This year, midway through Argentina’s 2005–2015 Strategic Plan for Biotechnology, a long-stalled update of the Seed Law circulating in Buenos Aires may finally reach the legislative floor. The current law, which facilitated the rapid boom of transgenic crops in Argentina in the 1990s—60% of Argentina’s soy crop was genetically modified for herbicide resistance within three years of the introduction of Roundup Ready soy—is a source of conflict over intellectual property rights, as it permits farmers to retain seeds without paying royalties.
However, the meteoric rise in GM crop production was not solely the function of the seed law. Compatible agricultural practices in the early 1990s and a welcoming government contributed. Critics and fans alike say it’s a model from which other developing countries can learn important lessons. Continue reading
Almost as soon as the earthquake hit Haiti on 12 January, urban planners and scientists dusted off plans to relocate some of Port-Au-Prince’s infrastructure away from the crowded city centre, which is dangerously close to the Enriquillo fault.
In discussions with the Haitian government last month, geophysicists advocated relocating critical city infrastructure to the north (See: Haiti earthquake may have primed nearby faults for failure, Nature News). Now, at a United Nations donors’ meeting today, Haitian officials are due to present their Action Plan for National Recovery and Development, which incorporates recommendations to rebuild some of Port-au-Prince’s infrastructure in provincial towns further from the fault (New York Times).
At the same time, some Haitians have begun returning to their homes, or at least the lots where their homes once stood, encouraged by relief agencies keen to avoid flooded refugee camps during the upcoming rainy season (Associated Press).
Read the rest of this blog post on The Great Beyond: [html] and see my previous article on the Haiti earthquake: [html]
Geophysicists studying the 12 January earthquake in Haiti met yesterday with United Nations representatives and Haitian president René Garcia Préval to discuss what the latest measurements of the Earth’s shape can tell policymakers about future earthquakes. Several such ongoing geodesy studies suggest that the magnitude 7.0 earthquake, which has killed over 170,000 people so far, caused a 30- to 50-kilometre stretch of the fault southwest of Port-au-Prince to slip — possibly adding tension along an unreleased stretch of the same fault that passes even closer to Haiti’s capital.
Read the rest of the story on Nature News [html] or here [pdf]
A fully equipped laboratory for studying pathogen-resistant transgenic plants will close its doors by the year’s end. The International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) Biosafety Outstation in Ca’Tron di Roncade, Treviso, Italy, was set up to study potential risks concerning genetically modified crops and plant pathogens of importance to the developing world. The outstation’s facilities, part of the ICGEB, were refurbished with financing from Treviso-based Cassamarca Foundation, supported by banking group Unicredit. But the bank’s financial woes have prevented the foundation from renewing the €4-million ($5.7 million), 5-year contract, says Mark Tepfer, leader of the outstation’s Plant Virology group. Continue reading