of rice have been feeding human beings since the dawn
of civilization. Today this cereal originating in
the wetland regions of Asia is the basic food of more
than half the world's population.
According to one web site, at
the global level, rice is ranked second -- after wheat
-- in terms of the total area planted with the grain,
but if one considers its importance as a food crop,
rice provides more calories per hectare than any other
Total rice output worldwide reaches
590 million metric tons, most of it grown in Asia,
though it is also an important agricultural product
in other regions.
The scientific name for rice
is Oryza sativa, a monocotyledon of the Poaceae family.
The history of rice begins with references in China
dating back 5,000 years, although it is suspected
that the grain originated in India, where there are
several endemic wild rice species.
There is a great deal of information
to be found about rice on the Internet. Most of it
involves rice as a culinary ingredient, the basis
for a vast collection of recipes from all points of
the compass, ranging from the famous Spanish paellas
to Italian risottos to an infinite number of Asian
In doing a bit of web surfing,
one can delve into data about how rice is grown, the
ups and downs of the international rice market, and
the challenges for the future, such as the need to
boost yields, the debate on genetically modified rice,
and the sustainability of rice cultivation.
One place to start is the United
Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and
International Rice Commission
Rice on the Web
Fly fishing is a sport that is
quickly gaining followers around the world. But this
approach to fishing is unique: although the objective
is to catch salmon or trout, the sport is closely
linked to nature conservation efforts.
Adventures in Argentina and Chile
Fly fishing requires some special skills, as well
as knowledge about the habits of the species being
sought, the conditions of the water, and particularly
the techniques for snagging, netting and then releasing
One of the most important characteristics of fly fishing
is precisely its
"catch-and-release" approach, which means learning
how to get the fish to bite the "fly", reel the fish
in, and let it go without causing it any harm.
But not only does this sport seek to preserve the
fish population, it also considers the ideal fishing
sites to be those where human intervention is minimal,
and of course those with uncontaminated water. Fly
fishing is a sport based on technique and enjoyment
of the outdoors. The objective does not involve putting
a fish in a frying pan.
The boom in fly fishing is big in the 21st century,
and anyone looking for information will realize just
how big after browsing the Internet, and the Yahoo!
directory on this sport in particular.
The sport is on the rise in Latin America as well,
attracting fishing enthusiasts from around the world.
Mexico and Brazil also tout their own fly fishing
Chile: Fly-fishing guide
to release the fish
- Fly fishing
Quinua, also spelled quinoa,
is often mentioned as the sacred food of ancient Andean
cultures, as an element of the indigenous people's
diet in the past, long forgotten. But more recent
research into its unique qualities has turned this
South American plant into a product with great future
According to the United Nations
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), quinua is
one of the few plant-based foods that is nutritionally
complete (pdf), that is, it holds the appropriate
balance of proteins, carbohydrates and minerals necessary
for human life.
food" is produced by a highly resistant plant
that easily adapts to different growing conditions
at a wide range of altitudes. It can be cultivated
at 4,000 meters above sea level and in arid or semi-arid
The scientific name for quinua
quinoa Wild. It is also known as "the wheat
of the Incas", although it is not really a cereal.
One website notes that some studies show that this
grain began to form part of the human diet in the
Andean Mountains at least 5,000 years B.C.
There are several kinds of quinua,
but the best known is quinua real. This variety is
used in many ways, but mostly as food for humans and
forage for livestock.
With such a long history, the
utilization of this unique grain in cooking has given
rise to a very interesting cuisine.
Beyond being prepared and eaten in the humble homes
of its home region, quinua is gradually being adopted
in cooking in other latitudes, in healthy and sophisticated
For the peasant farmers of some
parts of the Andean region, quinua is a fundamental
part of daily life, which is why they immediately
came to the defense of the grain when they heard that
a variety of quinua had been patented in the United
"Our intellectual integrity
has been violated," the farming families said
in a statement, noting that quinua was genetically
improved through traditional crossbreeding techniques
by the residents of the Andes over the last several
Under-Utilized Andean Food Crops (pdf format)
directory of texts on quinua in English
Chemical pesticides represent
an age-old human desire to live free of the plagues
that complicate daily life. But in contemporary times,
we are aware of the other face of these substances:
they are dangerous to human health and the environment.
In November 2002, the United
Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
approved a revised version of the International Code
of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides.
According to the text, the governments are apprised
of their responsibility to regulate these substances,
to help countries with technical difficulties to mitigate
the dangers in using pesticides, and to engage in
good conduct in pesticide production and trade.
The use of pesticides in farming
is widespread all around the world as many consider
it essential for achieving the best crop yields. However,
the list of substances applied on crops includes some
that are dangerous, leading organizations like the
FAO and the World
Health Organization (WHO) to insist on precautions
in handling and sales of these products.
One website on pesticides cites
WHO figures indicating that two million people are
poisoned each year by these chemicals and some 200,000
die as a result! Another website with basic
information on pesticides warns of the harm that
can come from contact with the eyes and skin or if
the compounds are inhaled or swallowed.
The U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency's Internet portal
on the subject states that there are 17,000 pesticides
registered in that country, with three-quarters used
in farming and a quarter used in urban areas. Time
is critical in any case of pesticide poisoning, warns
In addition to the dangers
posed by direct contact, there is another important
pesticide-related problem: environmental
contamination. This occurs with long-lived chemicals
that remain in the soil, water and in the cells of
plants and animals, which might ultimately be consumed
by humans. The question remains: Can these poisons
Int'l Code of Conduct on Distribution and Use of Pesticides
Pesticide Management Unit
Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues
portal on pesticides
pesticide safety programs
you should know about pesticides…
Human Health and the Environment
links on pesticides
Cod Caught on a Snag
The Antarctic cod, or icefish,
is victim of its own popularity. The high demand for
this fish in kitchens and restaurants around the world
maintains intense fishing activity that could threaten
the species very survival. But this argument has not
been enough to win greater international legal protections
for the cod.
At the 12th Conference of Parties
to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), held in the
Chilean capital this month, delegates rejected Australia's
proposal to include the deep-sea cod in the Convention's
Appendix II, which establishes strict regulations
for international buying and selling of species that
could become endangered.
The representatives voted unanimously,
winning even the support of Australia, for a Chilean
proposal that leaves the cod outside the CITES protections
but under the vigilance of the Convention on the Conservation
of Antarctic Living Marine Species (CCAMLR). This
entails a documentation system that certifies the
origin of the cod catches so authorities can distinguish
between legal and illegal fishing operations.
Environmental organizations like
Conservation Union (IUCN) had suggested that the
protection measures afforded by the CCAMLR were not
enough to halt the over-fishing of this much-sought-after
stated protests at the CITES meet in Santiago to demand
the inclusion of the deep-sea cod in Appendix II.
The international environmental group reports that
illegal fishing of this cod species feeds a market
of more than 500 million dollars annually.
The scientific name of the deep-sea
cod is Dissostichus eleginoides, and is known in English
as the Patagonian toothfish or the Chilean sea bass.
In Spanish it is called the merluza negra, in French
the légine australe, and in Russian the patagonsky
klykach. The initial proposal to protect this species
included another very similar fish, the Dissostichus
Deep-sea cod can weigh as much
as 90 kilos, reach two meters in length and live 50
years. But the great size of these fish has its downside:
their reproduction rate is slow and hatchlings take
six to 10 years to reach maturity.
According to a document
of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO), in 1999 Chile and Argentina were the two world
leaders in catching the Antarctic cod.
The main problem for the species,
however, is the practice of pirate fishing. A report
by the U.S. government warns that the high price paid
for the fish in markets and restaurants encourages
illegal and unregulated fishing, which threatens the
The Antarctic cod is fished in
the seas surrounding Antarctica. But 90 percent of
the catch is consumed in restaurants in Japan, United
States and Europe.
Antarctica Protected Marine Areas (pdf)
Patagonian toothfish - Identification sheet
against Patagonian Toothfish consumption in U.S.
FDA: Dissostischus eleginoides
Patagonian Toothfish campaign
Volcanoes are sleeping giants
that can wake up at any time, renewing millennium-old
fears among human populations. Eruptions are accompanied
by telluric movement -- earthquakes -- and by the
massive production of gases, lava, steam, rocks and
of ash covered the Ecuadorian capital earlier
this month, reviving an episode that had already caused
serious environmental, economic, social and health
problems in 1999. Just days earlier, settlements near
the slopes of Mount Aetna in Italy had to be evacuated
due to an eruption, which collapsed a school, killing
These volcanic events are a sharp
reminder of the force of the seemingly innocuous mountains,
and of the vulnerability of the populations living
near the sleeping giants, which are beautiful formations
-- until they become active
The Pan-American Health Organization
(PAHO) has issued a special
warning on these dangers, reminding the public
that 10 percent of the world's population lives near
volcanoes. Even more shocking is that 76 percent of
the deaths caused by volcanic eruptions in the 20th
century occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean.
is replete with information about volcanoes.
There are websites with detailed explanations about
their characteristics, the consequences of eruptions,
and maps of their locations, whether on land or on
the ocean floor.
is home to more than 40 volcanoes, many of which
are active. Since 1999, when Quito was covered by
ash, the capital's residents have been informed about
to do in case of another eruption.
It may seem that eruptions occur
only rarely, but some active volcanoes have more frequent
activity, as evidenced on some websites that maintain
records of volcanic events.
Such movements are generated
for forces that are so great as to be incomprehensible,
and which originate in the depths of our planet Earth.
Volcanic eruptions in Ecuador 2002
Geological Survey: Ecuador Volcanoes and Volcanics
Preparing for Volcanic Emergencies
Health Planning for Volcanic Crisis
Geographic: Volcanoes a Sleeping Threat
- Connect Yourself: Mountains of Fire