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May 22, 2009

 

As we all know fish is a popular dish for decreasing the waist line. Fish is an important part of a balanced diet. It's full of vitamins and other nutrients, good for our hearts because the omega-3 fatty acids lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and fish is low in calories. But is it safe to eat? Experts warn that fish eating can be dangerous, since new studies have raised concerns about the unsafe levels of mercury and other contaminants found in fish that have the potential of causing grave health problems. The consumption of fish is by far the most significant source of ingestion-related mercury exposure in humans. Eating fish contaminated with mercury, a poison that interferes with the brain and nervous system, can cause serious health problems, especially for children and pregnant women.

The Risk

The effects of mercury contamination are a cause of concern for us all.Warnings have been issued for pregnant women and children. But, in a recent clinical study, high levels of toxic mercury, called methylmercury, were discovered in blood and hair samples taken from dozens of patients -- men, women and children. Mercury intake is especially dangerous for pregnant and breastfeeding women because fetuses and newborns are very sensitive to mercury.

The symptoms

Affected children may show red cheeks and nose, erythematous lips (red lips), loss of hair, teeth, and nails, transient rashes, hypotonia (muscle weakness), and photophobia. Other symptoms may include kidney disfunction (e.g. Fanconi syndrome) or neuropsychiatric symptoms (emotional lability, memory impairment, insomnia). It causes memory loss, hair loss, fatigue, depression, difficulty concentrating, tremors and headaches. Because it is hard for the body to eliminate, it can build up and may affect the nervous system.

So what Kind of Fish Should you Eat

Big fish have more mercury for the simple reason that big fish usually live longer. They have more time to build up higher levels of mercury in their bodies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends checking local advisories for the mercury content of fish caught in your area using this website. The lists below gives details of general mercury levels of many common types of fish and how much of each type to eat (according to the National Resource Defense Council).

LOWEST MERCURY

Eat 2-3 servings a week (pregnant women and small children should not eat more than 12 ounces (2 servings):

  • Anchovies

  • Catfish

  • Clam

  • Crab

  • Crawfish

  • Flounder

  • Haddock

  • Herring

  • Mackerel

  • Mullet

  • Oyster

  • Perch

  • Pollock

  • Salmon

  • Sardine

  • Scallop

  • Shrimp

  • Sole

  • Squid

  • Tilapia

  • Trout

  • Whitefish

MODERATE MERCURY

Eat six servings or fewer per month (pregnant women and small children should avoid these):

  • Bass

  • Carp

  • Cod

  • Halibut

  • Lobster

  • Mahi Mahi

  • Monkfish

  • Perch

  • Snapper

  • Tuna (Canned Chunk light)

HIGH MERCURY

Eat three servings or less per month (pregnant women and small children should avoid these):

  • Bluefish

  • Grouper

  • Sea Bass

  • Tuna (Canned Albacore, Yellowfin)

HIGHEST MERCURY

Avoid eating (everyone):

  • Marlin

  • Orange Roughy

  • Shark

  • Swordfish

  • Tilefish

  • Tuna (Ahi)

Sources:

Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish

Food and Drug Administration (FDA). What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish

National Resource Defense Council. Mecury Contamination in Fish.

Centers for Disease Control. Public Health Statement for Mercury. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Mercury in Dolphins and Whales

Dolphin meat contains naturally high levels of mercury. But mercury levels in dolphin meat sold in Japan is far higher than would occur in nature and certainly higher than is allowed under the health standards of any developed nation. There are also high levels of cadmium and PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls) as well as chemicals of the dioxin group. In some cases the levels of mercury are 1,600 times the allowed quantities in meat for human consumption. The consumption of mercury in the quantities that exist in whale and dolphin meat can impair immune response and cause neurological damage leading to loss of coordination, vision, hearing and can produce mental retardation, especially in the young. The fatty tissues of dolphins and whales contain extremely high levels of PCBs, chemicals associated with the "estrogen effect". In effect these chemicals mimic the female hormone estrogen and may cause a feminizing effect in those who consume this meat. In women this may lead to increases in breast cancer. In men it may lead to enlargement of breasts.

So What should be doing?

  • Avoid fish , become a veggie if you can. If you are pregnant or nursing a child, avoid fish altogether.

  • If you love however your fish , please keep in mind that you eat fish with low mercury contents , details of which are given above.

  • Eat 2-3 servings a week (pregnant women and small children should not eat more than 12 ounces (2 servings) per week.

  • The FDA also warns pregnant women against eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish because of the high levels of mercury. The government is also advising consumers to mix the types of fish they eat and not to eat any one kind of fish or shellfish more than once a week

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Posted: May 22, 2009 9:23am
May 18, 2009

I want to share this beautiful poem on friendship with all my friends:

 


It's so hard to find the perfect breeze,
One blowing none too hard nor soft,
Carrying a scent of wild flowers,
And moving clouds about aloft.

It's so hard to find the perfect sky,
One blue and deep and bright,
Carrying a sense of openness
With geese and wrens in flight.

It's so hard to find the perfect night,
One warm, quiet and unflawed,
Carrying a mood of solitude,
And a closeness to our God.

Yet no perfection's so hard to find
As that which you extend
And none I'll ever treasure more,
Than to simply be your friend.

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Posted: May 18, 2009 7:39am
May 11, 2009

 

DAVID VERSUS GOLIATH

 

 

 

Here’s an inspiring  story from Canada as to how a small time farmer took on the might of the giant multinational Monsanto and won the battle hands down.

 

 

Percy Schmeiser: A Profile in Courage


Percy is a long time farmer and farm equipment dealer from the small rural community of Bruno Sask. He served as Mayor of the Town of Bruno from 1966-1983 and as a MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) for the Watrous constituency in the Provincial Legislature from 1967-71.Percy and his wife Louise Schmeiser are celebrating over 50 years of marriage.  In addition to operating a farm equipment dealership in Bruno, Saskatchewan Canada, they have farmed for close to 60 years. Schmeiser has been growing canola -- the yellow-blossomed oilseed that used to be known as rapeseed -- for 40 years, and he knows his stuff. He's been experimenting, developing his own varieties, using his own seed and generally prospering with canola. Reaping the benefits derived from growing an increasingly popular crop. Almost on the verge of retirement, he suddenly faced a legal notice from Monsanto which wanted damages of $400,000 accusing him of patent infringement and demanded restitution for its seeds. Percy’s pride was hurt. He chose to fight rather than roll over and take it like so many other farmers had done in the US.

 

The One sided Battle or So they Thought

 

 

 

For 40 years, Percy Schmeiser has grown canola on his farm near Bruno, Sask., about 80 km east of Saskatoon, usually sowing each crop of the oil-rich plants with seeds saved from the previous harvest. And he has never, says Schmeiser, purchased seed from the St. Louis, Mo.-based agricultural and biotechnology giant Monsanto Co. Even so, he says that more than 320 hectares of his land is now "contaminated" by Monsanto's herbicide-resistant Roundup Ready canola, a man made variety produced by a controversial process known as genetic engineering. And, like hundreds of other North American farmer, Schmeiser has felt the sting of Monsanto's long legal arm. In August 1999 the company took the 68-year-old farmer to court, claiming he illegally planted the firm's canola without paying a $37-per-hectare fee for the privilege. Unlike scores of similarly accused North American farmers who have reached out-of-court settlements with Monsanto, Schmeiser fought back. He claims Monsanto investigators trespassed on his land -- and that company seed could easily have blown on to his soil from passing canola-laden trucks. "I never put those plants on my land," says Schmeiser. "The question is, where do Monsanto's rights end and mine begin?"

The landmark case, that went before the Federal Court of Canada, and attracted international attention because it could help determine how much control a handful of powerful biotech companies can exert over farmers. Schmeiser said he planted his 1997 crop with seed saved from 1996, and insists that any Roundup Ready growing on his land was spread by wind or by grain trucks traveling on roads adjacent to his fields.

In the statement of claim, Schmeiser says Monsanto has libeled him by publicly accusing him of committing illegal acts, trespassing on his land in order to obtain seed samples and improperly obtaining samples of his seed from a local seed plant.

The statement also accuses Monsanto of "callous disregard" for the environment by introducing Roundup Ready into the area without proper controls, and of contaminating crops grown by Schmeiser."

On Aug. 10, 1999 mediation talks to settle the dispute without going to trial ended in failure.

The next day, Schmeiser launched a $10 million lawsuit against Monsanto, accusing the company of a variety of wrongs, including libel, trespass and contamination of his fields with Roundup Ready."

 

He says that if he would have "bowed on my hands and knees" in the beginning, Monsanto might have settled for what it calculated were unpaid technical fees of about $15,000. Schmeiser says he has received donations to help his legal bills--mostly in $50 and $100 cheques from other farmers.

The Victory

This case was bring Monsanto a bad name and later in an out of court settlement finalized on March 19, 2008, Percy Schmeiser settled his lawsuit with Monsanto. Monsanto has agreed to pay all the clean-up costs of the Roundup Ready canola that contaminated Schmeiser's fields. Also part of the agreement was that there was no gag-order on the settlement and that Monsanto could be sued again if further contamination occurred. Schmeiser believes this precedent setting agreement ensures that farmers will be entitled to reimbursement when their fields become contaminated with unwanted Roundup Ready canola or any other unwanted GMO plants.

 

The Award

Percy Schmeiser's ongoing fight for farmers to keep their right to use their own seed has brought him something he didn't expect, India's Mahatma Gandhi Award.

While in India for a series of speaking engagements September 20 to October 5, Schmeiser was presented with the award in Delhi on October 2, the 131st anniversary of Gandhi's birth.

Schmeiser was honored to receive this award, he said. The award is given by Gandhi's family for the betterment of humankind in a non-violent way.

The presentation was made by the head of India's Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, an organization which together with the International Forum on Food and Agriculture and the People's Global Seed 2000 Conference had invited Schmeiser to speak on farmers' property rights. Besides speaking at these conferences at Bangalore and Delhi, he also spoke at various universities throughout India.

 

 For details of the story please visit the following links:

 

http://www.percyschmeiser.com/

http://www.percyschmeiser.com/conflict.htm

http://www.ethicalinvesting.com/

http://www.ethicalinvesting.com/monsanto/

http://www.holisticmed.com/aspartame/abuse/

 

http://multinationalmonitor.org/hyper/mm1294.html#topten

 

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Posted: May 11, 2009 8:06am
May 10, 2009

 

Poverty, hunger and malnutrition are interlinked. A vast majority of the worlds poor live in the villages of developing countries, most of them being women and children. Due to increasing population, raising standards of living and access to better medical facilities, demand for food will double in next 30 years or so.  Limitations on availability of agricultural land, decreasing water availability, declining soil fertility and a major reduction in biodiversity and ecological stability, food security is becoming a major concern for the world. A large numbers of farmers in developing countries is  giving up their traditional ways of farming and access to local seeds and going in for the ‘Modern Farming’ methods, without really having the technical expertise to back his claims. In India also a large number of farmers went in for GM seeds, over use of fertilizers and mechanization of his farming without really understanding the new concept. This led to the farmers borrowing heavily from the local loan shark, banks and other places with the hope of returning the money when he hits pay dirt. But that did not happen, due to problems of low rainfalls and other natural problems, over which he had no control, there were recurring crop failures. He borrowed more money and ultimately landed himself in a quagmire, recovery from where was not possible. Most of such farmers chose to commit suicide rather than face the problem head long.

However the women farmers of Medak District of Andhra Pradesh in India have bucked the trend and are blazing the trail for a new future for agriculture. Like farmers around the world, they are aware that local agriculture that is agriculture based on local knowledge and local labor is often the cornerstone of thriving rural communities, especially of farmer4s having small land holdings. Medak district is a semi-arid dry-land area which receives very little rain, and is considered one of the poorest districts in India. A large number of the people who live in Medak belong to the so-called "untouchable", or Dalit, caste. Medak is also considered part of India's "hunger belt", that is those parts of the country which regularly experience serious shortages of food and hunger.

The women in Medak District have organized themselves into sanghams, or village-level women's groups, and work together to ensure that everyone in their communities have enough to eat. At the core of all their work are seeds that have evolved over time to thrive in local conditions. The sangham women have an intimate knowledge of local plant varieties, and decide what to plant, depending variables like weather and potential insect influxes. They then plant the seed from amongst hundreds of carefully selected and saved seeds, all grown and exchanged within their own communities. Should they not have the seeds want, they borrow from another sangham member and return double the amount.

The sangham women use animal manure and green compost for fertilizer, and carefully inter-plant various varieties to keep away unwanted insects. At harvest, surplus goes into a community grain bank and is kept for distribution within the community. This independence allows the women control their own food systems, taking decisions based on local abilities and local needs. Children, especially girls, learn these skills from their parents, acquiring knowledge that will allow them to secure at least a basic livelihood from locally available resources, in a manner which is so sustainable that land becomes more fertile, rather than less, as time goes by.

The women of Medak District have proved that food security can improve only if the farmers use traditional methods, traditional knowledge sprinkled with modern for coming out with local solutions.

For further details I recommend that you please watch the following award winning film called “Seedkeepers. It is one of the most inspiring films you would have seen on the subject. Also visit grains.orgfor details.

 

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Posted: May 10, 2009 7:29am
May 6, 2009

 

The End of Green Revolution

 

India's "green revolution", which started in the early seventies and allowed the country to produce enough food to feed its population, had s started to unravel some 35 years down the line. The reasons were many folds, the main ones being switching by farmers from their traditional crops to cash crops, lowering of water tables, over dependence chemical fertilizers, and blindly aping the Western agriculture methods without modifying them for Indian conditions and exhausting the soil by over production.  This was a time when the Genetically Modified seeds made a quiet entry into India. The parent Company from USA set up test farms to lure farmers to the miracle seeds imported from USA.

 

 

GM Seeds and the World

 

Countries are divided on the use of genetically modified seeds, while in the United States, Canada and Argentina, with the cultivation of corn, cotton and soybean varieties that were genetically engineered to be tolerant to herbicides or resistant to pests and viruses. These seeds are doing well, but then the farm holdings are very big, they have the access to the latest technology, cheap bank loans, and government subsidies and have an impressive lobby. The poor Indian farmer has a very small holding, no access to technology, no subsidies, electricity is erratic, loans are very expensive and they have no lobby to speak off. On the other hand in Europe, they laid down stringent conditions on introduction of such seeds including labeling of all such food products.

 

These companies realized that in India, since the legal system and the regulatory authorities had not been put in place, they will face less hurdles in introduction of GM Seeds. The GM seeds were touted as the panacea of all ills for the farmers. The farmers were promised higher incomes; with lower costs of production, better quality of produce which would be free from pests and parasites.   The first set of seeds introduced in India was GM Cotton Seeds. The Company promised that after using the GM seeds, the cotton yield will improve, the crop will be immune to all parasites and pests and that the seeds were touted as white gold. The yields in the Test farms were good, but the poor farmers did not realize that these test farms had the might of the entire Multinational company behind them. This false promise resulted in farmers increasing the acreage for growing cotton, even in places where it was never grown before, all for that promised pot of white gold at the end of the cotton season.

 

The GM Seeds Debacle

 

Without fully understanding the implications of GM seeds, farmers, especially in Andhra Pradesh in India, went in for GM seed in a big way. The so called success of a few farmers prompted others to buy the GM seeds. In five years time the entire cotton growing areas in India went in for GM Seeds.  The trouble now started for the farmers, in fact the total dependence on GM seeds literally spelt their death knell.  GM cotton seed did not perform as promised. The main problems were that the GM Seed was NOT immune to pest’s proof as claimed, and many crops were devastated by bollworms; and that they required twice the amount of water when compared to traditional seeds. In an area where agriculture is totally dependent on rainfall, poor rainfall contributed greatly to crop failures. There was another problem that the farmers were kept in the dark about, that the GM Seeds crops do not produce viable seeds of their own. This meant that farmers had to buy new seeds each year, unlike crops from traditional cotton seed. The seeds being nearly 1000 times costly than the traditional seeds, poor farmers  had to take loan each year, hoping that they will hit the proverbial pot of white  gold next year.

Due to recurring less rainfall and crop failures, resulted in farmers committing suicides in thousands each year, so much so that it has reached endemic proportions now. A growing number of farmers are turning their backs to GM cotton and switching to non-pesticide management or organic farming methods thanks to the effort of one lady who fought these GM companies tooth and nail, mobilized public opinion and spoke against these unethical practices in all world forums. Her name, Dr Vandana Shiva and who is founder and president of the Research Foundation for Science Technology and Ecology, and one of India’s leading activists. She describes in one of her papers how the transformation of peasant agriculture in India to a globally industrialized model, which has GM foods as a supporting pillar, has reduced food security, threatened local businesses and biodiversity, driven farmers off their lands, and opened the door for global corporations to take over the nation’s food processing.

Jeffrey M. Smith in his book Seeds of Deception has castigated these companies for their unethical practices. Here is an interesting Excerpt from his book “

 

“The Washington Post reported that laboratory mice, usually happy to munch on tomatoes, turned their noses up at the genetically modified F---S--- tomato. Scientist Roger Salquist said of his tomato, “I gotta tell you, you can be Chef Boyardee and mice are still not going to like them.” The mice were eventually force fed the tomato through gastric tubes and stomach washes. Several developed stomach lesions; seven of forty died within two weeks. The tomato was approved without further tests.”

Link: http://www.wanttoknow.info/deception10pg

 

"By applying conventional agricultural methods, free of any genetic modification, you can substantially increase agricultural productivity in Africa," Hans Joachim Preuss, managing director of the German non-governmental food organisation Welthungerhilfe told IPS. "What African agriculture mostly needs is better, more efficient irrigation systems, and not genetically modified seeds." This is entirely true of all the developing nations in the world. No one needs the GM seeds, all they need is an efficient irrigation system, ready access technological help when required, loans at cheaper rates and fair price for their produce. Governments must help small-scale farmers to manage their various risks including price, weather, climate and natural disaster risks by mitigating and assuming a share of risks and promoting the development of agricultural insurance markets.

 

 I will leave the readers to draw their own conclusions on GM foods. Do we have to play God when we do not understand the aftereffects of tinkering with nature? I am a strong advocate that our traditional knowledge, tempered by latest technology is adequate to feed the entire world. We should not allow the Greed of a few corporations and government officials to play with our and our children’s future.

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Posted: May 6, 2009 8:17am
Apr 29, 2009
Name: JASMINE
Type: Tribute (for the living)
To Honor: Pet(s)
Location: , United Kingdom

I received this mail from a friend of mine. I feel that this story has lot of lessons for us humans. May GOD bless Jasmine.

In 2003, police in Warwickshire , England , opened a garden shed and found a whimpering, cowering dog. It had been locked in the shed and abandoned. It was dirty and malnourished, and had clearly been abused.

In an act of kindness, the police took the dog, which was a Greyhound female, to the nearby Nuneaton Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary, run by a man named Geoff Grewcock and known as a willing haven for Animals abandoned, orphaned or otherwise in need. 
 Geoff and the other sanctuary staff went to work with two aims to restore the dog to full health, and to win her trust.. It took several weeks, but eventually both goals were achieved.

They named her Jasmine, and they started to think about finding her an adoptive home.

                                                           

But Jasmine had other ideas. No-one remembers now how it began, but she started welcoming all animal arrivals at the sanctuary. It wouldn't matter if it was a puppy, a fox cub, a rabbit or, any other lost or hurting animal, Jasmine would peer into the box or cage and, where possible, deliver a welcoming lick.

Geoff relates one of the early incidents. "We had two puppies that had been abandoned by a nearby railway line. One was a Lakeland Terrier cross and another was a Jack Russell Doberman cross. They were tiny when they arrived at the centre and Jasmine approached them and grabbed one by the scruff of the neck in her mouth and put him on the settee. Then she fetched the other one and sat down with them, cuddling them."

"But she is like that with all of our animals, even the rabbits. She takes all the stress out of them and it helps them to not only feel close to her but to settle into their new surroundings.

"She has done the same with the fox and badger cubs, she licks the rabbits and guinea pigs and even lets the birds perch on the bridge of her nose."

Jasmine, the timid, abused, deserted waif, became the animal sanctuary's resident surrogate mother, a role for which she might have been born. The list of orphaned and abandoned youngsters she has cared for comprises five fox cubs, four badger cubs, 15 chicks, eight guinea pigs, two stray puppies and 15 rabbits.

And one roe deer fawn. Tiny Bramble, 11 weeks old, was found semi-conscious in a field. Upon arrival at the sanctuary, Jasmine cuddled up to her to keep her warm, and then went into the full foster mum role. Jasmine the greyhound showers Bramble the Roe deer with affection and makes sure nothing is matted.

 

 "They are inseparable," says Geoff "Bramble walks between her legs and they keep kissing each other. They walk together round the sanctuary. It's a real treat to see them."

 

Jasmine will continue to care for Bramble until she is old enough to be returned to woodland life. When that happens, Jasmine will not be lonely. She will be too busy showering love and affection on the next Orphan or victim of abuse.

 

Toby, a stray Lakeland dog; Bramble, orphaned Roe deer; Buster, a stray Jack Russell; a dumped rabbit; Sky, an injured barn owl; and Jasmine with a Mothers heart doing best what a caring Mother would do... Such is the order of God's Creation.

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Posted: Apr 29, 2009 6:32am
Apr 25, 2009

The electromagnetic waves emitted from mobile phones can seriously damage the tissues of the users’ brain 

Ministry of telecommunication, Government of India has been Warning people about harmful effects of radiation from mobile phones. The government has asked service providers and makers to avoid promotional advertisements showing vulnerable segments like children and pregnant women using cell phones.

The electromagnetic waves emitted from mobile phones can seriously damage the tissues of the users’ brain, according to recent guidelines issued by the Ministry of Telecommunication.

The draft guidelines suggested measures like limited usage of mobile phones by children, pregnant women and people suffering from heart ailments.

In India, the growth of mobile phones is very high and may cross 500 million by 2010-end, and a large chunk of the users are children.

Many parents provide mobile phones to their children for safety reasons, and to keep connected with them all the time.

The guidelines say that mobile phones/radio terminals radiate Radio Frequency energy that heats up the tissues which may be possibly harmful to human health.

During use, mobile phones are usually kept closer to the ear which is very near to the brain giving rise to fears that continuous use of mobile phone for longer duration may damage some brain tissues.

The report advises people to use hands-free, if longer use is unavoidable and recommends that children below 16 should be discouraged from using cell phones as the tissues of children are tender and are likely to be more affected.

 

 

In a similar news, it has been reported that Teens who barely stop talking on their mobile phones are more prone to disrupted sleep, stress, fatigue and restlessness, finds a new international study.

 

This in turn is leading to poorer performance at school, and emotional health, including a higher risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

 

The finding is based on two studies that will be presented at the at the Sleep 2008 meeting of Associated Sleep Societies in the US this week.

 

The first study was conducted by researchers at Sweden's Sahlgren Academy

 

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Posted: Apr 25, 2009 1:47am
Apr 24, 2009
Seeds of a quiet revolution

Aditya Ghosh, Hindustan Times

This is the story of the efforts of a village women, who has never been to school, in conservation of and maintaining a seed bank of local rice  & wheat seeds. Her seed bank contains over  700 different seeds . Since these seeds are local , they withstand the vagaries of weather, pests and poor soil condition much better than the GM seeds. Happy reading.

Bija Devi had a tough time recently explaining what gehu (wheat in Hindi) was to a group of German students who had come all the way to her farm to learn about what they thought was a long-lost variety of wheat.

Bija Devi’s seed bank at her farm near Dehradun, (Uttaranchal in India) in the foothills of the Himalayas has over a thousand varieties of ‘lost’ cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables, and over 500 varieties of rice alone, though she’s clueless about their scientific names.

Bija Devi (as she is known) has worked as a farmer since she was seven, has never been to school and isn’t sure about her own age (she says she is in her early 40s).

But she has become a focal point in the field of rescuing and conserving crops and plants that have been sacrificed to modern farming. She began under the guidance of green activist Vandana Shiva, who started a movement across the country to save seeds for future generations. Bija Devi’s work now  attracts researchers, students and scientists from all over the world and agricultural universities in the US and Europe send her their students as summer trainees for six months.

“She has to learn some English terms fast,” laughs Vinod Bhatt, additional director of the farm run by ‘Navadanya’ (nine seeds), an initiative to promote organic farming and conservation of seeds. “There are little secrets about many of these seeds that only she knows since she collects them herself, educates farmers about their cultivation and germinates them regularly so the seeds do not die,” says Bhatt.

Farmers queue up for seeds too, at her 40-acre farm. “I had to plead with them to sow older, indigenous seeds rather than the newer, high-yielding hybrids or GM seeds. The latter produce larger crops but require considerable input of pesticides, fertilisers and water,” she explains.

“When they used our seeds,” she adds, “they gradually realized how the soil was retaining its fertility, and the crop was free from diseases and pests. Now they come to us on their own. We don’t charge for giving the seeds, just ask for a pledge to cultivate them.”

Her farm is a central seed bank for farmers in 16 states, with 34 similar community seed banks set up across India. “I am no scientist,” she says, “but I know that chemicals and hybrids have harmed the soil to a great extent. But we can still restore fertility and conserve water if we act now.”

 

 

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Posted: Apr 24, 2009 2:56am
Apr 24, 2009

 

 

Ethanol from Garbage and Old Tires  A versatile new process for making biofuels could slash their cost. 

By Kevin Bullis

Here is some good news for environmentalists and people who are firm believers in recycling. Read the following article from Technology Reviewpublished by MIT.

 Happy Reading.

 

 

As he leads a tour of the labs at Coskata, a startup based in Warrenville, IL, Richard Tobey, the company's vice president of research and development, pauses in front of a pair of clear plastic tubes packed with bundles of white fibers. The tubes are the core of a bioreactor, which is itself the heart of a new tech­nology that Coskata claims can make etha­nol out of wood chips, household garbage, grass, and old tires--indeed, just about any organic material. The bioreactor, Tobey explains, allows the company to combine thermochemical and biological approaches to synthesizing ethanol. Taking advantage of both, he says, makes Coskata's process cheaper and more versatile than either the technologies widely used today to make ethanol from corn or the experimental processes designed to work with sources other than corn.

Tobey's tour begins at the far end of the laboratory in two small rooms full of pipes, throbbing pumps, and pressurized tanks--all used to process synthesis gas (also known as syngas), a mixture of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen. This is the thermo­chemical part of Coskata's process: in a well-known technique called gasi­­fication, a series of chemical reactions carried out at high temperatures can produce syngas from almost any organic material. Ordi­narily, chemical catalysts are then used to convert the syngas into a mixture of alcohols that includes ethanol. But making such a mixture is intrinsically inefficient: the carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen that go into the other alcohols could, in principle, have gone into ethanol instead. So this is where Coskata turns from chemistry to biology, using microbes to convert the syngas to ethanol more efficiently.

Down the hall from the syngas-­rocessing equipment, Tobey shows off the petri dishes, flasks, and sealed hoods used to develop species of bacteria that eat syngas. The bioreactors sit at the far end of the room. Inside the bioreactors' tubes, syngas is fed directly to the bacteria, which produce a steady stream of ethanol.

Coskata's technology could be a big deal. Today, almost all ethanol made in the United States comes from corn grain; because cultivating corn requires a lot of land, water, and energy, corn-derived ethanol does little to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and can actually cause other environmental damage, such as water pollution. Alternative etha­nol sources, such as switchgrass, wood chips, and municipal waste, would require far fewer resources. But so far, technology for processing such materials has proved very expensive. That's why Coskata's low-cost technique has caught the attention of major investors, including General Motors, which earlier this year announced a partnership with the startup to help deploy its technology on the commercial scale worldwide.

Sipping Ethanol
Combining thermochemical and biological approaches in a hybrid system can make ethanol processing cheaper by increasing yields and allowing the use of inexpensive feedstocks. But Coskata's process has another advantage, too: it's fast. Though others have also developed syngas-fed bioreactors, Tobey says, they have been too slow. That's because the bacteria are suspended in an aqueous culture, and syngas doesn't dissolve easily in water. Coskata's new bioreactor, however, delivers the syngas to the bacteria directly.

The thin fibers packed into the bioreactor serve two functions. First, they act as scaffolding: the bacteria grow in biofilms on the outside of the fibers. Second, they serve as a delivery mechanism for the syngas. Even though each fiber is not much bigger than a human hair, Tobey says, it acts like a tiny plastic straw. The researchers pump syngas down the bores of the hollow fibers, and it diffuses through the fiber walls to reach the bacteria. Water flows around the outside of the fibers, delivering vitamins and amino acids to the bacteria and carrying away the ethanol the bacteria produce. But the water and the syngas, Tobey says, never meet.

Coskata has also improved the last steps of the process, in which the ethanol is sepa­rated from the water. Ordinarily, this is done using distillation, which is expensive and consumes 30 percent as much energy as burning the ethanol will release. Coskata instead uses a modified version of an existing technology called vapor permeation. Vapor permeation uses hydrophilic membranes to draw off the water, leaving pure ethanol behind. It also consumes half as much energy as distillation per gallon of fuel. Vapor permeation is difficult to use with most biological manufacturing processes, Tobey says, because biomass fed to the microörganisms washes out with the water and can clog up the system. But in Coskata's process, the bacteria feed only on syngas, not on biomass. So no extra filtration is required to make vapor permea­tion work.

Better Bugs
Coskata continues working on its bacteria, trying to increase the amount of etha­nol they can produce. The company now uses varieties of Clostridium, a genus that includes a species that make botulism toxin and another that processes manure on farms. Coskata has started building an automated system for screening new strains of Clostridium according to their ability to make ethanol. Along the way, it has had to develop techniques for protecting its bacteria from being exposed to oxygen; the bacteria are anaerobic, and oxygen kills them at about the same concentrations at which carbon monoxide kills humans. The automated system should allow the company to sort through 150,000 new strains a year, up from a few thousand now.

The researchers can go only so far by sorting through random variations, however. Eventually, Tobey hopes to begin manipu­lating the microbes' genes directly, activating only those that improve ethanol production. Such engineering is fairly common now, but the Clostridium bacteria that Coskata uses haven't been studied much. So although Tobey knows what chemical steps the bacteria use to transform syngas into ethanol, he doesn't yet know the details of how genes regulate this process, and what role these genes play in the general processes that keep the bacteria alive. What's more, effective ways of manipulating the genes in these particular bacteria haven't yet been developed.

Even as Coskata continues to improve its microbes, it is planning to move the fuel production process out of the lab and scale it up to the commercial level. With the help of GM and other partners, the company will build a facility that's able to produce 40,000 gallons of ethanol per year. Coskata representatives say construction will begin within the year. The company's bioreactors should make it easy to adapt the technology to a larger scale, Tobey says; they can simply be lined up in parallel to achieve the needed output volumes. The next two or three years will reveal whether Coskata's process can start to replace significant amounts of gasoline with cheap ethanol.

 

 

 

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Posted: Apr 24, 2009 1:46am
Apr 23, 2009


This is the message on International dance day. May this day bring joy to the counteless millions who are otherwise excluded from danceing.

International Dance Day

 

The future of dance lies where there are persons who do not dance.

These belong to two categories: those who simply did not learn, and those who think that they are not able to dance. They represent the greatest challenge for the dance teacher's profession.

In line with UNESCO's struggle against prejudice and discrimination, we are trying to expand the boundaries of dance and to change the current perception of what a dancer is.

Dance performances are not necessarily exhibitions of extreme physicality, accurate precision, or bursting emotion - they can be celebrations of interaction between performers. We can enrich dance concerts with dancers, singers, actors, narrators, mimes, acrobats etc., of all ages and all degrees of ability.

Bringing the 'excluded' into dance is a moral duty, but also opens a great door in times of economic crisis and unemployment. In every country there are millions of persons with physical or mental disabilities. We believe they are ready to dance.

They will create jobs to thousands of dance teachers. They can be assisted by the Ministry of Health, whose budget is many times bigger than that of the Ministry of Culture.

Integrating marginalized persons into the practice of dance is as important as integrating them into the workforce.

CID holds to the philosophy that everyone can dance. 
Dance Day 2009 is dedicated to inclusive dance. Let us include all members of society into our classes and our performances.

Prof. Alkis Raftis
President of the International Dance Council CID 
UNESCO, Paris
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Posted: Apr 23, 2009 10:32pm

 

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