and conservation groups representing
millions of people.

The so-called miracle crops, which were first sold in the US about 20
years ago and which are now grown in 29 countries on about 1.5bn
hectares (3.7bn acres) of land, have been billed as potential solutions
to food crises, climate change and soil erosion, but the assessment
finds that they have not lived up to their promises.

The report claims that hunger has reached "epic proportions" since the
technology was developed. Besides this, only two GM "traits" have been
developed on any significant scale, despite investments of tens of
billions of dollars, and benefits such as drought resistance and salt
tolerance have yet to materialise on any scale.

Most worrisome, say the authors of the Global Citizens' Report on the
State of GMOs, is the greatly increased use of synthetic chemicals, used
to control pests despite biotech companies' justification that
GM-engineered crops would reduce insecticide use.

In China, where insect-resistant Bt cotton is widely planted,
populations of pests that previously posed only minor problems have
increased 12-fold since 1997. A 2008 study in the International Journal
of Biotechnology found that any benefits of planting Bt cotton have been
eroded by the increasing use of pesticides needed to combat them.

Additionally, soya growers in Argentina and Brazil have been found to
use twice as much herbicide on their GM as they do on conventional
crops, and a survey by Navdanya International, in India, showed that
pesticide use increased 13-fold since Bt cotton was introduced.

The report, which draws on empirical research and companies' own
statements, also says weeds are now developing resistance to the GM
firms' herbicides and pesticides that are designed to be used with their
crops, and that this has led to growing infestations of "superweeds",
especially in the US.

Ten common weeds have now developed resistance in at least 22 US states,
with about 6m hectares (15m acres) of soya, cotton and corn now affected.

Consequently, farmers are being forced to use more herbicides to combat
the resistant weeds, says the report. GM companies are paying farmers to
use other, stronger, chemicals, they say. "The genetic engineering
miracle is quite clearly faltering in farmers' fields," add the authors.

The companies have succeeded in marketing their crops to more than 15
million farmers, largely by heavy lobbying of governments, buying up
local seed companies, and withdrawing conventional seeds from the
market, the report claims. Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta, the world's
three largest GM companies, now control nearly 70% of global seed sales.
This allows them to "own" and sell GM seeds through patents and
intellectual property rights and to charge farmers extra, claims the report.

The study accuses Monsanto of gaining control of over 95% of the Indian
cotton seed market and of massively pushing up prices. High levels of
indebtedness among farmers is thought to be behind many of the 250,000
deaths by suicide of Indian farmers over the past 15 years.

The report, which is backed by Friends of the Earth International, the
Center for Food Safety in the US, Confédération Paysanne, and the Gaia
foundation among others, also questions the safety of GM crops, citing
studies and reports which indicate that people and animals have
experienced apparent allergic reactions.

But it suggests scientists are loath to question the safety aspects for
fear of being attacked by establishment bodies, which often receive
large grants from the companies who control the technology.

Monsanto disputes the report's findings: "In our view the safety and
benefits of GM are well established. Hundreds of millions of meals
containing food from GM crops have been consumed and there has not been
a single substantiated instance of illness or harm associated with GM
crops."

It added: "Last year the National Research Council, of the US National
Academy of Sciences, issued a report, The Impact of Genetically
Engineered Crops on Farm Sustainability in the United States, which
concludes that US farmers growing biotech crops 'are realising
substantial economic and environmental benefits – such as lower
production costs, fewer pest problems, reduced use of pesticides, and
better yields – compared with conventional crops'."

David King, the former UK chief scientist who is now director of the
Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University, has
blamed food shortages in Africa partly on anti-GM campaigns in rich
countries.

But, the report's authors claim, GM crops are adding to food insecurity
because most are now being grown for biofuels, which take away land from
local food production.

Vandana Shiva, director of the Indian organisation Navdanya
International, which co-ordinated the report, said: "The GM model of
farming undermines farmers trying to farm ecologically. Co-existence
between GM and conventional crops is not possible because genetic
pollution and contamination of conventional crops is impossible to control.

"Choice is being undermined as food systems are increasingly controlled
by giant corporations and as chemical and genetic pollution spread. GM
companies have put a noose round the neck of farmers. They are
destroying alternatives in the pursuit of profit."

(10) GM crops sneak into 43 varieties of food we eat

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/gm-crops-sneak-into-43-varieties-of-food-we-eat/story-e6frg8y6-1226453659443

BY: NATASHA BITA, CONSUMER EDITOR

The Australian August 20, 2012 12:00AM

DOZENS of crops genetically engineered to survive herbicide spray are
being used in Australian food without the knowledge of consumers.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand has approved 43 varieties of
genetically modified canola, corn, potato, rice, soybean and sugarbeet
for human consumption.

But food items do not have to be labelled as GM if the ingredients are
highly processed into oils, starches or sugars.

Meat, milk or eggs produced from animals fed GM crops do not have to be
labelled either.

Food Standards has given the green light to a new strain of GM canola
and is considering a new application for GM soybeans to be used in
Australian food.

The regulator has ruled that GM canola produced by global agribusiness
Monsanto is "considered to be as safe for human consumption as food
derived from conventional canola cultivars".

"No public health and safety concerns were identified in this
assessment," Food Standards says in its assessment, released for public
comment this week.

"For human consumption, seed from canola is mostly processed into oil,
which, because of processing, contains negligible amounts of any protein
or DNA.

"Oil from (the Monsanto canola) would therefore be unlikely to require
labelling (although) seed used in bakery products would require labelling."

The Food Standards assessment states that canola is used for stockfood
and as an ingredient in cooking oils, margarine, shortening, mayonnaise,
sandwich spreads and coffee whiteners.

Canola is the third-largest source of vegetable oil in the world after
soybean and palm oil, and is the most common oilseed crop grown in
Australia.

The Food Standards assessment says field trials found the herbicide
residue in the Monsanto canola seed to be "low". Its novel GM protein,
derived from a soil bacterium, is "unlikely to be toxic or allergenic to
humans".

Gene Ethics executive director Bob Phelps yesterday called on federal
and state health ministers to introduce mandatory labelling on all GM
foods, including oils and sugars, and meat, milk or eggs from animals
fed GM crops.

"All new and untried foods and food ingredients should be labelled so
that shoppers can make an informed decision whether or not to purchase
and eat them," Mr Phelps said.

(11) Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement GM risk

http://www.geneethics.org/enews/display/64

14 March 2012

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is being negotiated among 9
countries. It would serve the interests of transnational countries.

Strong regulation and labelling of new technologies and their products
are at stake. We call on the Parties to publish the secret text of their
agreements before signing and to keep our sovereign right to strong and
precautionary laws, moratoria and labelling. ...

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