UN Food Agency Adopts Stronger Pesticide CodeROME, Italy,
November 8, 2002 (ENS) - The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has adopted a revised set of global standards for the distribution and use of pesticides. The previous code, which raised awareness of pesticide hazards, was adopted in 1985.
"Pesticide use will continue to be a major factor in agricultural production. However, the improper distribution and use of pesticides and highly toxic compounds, in particular in developing countries, continues to cause health and environmental problems," said Gero Vaagt, FAO senior officer for pesticide management.
The new code of standards adopted by the FAO Council Monday more strongly reflects the responsibility of governments, industry, international organizations and traders in reducing the health and environmental risks associated with pesticides, the FAO said in a statement. The new code also strengthens the monitoring and observance of the standards.
The code calls on industry to "supply only pesticides of adequate quality, and to pay special attention to the choice of pesticide formulations and to the presentation, packaging and labeling" of the substances.
Manufacturers are urged to recall highly toxic pesticides - such as organophosphates and carbamates - that pose an "unacceptable risk" to people, animals and the environment.
"The adoption of the new Code was not easy," Vaagt said. "Different interpretations on product protection among countries reflected conflicts of interest between large multinationals and smaller companies that mainly produce generic products. This delayed the adoption of the Code by one year."
In many developing countries, the use of pesticides remains a major risk. The World Health Organization estimates that each year there are 25 million cases of pesticide poisoning and as many as 20,000 unintentional deaths, primarily in developing countries.
Long term effects of regular exposure to pesticides often cause chronic illnesses, including cancer, reproductive and neurological effects.
While more than 80 percent of pesticides are applied in developed countries, 99 percent of all poisoning cases occur in developing countries where regulatory, health and education systems are weakest, FAO said.
In many of the poorest countries agro-chemicals are not handled or stored within even minimal standards. Highly toxic products are easily available while protective clothing is often too expensive for poor farmers or impossible to wear in humid and hot environments.
Compliance to the code is mandatory for manufacturers who belong to their industry's international association, Crop Life International, the release said.
The code calls on developing country governments to enforce laws related to pesticide distribution and use.
The code also promotes integrated pest management strategies that reduce reliance on pesticides. "Experience from numerous FAO projects shows that this approach offers the chance to drastically reduce the use of pesticides and to increase yields," Vaagt said.
Illegal Congolese Resource Exploitation to be PunishedNEW YORK, New York,
November 8, 2002 (ENS) - The Security Council could put financial and travel restrictions on 29 companies and 54 persons that an expert panel says have illegally exploited the natural resources of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo focused its fact finding on diamonds, gold, coltan, copper, cobalt, timber, wildlife reserves, fiscal resources and trade in general.
Conservationists have been particularly concerned about the damaging impacts of coltan mining on the natural values of two universally important World Heritage sites: Kahuzi-Biega National Park and Okapi Wildlife Reserve located in the eastern part of the DRC. Coltan is a mineral that is used in the manufacture of cellular telephones.
Companies based in the DRC, Belgium, Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe and South Africa have been accused of looting the country, while the Zimbabwe government is accused of supporting Laurence Kabila in exchange for resource exploitation concessions.
The report was presented to the UN Security Council on October 24 by the panel's chairman, Mahmoud Kassem of Egypt. It recommends punitive measures be taken to curb the illegal exploitation of the country's natural resources by criminal organizations and persons.
The report says that a ban on the export of raw materials originating from the DRC would be counterproductive, but it recommends that financial restrictions be placed on 29 companies.
It recommends that a travel ban and financial restrictions be imposed on 54 persons, including Augustin Katumba Mwanke, minister of the Presidency in the DRC, Kibassa Maliba, a former minister of mines, and Mwana Nanga Mawapanga, a DRC ambassador in Harare, Zimbabwe.
The list also includes the Speaker of Parliament in Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa Dambudzo, the DRC's minister of national security Dan Munyuza, and Dennis Numbi Kalume the minister of planning and reconstruction in the DRC.
Noting that those involved in the illegal exploitation of natural resources did not have a strong incentive to alter the economic status quo, the report calls for "measures that address their fears of losing revenues." Such measures could only be effective if they took place simultaneously with a political process and should monitored by a UN body that would report any violations to the Security Council.
Representatives of some 20 countries participated in the Security Council's debate, including Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe, as well as Belgium and Denmark, which spoke on behalf of the European Union.
The Council is expected to meet next week to hold further informal consultations on a future course of action.
Fossey Fund Builds Camp to Deter Gorilla PoachersNEW BRUNSWICK, New Jersey,
November 8, 2002 (ENS) - The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International has announced an action plan to halt a recent poaching spree that has left six mountain gorillas dead, one infant in temporary captivity and several others missing in Rwanda.
Rutgers anthropology Professor H. Dieter Steklis, chief scientist and vice president of the fund said Thursday that immediate preparations are being made to re-establish patrols based at Karisoke, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, an area that once was the location of a camp founded by Dian Fossey in the late 1960s and where recent poaching incidents have occurred.
The area has not been protected or monitored by the fund or the Rwandan national park authorities since the fund's facilities were destroyed during civil unrest in the 1990s.
The new permanent camp, organized by the fund and Rwandan and Congolese national park authorities, should be set up within the next couple of weeks, Steklis said. As many as 15 to 20 rangers and security forces are expected to be stationed at the camp, which will include sleeping and cooking facilities.
"I guarantee that this will be a deterrent to poaching in this sector, because there will be more ears and eyes in the forest around the clock," said Steklis, who has spent extensive time at Karisoke, serving as the director of the fund's activities in Rwanda. His research on primate behavior, biology and evolution is internationally recognized.
As the result of several poaching incidents since May, four female and two male mountain gorillas have been confirmed dead.
In an analysis by Steklis' wife, Netzin Gerald Steklis, director of the fund's Scientific Information Resources Center, the four females lost could have led to the birth of as many as 427 animals over the next 50 years, assuming that in each generation a female gives birth to three surviving daughters. This estimate is based on demographic data amassed over decades by Netzin Steklis and Rutgers anthropology students.
Given that the population of mountain gorillas is only approximately 355 at this time, the loss is serious, says Netzin Steklis. "This analysis underscores the central importance of females to the future growth and survival of this population. For a small population like this, the death of these four females is a catastrophe."
The fund's staff has been protecting, monitoring and studying the mountain gorillas of Rwanda for more than 30 years, continuing the work begun by Dian Fossey, who was killed in 1985. Fossey was the subject of the 1988 major motion picture "Gorillas in the Mist."
Parasitic Disease Sweeps Southern SudanLONDON, UK,
November 8, 2002 (ENS) - The international medical relief organization Doctors Without Borders is fighting a severe outbreak of the deadly disease kala azar in southern Sudan. Exhausted by decades of war, the population is left extremely vulnerable to this disease.
Kala azar, or visceral leishmaniasis, is a parasitic disease that is transmitted by the miniscule sand fly. If left untreated, the illness is fatal.
Although the disease is endemic in parts of Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia and usually peaks in this season of the year, the current level of outbreak is exceptional, the medical organization says, and shows a dramatic increase compared to the same seasons over the last years.
While peace talks go on, large parts of southern Sudan are still inaccessible to aid organizations, and diseases like kala azar continue to claim thousands of lives.
In Lankien, eastern Upper-Nile state, Doctors Without Borders has received over 100 admissions weekly over the last six weeks, and is currently treating 333 patients.
"It is an overwhelming scene, with so many of the people coming to the clinic every day more dead than alive," said Dr. José-Antonio Bastos, an operational director for the organization who has just returned from eastern Upper Nile. "The state of these patients is appalling. They are being carried on stretchers for days to make it to the clinic. They look pale and thin and are extremely anaemic."
A Doctors Without Borders project in the nearby town of Malakal is currently treating 210 patients, while another project in Umm el Kher, Gadaref State, is assisting 414 cases.
Reports from adjacent areas that Doctors Without Borders has not been able to reach so far indicate that the prevalence of the disease would be high there as well.
"There is a clear overlap of those areas where kala azar is endemic and areas of conflict," said Dr. Bastos. "Insecurity, malnutrition and poor access to health care lower the people's natural resistance to diseases and make for an environment where outbreaks like the current one occur."
Doctors Without Borders has worked in many places in northern and southern Sudan since 1978, assisting vulnerable populations with basic healthcare, emergency feeding programs, and fighting outbreaks of infectious diseases.
Two Big Bergs Blockade Historic Penguin ColonyCAPE CROZIER, Antarctica,
November 8, 2002 (ENS) - The movements of two gigantic Antarctic icebergs have reduced the number of Emperor penguins living and breeding in a colony at Cape Crozier, according to two researchers who visited the site last month. The colony is one of the first ever visited by human beings early in the 20th century.
"It's certain that the number of breeding birds is way down" from previous years, said Gerald Kooyman, a U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) funded researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.
The photographic evidence and observations on the ground, Kooyman said, indicate the colony has scattered into at least five subgroups.
The disruption appears to be caused by grounding in the past two years of two enormous icebergs - B-15 and C-19-near Cape Crozier.
Kooyman took aerial photos of the colony in August during the flight missions that preceded the official start of the Antarctic research season. He returned to visit the colony in October, after the season was underway, with Paul Ponganis, another NSF funded Emperor penguin researcher also at Scripps.
Two years ago the colony was home to some 2,400 adult Emperors and approximately 1,200 chicks. Aerial photographs showed the researchers the current distribution of the birds and the number of groups, but they did not provide details about the number of breeding birds and the conditions in the colony.
Kooyman said the site visits confirm what the photographic evidence appeared to show: ice conditions produced by the collisions of the giant bergs with the shoreline forced the bird colony to break up into smaller subgroups and also indicated the numbers of chicks and breeding pairs is greatly reduced from previous years.
A comparison with another Emperor colony at Beaufort Island, Kooyman said, shows that the Crozier birds have been less successful finding food for their young.
The Cape Crozier colony is noted in the history of Antarctic exploration. In 1911, three members of Robert Falcon Scott's ill fated South Pole expedition hauled a sledge 60 miles from Scott's base at Cape Evans to Cape Crozier, on the far side of Ross Island, in complete darkness and sub-zero degree (F) temperatures, to acquire three unhatched Emperor egg from the colony. At the time, Emperors were thought to perhaps represent an evolutionary "missing link" between reptiles and birds.
Geoenvironmental Research Park Launched in WalesCARDIFF, Wales, UK,
November 8, 2002 (ENS) - A new five million pound Geoenvironmental Research Park project has been estabished in Wales to develop sustainable methods of industrial waste management and industrial material reprocessing.
The facility is based at Baglan Bay, Port Talbot, South Wales. Over the next three years it is expected to develop technologies which will help regenerate brownfields land throughout Wales.
The project brings together academic, industrial and government organizations from across Wales to develop expertise in sustainable land management, cleanup technologies and reprocessing and re-use of alternative materials.
The park will bring in new high technology companies, creating jobs locally and in associated projects throughout Wales.
Dr. Robert Francis, of Cardiff University's Geoenvironmental Research Centre, a partner in the project, said he expects local benefits such as high quality employment and investment, and to the whole of Wales through the environmental improvements that will result. "It gives Wales the opportunity to build on existing expertise and become a world leader in this technology," he said.
The Geoenvironmental Research Park is part-funded by European Objective 1 funds and, while it is led by Cardiff University's Geoenvironmental Research Centre, involves a number of private and public sector partners.
The consortium of partners involved in the project from the outset are Cardiff University's Geoenvironmental Research Centre, The Welsh Development Agency, TRL Limited - the UK's leading transport research centre, Minton Treharne and Davies - the analytical chemists, Trinity College Carmarthen, BP Chemicals Ltd, Excel Fibre Technology Ltd, and the consortium of Welsh environmental science companies - The Hafren Group.
Sean Connick, Welsh Development Agency environmental goods and services project manager said the Research Park will provide advice and technical expertise to new and existing companies "developing into the high growth global environmental goods and services market."
The consortium has started on some key projects for new remediation techniques as well as new and innovative methods of dealing with alternative materials. Transferring this new technology from concepts and experimental research to industry is an important aspect of the GRP's work.
"The transfer of this technology to industry is seen as vital for the success of this project," explains Dr. Francis. New companies have already been engaged to exploit the new technologies developed on the site. Existing companies in Wales will also be able to take advantage of the new technologies as they are developed.
Wales Minister for Environment Sue Essex said, "A world quality research park such as this is exactly what is needed to take Wales forward in this exciting and valuable field of geoenvironmental sustainability in the years to come."
The Geoenvironmental Research Park is online at: http://www.grc.cf.ac.uk/grp
Newfoundland Golf Course in Park Lands in CourtST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland, Canada,
November 8, 2002 (ENS) - Three environmental groups are taking the Newfoundland Minister of Environment Kevin Aylward to court over his decision to allow a golf course to be constructed in Newfoundland's Windmill Bight Provincial Park without an environmental assessment.
The Protected Areas Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (PAA), Natural History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador (NHS), and Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) are plaintiffs in the case and are represented by the Sierra Legal Defence Fund.
Having been excluded from the regulatory process since April, when Minister Aylward announced that he was "releasing" the proposed golf course from the provincial Environmental Assessment Act, the groups filed an Application for Judicial Review in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador on October 28.
They are asking the Court to quash the minister of environment's approval of the course, order the minister to require an environmental assessment, and prevent the minister of tourism from removing the lands from the park.
"Our parks are not for sale. We will fight for this park," says Laura Jackson of the PAA. "So should our government, instead of dismissing it without so much as an Environmental Preview Report."
Minister Aylward announced that 79 hectares (195 acres) of land would be removed from the park in order to allow the course to be built, since the Provincial Parks Act prohibits the sale or lease of greater than five hectares (12.3 acres) from a provincial park. The golf course proposal has now expanded to 95 hectares.
Rita Anderson of the NHS says, "The government's decision was outrageous. It undermined our confidence in the environmental assessment process, and it had to be challenged."
Windmill Bight Provincial Park on the rugged northeast coast of Newfoundland provides crucial protection for a rare sand dune system, one of only five protected in the province, that provides habitat for birds, fish, and wildlife. It is a good source of wild berries known as bakeapples or cloudberries.
Bird expert Bill Montevecchi said, "There are more, many more, than 44 species of birds that use Windmill Bight Provincial Park as habitat. The site was protected as a provincial park in 1966 for good reasons, and those reasons are still there."
Stephen Hazell of the CPAWS states, "While other provinces and the federal government are expanding park systems to protect Canada's natural heritage, the Newfoundland and Labrador government seems determined to continue the dismantling of provincial parks. At the very least, such park trashing should undergo a proper environmental assessment, as required by provincial law."
Rolex Awards Honor Environmental InnovationLONDON, UK,
Novermber 8, 2002 (ENS) - Marking the 10th series of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, Rolex has announced the winners of this global initiative - four men and one woman from Brazil, Canada, France, South Africa, and the United States.
Each received $100,000 and a specially inscribed, gold Rolex chronometer October 23 at a gala ceremony in Tokyo where they were honored for their projects in the areas of science, the environment, exploration and cultural heritage.
The five Laureates were selected from almost 1,400 applicants from 113 countries by an international panel of prominent scientists and explorers. These Laureates, like the 45 Laureates who have preceded them since Rolex established the program in 1976, represent diverse cultures and spheres of interest.
The 2002 Rolex Laureates are:
"Despite the diversity inherent in the Rolex Awards, the Laureates all have in common the spirit of enterprise that underpins the program," said Patrick Heiniger, chief executive officer of Rolex S.A. and chairman of the Selection Committee.
"Whether saving whales or endangered birds, improving living standards in remote villages, safeguarding our precious rainforests, or developing low-tech agricultural methods in one of the world's most impoverished countries, these five individuals have demonstrated their intent to improve our planet and the human condition - the underlying objective of the Awards."
In June this year, Rolex invited applications from enterprising men and women the world over for the 11th Awards cycle, the 2004 Rolex Awards. The biennial program provides financial support and global recognition to "visionary and dedicated individuals whose ongoing working projects are original and feasible, and have a positive impact on the surrounding community and beyond," Rolex said in its invitation.
Each of the award winning projects was studied by a 10 member independent, voluntary jury, the 2002 Selection Committee. "The jury members were particularly sensitive to environmental issues this year," said Heiniger. "They were impressed by the importance the winning candidates placed on local people living and working in harmony with nature in order to ensure sustainable development."
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