The food and humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa is man-made -- the result of artificially high food prices and civil conflict in southern Somalia, the World Bank’s lead economist for Kenya told Reuters. While droughts have often occurred in the region, Wolfgang Fengler said, “you need bad policymaking for that to lead to a famine”.
Shortages and near-historic prices for staples such as corn, wheat and sugar have magnified the impact of the drought in east Africa, according to the World Bank’s latest Food Price Watch report, The Guardian said.
US farmers are growing the first corn plants genetically modified for the specific purpose of putting more ethanol in petrol tanks, The Guardian reported. The corn, developed by a branch of the Swiss pesticide firm Syngenta, contains an added gene for the enzyme amylase, which speeds the breakdown of starches.
The battle surrounding genetically modified eggplant (brinjal) in India intensified with a government agency’s decision to prosecute Monsanto, the US bio-tech giant, and an Indian partner that developed the insect-resistant aubergine, Forbes reported. The National Biodiversity Authority’s action is based on allegations – denied by the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company -- that the developers had violated biological-diversity regulations.
Most of the United States has experienced “bad air” days this year due to smog pollution, according to a new analysis of government air-pollution data by the Natural Resources Defense Council. In all, the environmental group said, more than 2,000 “code orange” air-quality alerts occurred nationwide in the first seven months of 2011. Such alerts mean it is unsafe for children, older adults and people with breathing problems to go outside.
A study by scientists in Britain shows that as climate change enhances tree growth in tropical forests, the resulting increase in litterfall -- dead plant material that falls to the ground -- could stimulate micro-organisms in soil, leading to a release of stored carbon, ScienceDaily said. The researchers’ findings were published online in Nature Climate Change.
The critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphin population in the Mekong River numbers just 85, WWF research indicates. Calf survival was found to be very low, leading researchers for the environmental organisation to conclude that the small population is declining and at high risk of extinction.
Shattered by an earthquake in February, the New Zealand city of Christchurch has unveiled its vision of the future: a low-rise “city in a garden”, The Telegraph reported. The draft plan envisages an environmentally conscious city of parks and green open spaces, rooftop gardens, cycle tracks and a light-rail network. The central business district – much of which was badly damaged in the quake -- would be one quarter of its present size.
Meanwhile, freak winter weather has been causing chaos in the country, with freezing cold and historic snowfalls, Xinhua said. Meteorologists have described the southern polar blast that hit New Zealand as a once-in-a-lifetime event.