Bananas and Plantains
Bananas and plantains are fruits
thousands of years old that have become an important
food for humans. The banana trade is a dynamic market
and has led to scientific delving into its genetics
and its possibilities for ecological production.
The Internet is abundant with
information on this -- at least for now -- abundant
fruit. A good place to start is the banana
page of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization
The sustainable increase in productivity
of banana plantations is a key objective of the International
Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain
(INIBAP), which reports that these fruits provide
an important part of the diet for 400 million people
in a hundred countries each day.
The website Bananas:
a musa species notes that the banana tree is currently
grown in all tropical regions of the world and the
fruits represent the fourth leading crop in the world,
after rice, maize and wheat.
The banana and plantain are originally
from the Indo-Malaya region, but the migration of
these species has been occurring since prehistoric
times. India and Brazil are the leading producers
of these fruits.
for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
a musa species
Bananas could split for good
on the web
Forests cover 3.87 billion hectares
of the earth’s surface, according to the latest
report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organisation (FAO) on the State
of the World’s Forests
The 2001 report underlines that 95 percent of that
surface area corresponds to naturally occurring forests
and 5.0 percent to plantation forests. It also points
out that 14.2 million hectares are lost every year
to deforestation, and 5.2 million hectares are planted,
amounting to a net annual loss of 9.4 million hectares.
division states that progress was made towards
conservation goals in the 1990s, but warns that in
order to bring to life a vision based on sustainable
management, a number of factors are necessary, such
as the capacity to equitably finance the costs and
benefits of strides made in conservation, as well
as the materialisation of effective political commitments.
In September 2003 delegates from around the globe
will take part in the XII
World Forestry Congress to promote the conservation
of forests, a habitat that is home to 80 percent of
the planet’s biodiversity, as the conference
web site notes.
Although the surface area covered by forests may appear
extensive, the web site of the World Resources Institute
http://forests.wri.org/ shows an animated map that
clearly demonstrates the enormous reduction of forest
land over the past 8,000 years.
Deforestation is produced by the excessive use of
forestry resources, in other words the cutting of
trees by large logging interests as well as small
farmers who clear land to make way for their crops.
Other factors are natural catastrophes and forest
Abundant information can be found on the Internet
the characteristics of deforestation, especially
forests, which according to a web
site are home to 70 percent of the world’s
plant and animal species. There is also a large quantity
of specialised reports on the issue and web sites
information useful to outlining plans for the
management of forest ecosystems.
The State of the World’s Forests
World Forestry Congress
Tropical Forests in Decline/Canadian International
Solar radiation was essential
for the emergence of life on Earth, but today doctors
are issuing an alert: envrionmetnal and social changes
have turned the Sun's rays into dangerous company
when they shine too brightly.
The World Health Organization
(WHO) warns that the greatest danger lies in ultraviolet
(UV) rays, which are thought to be responsible for
the increase in cancer and ailments related to the
skin and eyes, the human organs most exposed to sunlight.
The United Nations health agency warns that these
rays are a threat to everyone.
Intersun portal is a cyberspace offshoot of the
WHO-sponsored Global UV Project that warns that these
rays play a role in the two to three million cases
of non-melanoma skin cancer and 132,000 cases of malignant
melanoma reported each year. The harmful radiation
could also contribute to the two million cases of
blindness arising from cataracts that are recorded
worldwide each year.
There has been an increase in
these cases. Why? On the one hand, there is a greater
tendency towards sun exposure, for aesthetic motives
like suntanning. But all sources on the Internet consulted
on this matter point out that the thinning of the
ozone layer, known as the ozone hole, is a factor
that affects a large portion of the Earth's surface.
The thinning of the ozone layer
is caused by pollutants produced by human activities,
such as the manufacture and use of chlorofluorocarbons
(CFCs), and is a serious problem because this atmospheric
shield is what protects us from the potentially harmful
rays of the sun, like UV.
To combat the emissions of these
contaminants, many nations of the world have signed
Protocol, which is seen as successfully curbing
the production of CFCs and other ozone depleting substances.
But experts warn that the effects of the ozone hole
will continue for at least a half-century unless all
production of such substances is halted immediately.
Meanwhile, to protect ourselves,
information is helpful. Intersun posts a UV
index to categorise the danger of the suns rays.
Intersun The Global UV Project
Yourself: Ozone Hole - A Threatening Void
Yourself: Montreal Protocol on Ozone
Social Forum 2003
The World Social Forum, in its
third annual meeting, January 23-28, will proclaim
its central message with renewed energy: "another
world is possible". And the host city is once
again the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre,
which expects tens of thousands of people to converge
on this "open meeting space".
The Internet is a good source
for learning about the details of this global meeting
in Brazil, with informative portals dedicated especially
to the Forum, such as Portoalegre2003.org,
sites that explain the origins and types of issues
debated, or simply provide facts about the city serving
as the venue for the meet, Porto
World Social Forum web site states that 30,000
participants from 121 countries are expected to attend.
These multitudes will represent approximately 5,000
organizations and will be able to choose from among
1,700 activities -- seminars, panel discussions, workshops
-- scheduled for the six-day event.
The Forum is intended as an encounter
of civil society organizations, networks and movements,
such that people or entities linked to government
or political parties are not allowed to participate,
unless an individual wishes to on his or her own account.
Nor are representatives of armed or military groups
permitted to take part in the event.
This year's Forum, organized
by a committee made up of numerous civil society groups,
is based on five thematic pillars: democratic and
sustainable development; principles and values, human
rights, diversity and equality; media, culture and
non-domination; political power, civil society and
democracy; democratic world order, anti-militarization
and promotion of peace.
Since 2001, the meeting has been
held annually as a civil society response to the World
Economic Forum, held at the same time in the Swiss
mountain resort of Davos. The WSF's aim is to promote
development based on human well being and a globalization
process based on solidarity.
In 2004, the World Social
Forum will be held in India.
Social Forum 2003 - official web site
of Rio Grande do Sul: World Social Forum
World Economic Forum
Alegre: Internet links
Grains 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
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