No. 10/10

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IN THIS ISSUE:

PRODUCTS

COUNTRY INFORMATION

NEWS

EVENTS

LITERATURE REVIEW AND WEBSITES

MISCELLANEOUS

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PRODUCTS

  • Bushmeat: Is wildlife being eaten to extinction?

Source: BBC News, 3 August 2010

The rapid growth in the global demand for bushmeat is leaving many African species facing the possibility of being eaten out of existence, says Mark Jones, Director of Care for the Wild International.
“The increasing value of bushmeat has attracted criminal syndicates, with sophisticated and efficient logistical capabilities.”
We have all heard how the illegal trade in elephant ivory, rhino horn and other high value products is threatening Africa's wildlife. However, the impact of these products is dwarfed by the trade in bushmeat, defined as meat from Africa's wild animals traded for human consumption.
According to the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force, the hunting of and trade in bushmeat represents "the most significant immediate threat to the future of wildlife in Africa."
Traditionally, bushmeat hunting was a subsistence activity. It is now a multi-billion dollar international trade involving hundreds of species, from forest herbivores such as duikers and other antelopes to wild pigs, rodents, elephants and primates.
The exponential increase in the trade over recent years is being driven by demand from the exploding and ever more urbanized human population in Africa, and the increasing international value and demand for bushmeat products.
Commercial logging and the associated infrastructure development and expansion have given hunters easy access to previously impenetrable African forests, and ready-made transport routes to towns and cities.
The food source was originally exploited because of its low cost, lack of ownership issues, weak law enforcement and the lack of alternatives. Now, the increasing value of bushmeat has attracted criminal syndicates, with sophisticated and efficient logistical capabilities.
Law enforcement agencies in many African countries do not have the resources to keep up, and in some cases high level involvement in the trade may protect it from official interference. This makes accurate estimates of the trade difficult to obtain, although Central African consumers alone may be eating more than 2.5m tonnes each year.
Many target species have already been extirpated from parts of West Africa. Wildlife in Eastern and Southern African countries is increasingly being targeted, and Kenya is estimated to have experienced a loss of about 50 percent in its wildlife in recent decades, largely as a result of the bushmeat trade.
A recent study, involving researchers from the Zoological Society of London, estimated that as much as 270 tonnes of bushmeat might be coming through a single airport in Paris annually, destined both for personal consumption and to supply the lucrative trade in high value products. It is also estimated that more than a quarter of all mammal species hunted for bushmeat are threatened with extinction.
Widespread hunting of animals for bushmeat depletes populations of affected species, and can lead to local population crashes or extirpation. There are, however, much wider potential impacts. Species have functions: as prey for other species, seed dispersers or forest rebuilders. So reductions in certain species can have far reaching impacts on others, causing a loss of biodiversity and a crisis within ecosystems.
The loss of biodiversity leaves us with a predominance of a few so-called "weedy species", such as those that thrive in continually disturbed, human-dominated environments.
Small populations of highly endangered animals can be disproportionately affected.
Although the number of Great Apes involved in the bushmeat trade is small, their removal can have devastating impacts on populations, and Great Ape species in Africa are thought to be at risk of extinction over the next two decades if the trade continues at its current rate.
The commercial bushmeat trade also threatens the livelihoods and food security of indigenous rural people, which can result in social and political instability.
Bushmeat can also carry potentially devastating diseases - from anthrax to ebola, monkey pox to retroviruses - that may have disastrous impacts on livestock and far-reaching consequences for human health.
Until recently, most conservation projects concerned with bushmeat have tended to focus on research, education, and enforcement, with few attempts to provide alternative livelihoods or food sources. Many of the countries central to the trade are poor and suffer from corruption. These countries need resources, incentives and training if they are to apply and enforce national and international regulations.
Some good initiatives exist, including the development of fish farms, apiaries, and arable agriculture projects. Many more are required if the trade is to be significantly reduced.
Local actions to curb the bushmeat trade need to be resourced through global responses, requiring significant investment at a time of international financial instability and introspection.
If Africa's unique wildlife, and its rural communities, are to survive the impacts of the bushmeat trade, continued well-directed development aid for the poor countries of Africa throughout this period of global financial uncertainty is essential.
For full story, please see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8877062.stm

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  • Bushmeat in D.R. Congo: 440 Congolese chimps slaughtered every year

Source: www.care2.com, 15 September 2010

Four hundred and forty chimpanzees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are being slaughtered each year for bushmeat, estimates Dr. Cleve Hicks, at the University of Amsterdam. "I was astonished to see the sheer quantities of bushmeat being taken out of the forest," says Hicks. "It was really shocking.”
According to an 18-month study of remote human settlements deep in the Congolese jungle, chimpanzees are being subjected to a "wave of killing" by bushmeat hunters.
In order to document the threat posed by bushmeat traders, Hicks and his colleagues conducted regular surveys of bushmeat markets in local towns and on roads on either side of the Ueke River in southern DRC. Altogether, they spent 1 365 days in 10 cities and towns and surveyed 13 140km of road. They recorded chimp carcasses and orphans for sale.
The team saw 44 orphan chimps and 35 carcasses, plus nine leopard skins, 10 okapi skins, parts of 14 elephants, bushmeat from two hippos, 169 monkey carcasses and 69 monkey orphans.
Alice Macharis of the Jane Goodall Institute said: "The increasing level of the bushmeat trade in this region is truly alarming. In the DRC, which has the largest population of chimpanzees in the wild, the bushmeat trade, the illegal commercial hunting of chimpanzees, remains one of the greatest threats to their survival along with loss of habitat due to deforestation."
For full story, please see: www.care2.com/causes/animal-welfare/blog/440-congolese-chimpanzees-slaughtered-every-year/

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  • Bushmeat in Sierra Leone: Grave threat to chimp population

Source: www.timeslive.co.za, 16 September 2010

At a meeting to develop a comprehensive conservation action plan for chimpanzees in the country, the office of the Director-General of the Ministry of Agriculture warned that "the estimated 5 000 chimp population is under grave threat mainly due to the desire of local rural communities for bushmeat."
"As the country stands today, chimps remain endangered in Sierra Leone despite a de facto ban on the possession, hunting and killing of chimpanzees for whatever reason," the ministry added in a statement.
Addressing the event, Director of Forestry Sheku Mansaray noted that "chimps are indicators of the health of the environment. Improper agricultural practices as well as threats from mining and logging are also impacting a toll on the chimps population."
The Programme Director of the Chimpanzee Conservation Sanctuary in Tacugama, Bala Amarasekaran, warned that "if the demand for bushmeat continues, the chimp population will definitely dwindle. It will be a pity as we can use chimps as a flagship species for Sierra Leone."
Amarasekaran disclosed that an international conference on the viability of population habitats for chimpanzees will be held in Sierra Leone in January 2011. According to a National Chimpanzee Census released in August, some 252 out of 507 communities in the country said "they would eat chimpanzee meat if it is available."
"Some reported eating the meat for (untested) medical reasons (such as cures for river blindness and tuberculosis) while others reported killing chimps to protect their farmlands," the survey said.
Bushmeat is traditional to many Sierra Leoneans who eat antelopes, deer and squirrels, but customs border officers told Agence France Presse that chimpanzee meat makes up a large percentage of bushmeat smuggled frequently across the border to neighbouring Guinea and Liberia where it fetches high prices.
For full story, please see: www.timeslive.co.za/africa/article662780.ece/Grave-threat-to-chimps-population-in-Sierra-Leone

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  • Bushmeat in Uganda: Goat project safeguarding wild chimpanzees

Source: BBC Earth News, 3 September 2010

A goat project running in two villages neighbouring the Budongo Forest Reserve in west Uganda is helping to safeguard the lives of wild chimpanzees.
Local hunters are encouraged to give up laying wire snares to catch wild game, in return for receiving goats to rear and breed.
The pilot scheme is the brainchild of the director of the Budongo Conservation Field Station (BCFS), Dr Fred Babweteera.
"It is our philosophy that rather than witch-hunt people, it is better to understand why they are doing something, get down to the root cause, and address the root cause. In this case we discovered that people are actually hunting not for fun. The majority of the people around here hunt for domestic consumption. But a smaller group hunt for sale/commercial purposes. There are lots of markets around where people go for buying bushmeat, mainly those two reasons."
Snare laying is one of the biggest problems conservationists face all over Africa. The wire traps are cheap to buy and difficult to spot in the undergrowth. In East Africa, the snares are used to catch wild game such as antelope or bush pigs. But wild chimpanzees suffer serious limb injuries when they get caught in these traps by accident. Many end up maimed or in worse cases, can die as a result of infection.
This alternative lifestyle has also helped the way many hunters now live. The goats provide regular protein for their families and an income to help send their children to school. Villagers have also been encouraged to share their goats with their neighbours to create a chain reaction.
"It took us about one year to get going," Dr Babweteera says. "First thing we wanted to do was to build confidence among the hunters because they know that it is illegal to hunt, so they thought maybe we wanted to trick them into a group that would be arrested. So we had several meetings where we had to build confidence between both parties."
The BCFS has a veterinarian on hand to monitor the goats to make sure they remain healthy. Dr Babweteera opted for goats instead of launching a piggery due to the swine flue epidemic.
The project is running in the villages of Nyakafunjo and Nyabyeya and has seen a drop in number of snares being collected per month - from 240 a month to five. It is thought that the five are remnants, as hunters lay an average of 400 snares at any one time and often forget where they place them.
Dr Babweteera says he is pleased with the results but is cautious about hailing the project an outright success: "I would not be quick to pop the champagne and say this is the solution because communities differ. I think conservation should be tailor made, that you understand the community and tailor the strategy to that community."
There are 18 villages in the neighbouring area of the Budongo Forest Reserve and it is hoped that the project will be rolled out into another six within the next few years.
For full story, please see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_8964000/8964009.stm

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  • Edible Insects: Bugs can solve the food crisis

Source: Arnold van Huis in Science Magazine, 29 September 2010

As early as 1885, the British entomologist Vincent M. Holt wrote a booklet with the title: "Why not eat insects?" It is a good question, as most of the world population does. More than 1 000 insect species are eaten in the tropics, including caterpillars, grasshoppers, beetles, termites, ants, bees, wasps, and true bugs. This is probably because insects in warmer climates are bigger and show more crowding behaviour than in temperate zones, making harvesting from nature easier. It is an erroneous Western assumption that people in the tropics eat insects because they are starving. To the contrary, an insect snack is often considered a delicacy.
Nutritionally, insects are comparable to conventional meat such as pork, beef, mutton, or fish. Depending on the species, insects contain between 30 and 70 percent protein, and are a good source of essential fatty acids, vitamins (in particular the B vitamins) and minerals (such as iron and zinc). The chitinous exoskeleton comprises only a small part of the total biomass (<10 percent) and can even be partially digested, as chitinase has been found in human gastric juices.
The meat crisis may prompt us to look for alternative protein sources. Since 1970, world meat consumption has increased almost three-fold, and is expected to have doubled by 2050. However, already 70 percent of all agricultural land is used for livestock. Further intensification of industrial livestock production could increase health and environmental costs, such as contamination of surface and groundwater with nutrients, heavy metals and pathogens; acidification of ecosystems because of ammonia emissions; and use of huge amounts of fresh water (40 000 litres for 1kg of beef). Besides, high-density animal production systems increase livestock disease incidence, and new, often antibiotic-resistant diseases emerge. Ruminants also emit large amounts of the greenhouse gas methane by enteric fermentation. Although termites, cockroaches and certain beetle species produce methane, most edible insect species do not. Meanwhile, FAO estimates that 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions is derived from livestock.
An advantage of insects compared to conventional meat is that they are cold-blooded and do not use energy to maintain a constant high body temperature. For that reason, they convert feed more efficiently to body mass. To produce 1kg of meat, a cricket needs 1.7kg of feed - significantly less than a chicken (2.2), pig (3.6), sheep (6.3), and cow (7.7). Additionally, the edible proportion after processing is much higher for insects - it is 80 percent in crickets - than for pork (70 percent), chicken (65 percent), beef (55 percent), and lamb (35 percent).
Bees and silk worms have been domesticated because of the honey and silk they produce, but they also serve as food. Some insects like palm weevils are semi-domesticated, where people cut palm trees to promote egg-laying. The resulting larvae are considered a delicacy all over the tropics. When collected from nature, the sustainability of harvesting practices becomes an issue. Rearing edible insects under artificial conditions offers another possibility. In Thailand, thousands of households produce crickets either for their own consumption or for the market. In the West, companies produce insects as fish bait and as live feed for domestic and zoo animals such as birds and reptiles. Three insect-rearing companies in The Netherlands have been producing locusts and mealworms (Tenebrionid beetle larvae) for human consumption since 2008. Mechanized rearing procedures should be capable of achieving high production volumes as insects can be reared under crowded conditions and they have high multiplication and development rates. Only insects that are not a threat to a particular environment should be reared; in short, those cleared by quarantine services. However, house crickets and mealworms are not at threat as they are cosmopolitan.
What are the prospects for human entomophagy (the formal term for the practice of eating insects)? In tropical countries, eating insects is already common practice; governments and entrepreneurs should exploit the potential, promote the industry, and develop the entomophagy food chain. Mopane worm production in southern Africa is already a US$85 million business, in which US$10 billion caterpillars are harvested annually. Improved preservation procedures (drying, freeze drying, tinning) would alleviate the current irregular supply.
In Western countries, it may be difficult to change food habits, although we have learned to eat shrimps, oysters and snails. Could insects be made more acceptable by processing them into something unrecognizable (such as the ever-mysterious fish sticks, or hot dogs)? Or, as Wageningen University in The Netherlands is investigating, could we extract, purify and use insect protein as a significant component of the human diet?
So why not eat insects? To convince Western consumers, it would be essential to provide information about the nutritional value, ensure food safety, explain the environmental benefits, develop good recipes, make the product accessible, and establish a regulatory and legislative framework. A taste experience is generally a first step for consumers in crossing the psychological barrier.
For full story, please see: www.the-scientist.com/news/display/57729/#ixzz10zi2Yr45

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  • Edible insects beat hunger in Laos

Source: Al Jazeera English, 14 September 2010

Vientiane - According to the UN, some 40 percent of children under the age of five are severely undernourished in Laos, because of a lack of protein in their diets. But food charities are hoping that a move towards insect farming in the country could help overcome the problem.
FAO, which is supporting efforts in Laos, says insects contain a high protein and vitamin content.
To view video, please visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4VxJecTOkM

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  • Mbokaja (Acrocomia aculeata)

From: Maura Diaz (Universidad Nacional de Asunción, Paraguay), 19 September 2010

El mbokaja (Acrocomia aculeata) es una palmera que pertenece a la familia Arecaceae, se distribuye a lo largo de América tropical y subtropical.
El mbokaja posee propagación sexuada por semillas, las cuales  presentan problemas de latencia y crecimiento inicial  lento. En condiciones naturales las semillas del mbokaja tardan aproximadamente de uno a dos  años en germinar lo que representa una dificultad para la difusión e implantación del cultivo, sumados a esto el casi nulo conocimiento sobre sus requerimientos ecológicos en su etapa juvenil.
En respuesta al problema de latencia debida a sustancias inhibidoras presentes en el endospermo de la semilla que dificulta la reacción del embrión retardándolo, surge la necesidad de aplicar técnicas no tradicionales para la propagación del cultivo como ser el cultivo in vitro en condiciones controladas, para tal efecto se aplicara la técnica de cultivo de embriones, los cuales no poseen latencia y están en condiciones de reaccionar ante la aplicación de las condiciones favorables pero adherido a  esta vía alternativa de propagación  vía cultivo de embriones va acompañado con considerables pérdidas de explantes debida a la oxidación, en torno a 41%  de acuerdo con estudios realizados en el IAN.
La oxidación de los explantes es considerada  uno de los aspectos más serios relacionados con el cultivo de tejidos de palmáceas. Estos oscurecimientos han sido atribuidos a la liberación y oxidación de compuesto fenólicos que inhiben el crecimiento de los explantes.
La amplia posibilidad de aprovechamiento energético e industrial hace atractiva la explotación racional del cultivo, principalmente por ser una especie perenne y bien adaptada a condiciones climáticas adversas. Cada parte de la planta tiene una importancia destacada, justificándose la necesidad de investigaciones para aumenta su productividad, o bien, la mejora de la calidad de sus innúmeros productos y subproductos.
En relación al fruto, todas sus partes presentan un amplio aprovechamiento industrial como ser la utilización del pericarpo  para la fabricación de raciones destinadas a la alimentación animal, del mesocarpo se obtiene aceite o se destina para la producción de combustibles, del endocarpo se consigue un excelente carbón debido a sus propiedades de alto poder calórico, de la pulpa de la almendra se produce jabones, ración para alimentación animal, pero su valor industrial radica en su contenido de aceite, la cual se destina para consumo humano o en la industrial.
Para mas información, dirigirse a:
Maura Diaz (maisdile@gmail.com )
Ariel Antonio González Duarte (noeledsoid@hotmail.com )
Prof. Dra. Maura Isabel Díaz Lezcano (maisdile@yahoo.es )
Facultad de Ciencias Agrarias/Universidad Nacional de Asunción, Paraguay

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  • Medicinal plants: Report highlights improved harvesting of wild medicines

Source: WWF International, 15 September 2010

Worldwide application of a new standard for sustainable harvesting of wild medicinal, aromatic, dye and food plants and trees is charting new ways to protect the species and their habitats and benefit the communities that depend on them, according to a new report from world wildlife trade monitoring network, TRAFFIC.
In Karnatka, India, it is now possible to collect the resin of the White Palle tree used in traditional Indian medicine and incense without removing the bark and killing the trees that provide it. In Cambodia, a new co-operative has boosted returns to medicinal plant harvesting communities through better harvesting, drying and marketing. In Brazil, a women’s co-operative in Amazonia State and a major natural cosmetics company are aiming to co-operate on the marketing of sustainably harvested products. In Lesotho and South Africa, a harvesting and management strategy for Kalwerbossie, whose tubers are used to treat digestive disorders, will ensure sustainable harvest of the plant, thus providing long term benefits to communities.
“Wild for a cure: ground-truthing a standard for sustainable management of wild plants in the field” details projects ranging from South America to Southern Africa and South-East Asia where new methods were devised to protect key natural resources from the wild while improving the livelihoods and benefits for local people through application of guidelines on sustainable wild collection.
“With around 15 000 of the estimated 50 000-70 000 plant species used for medicine, cosmetics or dietary supplements threatened, the need for developing practical guidelines to ensure supplies are sustainable has never been more urgent,” said Anastasiya Timoshyna, TRAFFIC’s Global Medicinal Plants Programme Leader and co-author of the report.
The project demonstrated sufficient flexibility in the guidelines to allow them to be adapted to meet local conditions, including a variety of governance and land tenure systems in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Cambodia, India, Lesotho, Nepal, and South Africa.
The report notes the importance of ensuring all local stakeholders - from collectors to local organizations, resource management authorities, and businesses - are involved in partnership from the outset, and that clear and realistic market openings should be identified for harvested products and with ways devised to give “added value” to products and a fair share of benefits to the owners of traditional knowledge.
Adequate resources should be allocated for training of local project workers in wild plants’ resource assessment, harvest monitoring, collection and processing techniques and most importantly for protection of their traditional knowledge and benefit-sharing.
“‘Saving Plants that Save Lives and Livelihoods’ project - funded by BMZ - has taken an important step in bridging the gap between words and action to manage wild plants for the future of humankind,” said Dirk Niebel, Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).  “We are glad to demonstrate just ahead of the forthcoming Convention on Biological Diversity that by supporting TRAFFIC, we were able to contribute to the conservation of key natural plant resources from the wild, while improving the livelihoods of and benefits of local people.”
The International Standard for Sustainable Collection of Wild Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ISSC-MAP), evaluated in this study has now been combined with an existing FairWild Foundation standard aimed at ensuring trade in medicinal and aromatic plants is conducted fairly. The new FairWild Standard version 2.0 for the sustainable management and trade in wild-collected natural ingredients came into effect on 8 September.
“Germany’s continued commitment to helping guarantee the sustainable use of medicinal plant resources, particularly in countries that depend on them the most, is a model example for integration of conservation and development aid policies.” said Dr Carlos Drews, Director of WWF’s Global Species Programme.
“The newly developed FairWild guidelines are an invaluable tool to support sustainable harvesting and management regimes, a worldwide challenge facing the conservation community” says Jane Smart, Director, IUCN Biodiversity Conservation Group.
For full story, please see:
wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/?194954/Sustainable-wild-plant-harvesting-proves-a-global-success

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  • Medicinal plants: Revised FairWild Standard launched

Source: www.fairwild.org, 8 September 2010

FairWild Foundation launches its revised Standard for the sustainable management and trade in wild-collected natural ingredients for food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals today (8 September). Globally, more than 400 000 tonnes of medicinal and aromatic plants are traded annually, with the great majority of these species harvested from the wild.
“Application of the revised FairWild Standard will ensure that medicinal plants are sustainably managed and harvested, and that those involved in collecting and trading them receive a fair deal for their knowledge and efforts”, says Bert-Jan Ottens, Board member of the FairWild Foundation responsible for Communication and Marketing.
The FairWild Standard is useful not only for companies wishing to certify their products as sustainably traded. Earlier versions of the Standard are already being used by Government agencies in a number of countries as the basis of their natural resource management plans, thereby helping to fulfil their commitments to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The FairWild Standard Version 2.0 combines all essential elements of the original FairWild Standard, focused on fair trade, and the International Standard for Sustainable Wild Collection of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ISSC-MAP), which focused on ecological sustainability. Moreover, the revised version incorporates the lessons learned through practical application of the Standard in the field.
For full story, please see:
www.fairwild.org/news/2010/9/8/revised-fairwild-standard-launched.html

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  • Medicinal plants: EU legislation puts herbal medicine under threat

Source: Deutsche-Welle Online, 19 September 2010  

With strict European legislation due to come into force next April, will some age-old herbal remedies on sale in health food stores today become, quite literally, a thing of the past?
Industry professionals met in Bologna, Italy last week for a conference held at SANA, the international natural products trade fair, to discuss the future of their sector. From April 2011, all member states will have to comply with an EU directive which specifies that all herbs produced, manufactured and sold in the EU must be classified as either foods or medicines.
Those working in the sector have for a long time been campaigning for regulation and greater control, but the new authorization and licensing requirements have enormous implications for the herbal medicine industry throughout the EU.
Marinella Trovato, President of S.I.S.T.E., the Italian Society for Herbal Science and Technology in Milan, said there is great concern about market ramifications.
"A lot of companies are worried about the possibility that in the future they cannot use a lot of plants for food application." Many small producers and manufacturers of medicinal herbs will no longer be able to afford to do so, unable to cover the cost of authorization licences for medicinal herbs, Trovato added.
UK-trained herbalist, Marco Valussi, speaking at the conference, warned that the terms of the directive would put herbal remedy manufacture in the hands of large pharmaceutical companies, and this was likely to narrow the range of medicinal herbs on the market.
Not all the medicinal plants are, economically speaking, interesting for the big companies," said Valussi, who works in Italy as a consultant in the field of medicinal plants and vegetable-based products. "These companies might decide to focus on maybe five or ten important herbs and leave behind the other ones. So the consumer could have a reduced range of choices."
In Italy, the profession of the herbal practitioner who can treat patients is not legally recognized and herbalists are only qualified to make and sell their products in shops called “erboristerie,” the equivalent of health food stores in the UK and Reformhäuser or Bioläden in Germany. But the new classification will signify a huge loss of business as these stores will no longer be able to sell many of their most popular products, such as passiflora, ginseng and valerian, which will only be available in pharmacies.
Valussi showed concern that some of the less common herbal remedies may disappear completely from the European market. "Obviously, we all want the best quality and lowest risk possible for consumers, but we also want the consumer to have the possibility to use plants." He added that the directive will also put consumers at an economic disadvantage.         "Buying at the pharmacy usually means that you pay much more than if you buy at the erboristeria."
Michael McIntyre, a Professor of Herbal Medicine at the University of Middlesex and Chairman of the European Herbal Practitioners Association, said in the UK, where herbal practitioners are allowed to treat patients directly, the implications for their sector are equally worrying.
As a practitioner, he said, he will likely lose access to a large range of medicines that are made up for him currently by manufacturers to his order for individual patients. "My patients are already very alarmed when I tell them that the medicine they have been taking will not be available next year."
Many commonly used Ayurvedic, Chinese and Tibetan herbal mixes, which are perhaps not medically recognized in the EU, will no longer be legally available. The directive aims to safeguard consumers and ensure the quality of commercialized herbal products, but McIntyre believes it will, ironically, have the opposite effect: "Patients or the public who want to use herbal medicines will be forced to go onto the internet and buy from unsafe sources, or indeed visit backstreet practitioners who do not have proper training."
Michael McIntyre is campaigning for statutory regulation of herbal practitioners in the UK, and for herbalists to be given a new pan-European professional status as certified healthcare professionals. According to government surveys, he said, a quarter of the UK population had actually used herbal medicines in the last two years. "It is important that they know that the people that they are going to see are properly trained and accountable, and that is what regulation will do."
As a practitioner with decades of experience, McIntyre believes it is a measure which not only makes sense for the herbal industry and consumers, but also for the EU's public health services. Safe, gentle herbal remedies can be used to treat numerous conditions from Irritable Bowel Syndrome to headaches and insomnia, avoiding the need for prescription medications.
"Drugs are costing huge sums of money and the governments really cannot afford this," McIntyre said, "I really believe that herbal medicine could go a long way to saving the health budgets of all the EU member states."
For full story, please see: www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,6013380,00.html

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  • Mushrooms in Finland: Exceptionally dry summer delayed mushroom crop

Source: www.forest.fi, 24 September 2010

A warm, rainy autumn can still save the mushroom crop which is weeks late. The past summer was exceptionally warm and dry in Finland. The average temperature in July was over five degrees Centigrade above normal in southern and eastern Finland. The previous record-high temperature measured in Finland - in 1914 - was also broken. The new all-time high, measured in central Finland, is 37.8 degrees Centigrade.
July was also dry on the west and south coasts as well as in Eastern Finland. These areas received less than a third of the normal rainfall during July. In August, the average temperatures were two to three degrees above normal and rainfall was about half of what is normal.
Thus, no mushrooms. According to the Finnish Forest Research Institute, there has hardly ever been a time in recent history when so few mushrooms have been seen in Finnish forests like in August this year.
The northern parts of Finland fared better - or worse, depending on your viewpoint - with the weather. The temperatures were lower and the rainfall greater. Thus, from August onwards, the mushroom crop has only been good in Lapland.
In the southern and eastern parts of Finland the mushroom season has started in September and a good deal more slowly. “We had an extremely dry summer and that shows in the forest. We only got the first real rains in September,” says Ms. Riitta Sutinen, Home Economics Advisor at the South Karelian District Association of the Martha Organization.
Sutinen confirms that the crop has been really late in emerging and predicts that the picking season might be short. However, it really depends on the autumn weather. If the autumn is warm and suitably rainy, a good crop is still possible. She says that some areas have already reported generous crops of Ceps, for example.
Sutinen says that interest in mushrooms has not diminished despite the slow emergence of this year’s crop. The Martha Organization provides information on mushrooms by organizing special events throughout the country where different species are exhibited and questions answered, for example. This autumn, the main topic in Sutinen’s area has been False Chanterelles, as they have been more prevalent than usual and people keep bringing them in for identification.
“And during events where we have tables filled with recently picked mushroom species, both edible and non-edible, we get questions from men and women, young and old. This confirms mushroom picking is not a dying hobby.”
Despite the slow start, the picking season will continue for weeks. Depending on frost and species, mushrooms can be picked until the permanent snow cover arrives. Some species even like a bit of frost to propel them into good growth.
www.forest.fi/smyforest/foresteng.nsf/tiedotteetlookup/D1DE0765978F0CCDC22577A80037EF68

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  • Mushrooms in Poland: Poles head to forests for annual mushroom hunt

Source: Reuters India, 28 September 2010

Taking a stroll in a Polish forest this autumn can resemble a visit to the local shopping mall - people jostling each other on all sides, armed with baskets, consumption on their minds.
The visitors are enjoying the traditional Polish pastime of mushroom picking and this year more young people seem to have joined the hunt, encouraged by a bumper crop following an unusually wet spring and summer.
"I never expected mushroom picking to be so relaxing and so exciting at the same time," said Karolina Kulfan, 33, clutching a large basket crammed with "boleti" mushrooms.
"Finding a nice boletus is like winning the lottery," she joked.
The boletus (Boletus edulis), which usually has a white stalk and brown or yellow top, is generally considered the best-tasting mushroom.
Poland is one of the biggest mushroom exporters worldwide and is estimated to provide some 90 percent of the boleti eaten in Europe.
With nearly a third of Polish territory covered by forest, many Poles have easy access to good mushroom picking areas. Families will happily spend a whole weekend searching for mushrooms and the results of their labour is a favourite topic of conversation at work on Monday mornings.
In many rural communities, local people sit for hours by the roadside trying to sell their hoard to passing motorists. Mushroom gathering is also popular in Russia, the Baltic states and some other parts of eastern and southern Europe.
Though Poles pride themselves on their mushroom knowledge and teach their children and grandchildren which ones to avoid, accidents still happen and hospitals receive a steady flow of people during the autumn who have eaten toxic varieties.
For full story, please see: http://in.reuters.com/article/idINIndia-51788020100928

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  • Truffle hunters set to sniff out bumper crop

Source: Independent (UK), 23 September 2010

Gourmets in Italy and beyond are licking their lips in anticipation of a bumper crop this year of the most prized culinary delicacy of all, the white truffle.
The combination of mild weather and a bleak financial climate means the coming months will see lots of high-quality fungus at a - relatively - low price, say experts.
"We are just at the start of the season, and truffle is a strange product, but so far the climatic conditions have been textbook," said Giacomo Oddero, president of the National Centre for Truffle Studies in Alba (Italy), the centre of the truffle trade. "The first indications are excellent and suggest that we will remember this year for a long time to come."
In particular, the relatively cool August, followed by Indian summer weather in September, have helped the white truffle or Magnatum pico to grow readily underground in the forests of the Piemonte region, the heart of white truffle territory, where the season runs from 15 September to 31 January.
The large crop and the economic downturn already appear to be depressing prices of the "white gold" of the forest. Mr Oddero told the Italian newspaper “La Stampa” that the price was currently languishing at "just" €200 (£170) per 100g, compared with the usual price of €400 per 100g. All of which is good news for truffle fanciers.
In previous years ‑  most noticeably inclement, pre-recession 2007, the black year for the white truffle ‑ prices rocketed to €750 per 100g, as overseas millionaires snaffled what little truffle there was, ostentatiously racking up four-figure bills in glitzy restaurants.
The record price paid for a white truffle was set in December 2007, when Macau casino owner Stanley Ho paid US$330 000 (£210,000) for a specimen weighing 1.5kg. He followed it up the next year buying one for US$200 000 (£128,000) that was slightly over 1kg and dug up in Molise, a region in Italy's south.
As organizers prepare for next month's 80th international white truffle trade fair in Alba, few people expect the return of such stratospheric prices. But business is still expected to be brisk, said Mr Oddero.
The truffles, which look like small, shrunken potatoes when they are dug out of the clayish, calcium-rich soil around oak, willow or poplar trees, are creamy-coloured inside.       Attempts to grow them commercially have failed.
Despite its aromatic, highly pungent taste, the white truffle is also very delicate; this and its high cost ensures that it is used sparingly and served raw - usually shaved over steaming buttered pasta or salads.
The fungi, which it used to be thought grew where lightning struck, are harvested by experienced gatherers known in Piemonte as “trifolau.”
There are dozens of truffle species, at least eight of which grow in Italy. For people who cannot afford the white variety, the more common but less flavourful black type is a common choice. This has also proved possible to farm and is better suited to cooking.
For full story, please see: www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/truffle-hunters-set-to-sniff-out-bumper-crop-2087048.html

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  • Vegetable Ivory: Assisting small farmers in Ecuador

Source: Oxfam Ireland, 23 September 2010

Tagua nuts (harvested from a tree species called Hyphaene phytelephas) come from the ivory palm tree (often called vegetable ivory for its similar properties) which grows only in the rainforests of Ecuador and Peru. Once it reaches maturity, a tree will bear fruit for up to a century.
The 20-50cm fruit from the ivory palm is called a “mococha.” It is collected from the forest floor after it falls from the tree and animals take care of removing the tough outer husk. The individual nuts are then removed from the fruit and dried in the sun for 6-8 weeks before they can be worked. They can then be sliced, cut and dyed as required.
Individual nuts are removed from the fruit by hand. Before the invention of plastics, tagua nut was used for buttons, dice, chess pieces etc. Now it makes great fashion jewellery handmade by Fair Trade cooperatives such as Camari in Ecuador.
Camari is a Quechua word meaning “please” or “gift.” Camari was formed in 1981 to assist small farmers and the urban poor to market their agricultural and craft products. Working with Camari benefits approximately 15 000 families around the country; they are particularly focused on development of products which have no negative impacts on the environment. In addition to product marketing, they also provide credit and technical assistance and training to individual artisans and farmers.
For full story, please see: www.oxfamireland.org/blog/2010/09/23/natural-tagua-nut-jewellery-fair-trade-of-course/

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COUNTRY INFORMATION

  • Brazil: Lessons learned from Amazonas

Source: IIED in The Star Tribune (Minnesota), 26 September 2010

Deep in the Amazon rainforest, a strong bid is being made to save the trees. Between 2003 and 2009, the deforestation rate of Amazonas, Brazil's most forested state, which has more rainforest than any country save Brazil itself, dropped by 70 percent.
This success was partly for reasons that have little to do with Amazonas. Over the same period, the federal government improved its enforcement of forest laws. Global demand for Brazil's agricultural commodities, rivals for forest land, also dipped. Thus the country's overall deforestation rate also slumped.
But few have championed this change as effectively as Amazonas's rulers, led by the state's former governor, Eduardo Braga, and his environment secretary, Virgilio Viana.    According to Viana, their ambition was to change the way the rainforest was viewed: to make it an economic opportunity, not an impediment to progress. To encourage this shift, they issued a raft of incentives for forest conservation, such as tax breaks for NTFPs like rubber, palm hearts and nuts.
Their most ambitious scheme, the Bolsa Floresta, or forest bursary, is a cash transfer ‑ of around US$6,500 a month for communities and US$30 for families ‑ for forest-dwellers who swear not to cut trees. Partially paid for by Bradesco, one of Brazil's biggest private banks, this is a useful pilot project for REDD, the burgeoning international effort to reduce deforestation and the greenhouse-gas emissions it causes. REDD is now being launched with US$4.5 billion, given by a few rich countries, including Norway and Britain, and could eventually involve transfers of tens of billions of dollars to developing countries that are similarly forsworn.
For full story, please see: www.startribune.com/business/103755294.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUUsZ

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  • Canada: Métis complete traditional plant use study for Southern Ontario

Source: Métis Nation of Ontario release in Traditional Knowledge Bulletin, 22 September 2010

On 15 September, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) released the findings from a first-of-its-kind traditional knowledge study on Métis plant and vegetation use in southern Ontario.  The study, entitled, “Southern Ontario Métis Traditional Plant Use Study”, highlights some of the unique traditional and medicinal practices of Métis in relation to plants and vegetation in southern Ontario.  The study also documents notable changes to the environment in southern Ontario over the past few decades and the impacts those changes have had on Métis plant and vegetation use, as identified by Métis Elders and traditional resource users.
The study was supported by Ontario Power Generation (OPG), as a part of its engagement of Aboriginal groups who may be potentially impacted by the Darlington New Nuclear Build project. Over the last year, OPG has engaged with the MNO’s Community Councils in Northumberland, Oshawa and Durham Regions, as well as the MNO’s Lands, Resources and Consultation branch in order to produce the study and ascertain any potential impacts from the Darlington New Nuclear Build project on Métis way of life.
MNO President Gary Lipinski commented, “Through studies like this, Ontario Métis are finally being able to tell our story in the province and share our traditional knowledge in order to protect Métis rights, interests and way of life for generations to come.”
“I want to thank all of the Elders, Métis traditional resource users and MNO Community Councils who had a role in making this study a reality. I know this study will be an important resource for our people today and generations to come,” concluded President Lipinski.
For full story, please see:
www.metisnation.org/news--media/news/metis-complete-traditional-plant-use-study-for-southern-ontario.aspx

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  • Democratic Republic of Congo: Saving bonobos means aiding left-behind communities

Source: www.mongabay.com, 23 September 2010

Unlike every other of the world's great apes - the gorilla, chimpanzee, and orang-utan - saving the bonobo means focusing conservation efforts on a single nation, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). While such a fact would seem to simplify conservation, according to the director of the Bonobo and Congolese Biodiversity Initiative (BCBI), Gay Reinartz, it in fact complicates it: after decades of one of world's brutal civil wars, the DRC remains among the world's most left-behind nations. Widespread poverty, violence, politically instability, corruption, and lack of basic infrastructure have left the Congolese people in desperate straits.
"From a place of privilege, I have had the opportunity to look upon a society essentially reduced to its simplest, most fundamental term - survival. In Congo, I have witnessed wider extremes of cruelty and kindness, exploitation and generosity, revenge and forgiveness," Reinartz told mongabay.com in an interview. While developing and directing BCBI - a program established through the Zoological Society of Milwaukee (ZSM) - Reinartz has spent years working closely with Congolese communities in order to improve lives and, hopefully, ensure the long-term survival of the bonobo.
Bonobos are most closely related to chimpanzees, but have been considered a separate species since the 1930s. While bonobos have some notable physical differences from chimpanzees, it is their behavioural differences that have really grasped the public imagination, especially their reputation of being lovers, not fighters.
"Bonobos have a playful nature. The idea that bonobos are a peace loving society is true - but to a certain extent," Reinartz explains. "This trait is relative and must be seen in comparison to other great ape species.
To save the world's least known great ape, the BCBI has developed a number of initiatives. The organization has trained Congolese field workers to survey bonobo and other large mammal populations in Salongo National Park, providing baseline data for before and after conflict erupted in the region. The surveys are also studying different bonobo densities in a number of sites in the park, variously affected by poaching.
BCBI has also established programs to support protective measures in the park, including setting up an anti-poaching patrol, training park guards, and coming through with supplies and funds for park guards in emergencies. Reinartz says the situation is incredibly difficult for park guards, and often dangerous especially when facing elephant poachers.
"There are fewer than two hundred park guards who are responsible for patrolling this entire area. They lack training, guns, means of transportation, communication, and basic forest equipment. There is approximately one gun per four men. They are no match for the well-armed elephant poachers who come in brandishing AK-47s."
The biggest current threat to bonobos and most of the wildlife in the park is hunting: the great apes are killed for bushmeat as well as trapped in snares meant for other big mammals. Given the poverty of the region, and few ways to make money, the bushmeat trade has boomed in the DRC.
"So, how do we convince them not to hunt? We have to give communities incentives to do something else and begin to build greater awareness. At the same time then, the park guards have to do their job in law enforcement. The two approaches must work from either side simultaneously - one with the other," says Reinartz.
Giving communities incentives not to hunt includes working on providing new economic and education opportunities, both of which are basically non-existent in the region. BCBI has established a farming cooperative with a local NGO, helping villagers to learn to grow their own food and hopefully start up markets to sell the extra. The organization has also set-up primary schools, including providing materials and paying local teachers, and adult literacy courses. In such a region, if conservation is to succeed, conservation programs have to become humanitarian programs, filling in the role of a crippled government, a battered economy, and a region still suffering from bouts of violence. Part of the battle, says Reinartz, is convincing people that conservationists can be trusted, that BCBI will not abandon communities if times get rough again.
"For many people, even though they might understand why and regret that elephants, bonobos and other animals have vanished from their communal forests, they consider conservation efforts as just another way they are being cheated and neglected. To change these attitudes will take a long time and program consistency to overcome generations of negative conditioning and hopelessness."
Even in the face of war and poverty, Reinartz is clearly amazed at the generosity and strength of many of the Congolese people.
For full story, please see: http://news.mongabay.com/2010/0923-hance_reinartz.html

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  • Eritrea: Efforts underway to boost honey production in Senafe sub-zone

Source: www.allafrica.com, 27 September 2010

The transfer of bee swarms from traditional bee hives to modern ones is being carried out in 15 administrative areas of Senafe sub-zone with a view to boosting honey production, according to Mr. Zaid Tekle, expert in bee farming in the Southern region.
He explained that about 1 000 bee swarms have so far been transferred to modern hives, and that two modern bee hives have been extended to 824 nationals each in the sub-zone engaged in bee farming activities, in addition to training course regarding its utilization.
Mr. Zaid further noted that the transfer process has been carried out earlier in the villages of Golo, Dengolo, Tisha, Talhanari'e and Keshiat, and called on the remaining villages to follow suit.
The head of bee farming in Senafe sub-zone, Ms. Mulu Nire'a, said on her part that the sub-zone is suitable for bee farming and urged farmers to be cautious and consult experts while resorting to the use of pesticides, as it may have negative consequences on bees.
The beneficiaries stressed the significance of modern bee hives in boosting honey production.
For full story, please see: http://allafrica.com/stories/201009271796.html

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  • Ethiopia: White honey project in Wukro

Source: Slowfood International, 22 September 2010

Wukro is located in the heart of the Tigrai, in the extreme north of Ethiopia on the border with Eritrea. It is an extremely arid region, with impressive red rocky mountains alternating with deep canyons and valleys.
After the main rainy season, bees benefit from the short flowering period and produce an aromatic honey with very distinctive properties. Wukro White honey is mainly sold in bulk (in plastic drums) to intermediaries who pay a derisory price to the producers and often distribute it in the large towns, mixed with lower quality honey.
In 2010 a building for honey extraction will be completed in a recent Slowfood Project in Wukro involving 17 beekeepers and their families. This will allow the beekeepers to improve the quality of their product by working in a more hygienic and sanitary environment. A shop will also be built where producers can sell their honey and other products directly to the public. Greater diversification by promoting other traditional products will help the local economy to be less vulnerable.
Supporting beekeepers in Ethiopia not only helps to defend the country’s biodiversity, but provides an additional source of income for the communities of this region which live in a subsistence economy based on growing cereals and legumes and keeping livestock.
For full story, please see:
www.slowfood.com/donate/pagine/eng/progetti.lasso?-idp=014

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  • Montenegro: A UN-backed project turns polluted town into a magnet for ecotourism

Source: UN News, 9 September 2010

Municipal officials in the town of Mojkovac organized the clean-up of a lake poisoned by chemical run-off from the former mine into a recreational area based around adventure tourism and ecotourism, the UNDP reported yesterday.
The project is part of the UNDP-backed Western Balkans Environmental “Hot Spots” programme, a three-year initiative funded by the Netherlands to assist areas in the region that suffered from industrial pollution.
UNDP is working with the municipality to develop organic agriculture and possible alternative uses for the closed mine, such as a museum or underground bicycle trail. A kayak club has been set up and other ecotourism opportunities are being explored.
UNDP Administrator Helen Clark visited Mojkovac with national officials yesterday, hailing the project for removing the “rather toxic legacy” from the town.
“I think Montenegro has a really special environment out there and the opportunities for ecotourism are endless,” she said. “You can do anything out there in those hills and valleys!”
Miss Clark is visiting Montenegro and Moldova as part of a trip spotlighting the two Eastern European countries’ efforts to reduce poverty and boost social and economic development.
For full story, please see: www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=35876&Cr=Pollution&Cr1=#

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  • Morocco: “Paloma Honey” project provides fitting tribute to FAO colleague

Source: Paul Anthem in FAO News, September 2010

A project set up in memory of a FAO colleague is helping improve the lives of hillside families in Morocco.
FAO colleagues and other friends raised money for a project dedicated to Paloma Sancho, aged 45, who died last year after a short illness.
The result is a thriving mini bee industry on the hills of Ait Ichou, north-central Morocco, where ten families keep beehives and use “Paloma honey” as food and to sell locally.
“The idea was to support a project that would ensure Paloma’s memory lived on and that created something positive,” said Clara Velez Fraga in FAO’s Communications Department.
“She worked in Morocco before coming to FAO and was very interested in the country’s development, so it was natural this country was chosen.”
Sancho worked in the field programme development service at FAO and was especially interested in gender issues. This is also reflected in the project, which focuses on ten families of up to eight children, including eight headed by women.
Forty beehives and equipment including honey jars were provided under the US$9 865 initiative, which also included training in bee-keeping and marketing.
Sancho’s husband Javier Valdivielso and her children Claudia and Mariana recently visited the town to see the project for themselves.
“It is very important that Paloma’s life continues through this project, bringing together her friends and all those who knew her and helping everyone remember her,” said Valdivielso. “When they asked me to name the honey, there was really only one name to use – “Paloma. It was also good for her children because they knew what their mother did and the type of work she was involved in.”
The project includes a trust fund where some of the money raised through the honey is saved and used to develop the initiative over the long term. The plan is to have 100 beehives at the start of the third year
Three main types of honey can be produced - lavender, carob and flower - and the aim is to expand this into selling bees, pollen and royal jelly.
“Projects like this can make all the difference for poor families in making sure there is enough food on the table for their children,” explained project coordinator Mohamed Oukessou in the FAO Morocco office.
Velez Fraga added: “There was a real group effort in making this happen, between FAO staff, other friends and FAO colleagues in Morocco. Paloma was great at working together with many people to make things happen, and it is fitting that this was reflected in how the project came about. We hope we are able to see it in future years getting stronger and stronger."

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  • Republic of Korea pays homage to ginseng

Source: AFP in The Vancouver Sun (Canada), 10 September 2010

"Look! It's huge!" shouts a muddy but beaming Han Myung-Ja, 52, plunging her hoe into the soil to unearth a giant ginseng root.
Han fills a basket with the man-shaped root as she collects seasonal presents for family and friends - one of dozens of people doing the same at South Korea's biggest ginseng festival.
The plant, known to Koreans as the "root of life" for its purported health-giving properties, grows wild in deep valleys and on shaded hillsides and has also been cultivated on the peninsula for 1 500 years.
Devotees say the root increases resistance to stress and fatigue, has an aphrodisiac quality and acts as a stimulant, although it has proved difficult scientifically to prove some of the claimed benefits.
Last year the Republic of Korea produced 27 460 tonnes of ginseng roots - worth about US$700 million - including exports valued at more than US$21 million.
Geumsan county, 130km south of the capital Seoul, is the hub of the industry. Its ginseng market operates year-round and accounts for 80 percent of all the country's trades.
Geumsan also draws almost one million visitors every year to its ginseng festival, which precedes the major holiday of Chuseok (thanksgiving) at which the root is a prized gift. The event this year ran from 3-12 September.
The festival earned some US$76 million last year, including US$27 million in sales of raw ginseng and US$13 million spent at an expo of various products based on the herb.
"Our county is where ginseng was first found - according to legend - and ginseng here is of good quality due to the nutritious soil and the right amount of sunshine," county mayor Park Dong-Cheol told AFP.
The event involves a lot more than digging up roots. In a food competition, chefs ranging from soldiers to students are encouraged to be creative.
Among a variety of other dishes, rolls filled with ginseng and vegetables are used to decorate models of traditional Korean homes.
During the expo, more than 150 tonnes of ginseng products are sold daily to both locals and foreigners.
The festival also offers visitors a chance to dig for the roots, a free health examination, ginseng facial beauty masks, massages involving a form of ginseng aromatherapy and foot baths in water flavoured by the root.
Visitors eager to check their health and receive the appropriate free treatment form long lines.
The festival celebrated its 30th anniversary this year by opening the International Ginseng and Herb Research Institute, a 17 billion won (US$14 million) project with 11 researchers dedicated to proving the health benefits of ginseng and honing cultivation skills.
"We plan to increase the number of researchers to up to 21 in five years and are currently preparing labs for projects," said county mayor Park.
The county says its goal is to make ginseng production scientific and easier for buyers to trace, in a bid to promote the root more widely overseas.
"Ginseng and Koreans cannot be separated. It is our medicine and our food and we will try to show all its benefits to foreigners through this festival," said Park.
For full story, please see: www.vancouversun.com/health/South+Koreans+homage+ginseng/3507277/story.html

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  • Slovenia ranks among the countries with the highest biodiversity in the EU

Source: Slovenia Times in Balkan Business News Correspondent, 20 September 2010

Slovenia ranks among the countries with the highest biodiversity in the European Union. Some scientists have even labelled it as one of the “hot spots” of the continent. A relatively small space interlinks the Alps, the Dinarides, the Mediterranean and the Pannonian Basin. All of this is reflected in the rugged surface, diverse geological structure, rapidly varying climate and, of course, the richness of flora and fauna.
Around 22 000 plant and animal species have been recorded in Slovenia, but it is estimated that at least 50 000 to 120 000 actually exist. There are 850 endemic species, of which more than 300 live in the underworld of Slovenia’s many caves. Slovenians are accountable for the survival of such endemic species, because they do not live anywhere else.
Slovenia is also home to a large number of animal and plant species that are endangered in Europe or on the verge of becoming so. The Natura 2000 areas (a centrepiece of EU’s biodiversity strategy) are set deliberately for their protection; 36 percent of Slovenia’s surface is protected in this way - the highest proportion in Europe.
Slovenia’s biodiversity is particularly threatened by the changing of the natural habitat and the impact of non-native invasive species. Direct threats - such as the collecting, harvesting, fishing, hunting and trading of endangered species - are less important causes of endangerment. This is also the result of the growing awareness of the importance of biodiversity among Slovenians.
For full story, please see: www.balkans.com/open-news.php?uniquenumber=71404

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  • UK: Inbred bumblebees “face extinction threat”

Source: BBC Earth News, 6 September 2010

Some of the UK's rarest bumblebees are at risk of becoming extinct as a result of inbreeding, research suggests.
The lack of genetic diversity is making the bees more vulnerable to a number of threats, including parasitic infection, say scientists in Scotland. They warn that some populations of bees are becoming increasingly isolated as a result of habitat loss.
The findings are being presented at the British Ecological Society's annual meeting at the University of Leeds. Lead researcher Penelope Whitehorn, a PhD student from Stirling University, said the study of moss carder bumblebees (Bombus muscorum) on nine Hebridean islands, off the west coast of Scotland, offered an important insight into the possible consequences of inbreeding.
"The genetic work had already been carried out on these bumblebees, so we knew that the smaller and more isolated populations were more inbred than the larger populations on the mainland," she told BBC News.
"And as it was an island system, it could work as a proxy for what could occur on the mainland if populations do become isolated from each other as a result of habitat fragmentation."
The study is believed to be the first of its kind to investigate inbreeding and immunity in wild bees.
Ms Whitehorn found that, although the inbreeding did not seem to affect the bees' immune system directly, it did make the insects more susceptible to parasitic infection.
"We found that isolated island populations of the moss carder bumblebee with lower genetic diversity have an increased prevalence of the gut parasite Crithidia bombi," she explained.
"Our study suggests that as bumblebee populations lose genetic diversity the impact of parasitism will increase, which may increase the extinction risk of threatened populations."
She added that the populations of the bees on the islands were "quite healthy because the habitat was so good", but inbreeding did have a range of other consequences, such as the production of infertile males.
"If inbreeding occurs on mainland Britain, where the habitat is not so good, then species may well be threatened," Ms Whitehorn suggested.
Ms Whitehorn cited the example of the short-haired bumblebee (Bombus subterraneus), which finally became nationally extinct in the late 1980s when a parasitic infection placed increased pressure on the remaining populations, which were already vulnerable as a result of fragmented habitats.
The UK currently has 24 species of bumblebee, after seeing two species become nationally extinct in recent decades.
Of the remaining species, one quarter have been identified as being in need of conservation to prevent them from disappearing from the British landscape.
For full story, please see: www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11199779

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  • USA: Urban foraging - A look at the deep connections between people and ecosystems

From: Eric Jones (IFCAE), 2 September 2010

Do you forage for wild fennel? Pluck juicy berries from nearby shrubs? Gather fallen figs, apples, plums, walnuts and chestnuts? Harvest stinging nettles, dandelion, chickweed, watercress or other edible greens? Use Oregon grape or woodland fungi to dye textile fibers? If so, then you just might be an “urban forager.”
Foraging is a deeply interactive nature practice that links urban residents to the intricate web of urban ecology while improving overall health and well-being. Urban ecosystems yield a bounty of edible, medicinal and useful plants and organisms important to the diverse communities. Forested woodlands, parks, alleys, parking strips, vacant lots and other areas outside the garden provide habitat for well over 250 native and introduced species of plants and mushrooms in Seattle, Washington, some which are foraged year-round. Gathering vegetative material serves many purposes, including: providing food, medicine, and raw material, strengthening social ties, and maintaining cultural identity.
The Institute for Culture and Ecology (a non-profit applied research organization) is currently taking an in-depth look at the diversity of plants and fungi important to people in Seattle. As part of the Green Cities Research Alliance, we are examining the social, economic and cultural importance of foraging and gathering in urban ecosystems and the extent to which foraging practices foster stewardship of plants and habitats. The Seattle Urban Foraging project has the potential to link planners, land managers and gatherers in ways that build new bridges for urban green space management that not only supports a diversity of environmental stewardship activities, but also supports broader initiatives of environmental justice.
If you are a forager or interested in participating in this project, please consider getting in touch with the project leader, Dr. Melissa Poe (mpoe@ifcae.org).
For more information, please see: www.urbanfarmhub.org/2010/09/urban-foraging-a-look-at-the-deep-connections-between-people-and-ecosystems-in-seattle/

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  • USA: Turning to foraging to connect with nature

Source: Associated Press, 13 September 2010

When Chef Josh Skenes first sought the flavour of Northern California, he went to local growers. Then he went beyond farms, joining a growing number of urbanites who are returning to humanity's first pursuit - foraging - in a search for food that satisfies a deeper hunger.
Eating foods that grow wild and learning to identify, harvest and prepare them satisfies a need to connect to the environment in a novel way. Plus, food like spicy pods of wild radishes and sweet fennel flowers tastes good, especially in the hands of Skenes, a veteran of top restaurants who is among several high-profile chefs incorporating wild elements into his menu.
Skenes said the greens, roots, flowers and berries that thrive in California's sun and fog-drenched landscape taste sharper and purer than their farmed cousins.
"How do you find the deepest point in flavour?" he asked. "The wild is usually the answer. You cannot duplicate nature. There is a difference between something that grows naturally and something that is forced."
The drive to get close to nature - close enough to taste it - has inspired others as well.
The group ForageSF throws several monthly dinners that sell out at US$80 a person, gathering enthusiasts around a communal table heaped with dishes like wild fennel flan with blood red daikon, garlic crostini and duck confit, or drakes bay oysters with tempura-fried sea beans.
The founder, Iso Rabins, plans to start offering subscriptions to wild-food boxes with veggies, mushrooms and fish, where too-busy city dwellers can take home tasty bits of wilderness gathered by expert foragers.
"When you know what is edible in your area, you never look at the environment in the same way again," Rabins said. "You value it more - it is less abstract."
Kevin Feinstein, a forager and instructor with the group, agreed. "We come at it from the perspective of sustainability," he said. "We are part of the ecosystem. We want to be involved in it. Ideally, it is a reciprocal relationship."
The interest in wild food walks also shows how foraging has grown. On a recent Saturday, 15 people gathered in the parking lot of an Oakland park to follow Feinstein as he identified edible plants.
Before they even left the parking lot driveway, he had introduced the group to live oaks that produce tiny, tannic acorns, a California black walnut tree, a California bay tree - with spicy caper-like flower buds and leaves far more potent than those found at the supermarket - wild fennel and its look-alike, the poisonous hemlock.
Foraging is not confined to the West Coast.   Steve Brill leads walks all over New York, including in Brooklyn's Prospect Park and Manhattan's Central Park. Identifying wild edibles awakens in people a "primal hunger," Brill said.
"They start eating these things, and they do not want to stop," he said. "We shake a mulberry bush and eat. We dig up burdock root, wild carrots, wild parsnips, we collect sassafras. They want to take them home, cook with them, eat them."
Foragers can run into trouble. Brill got arrested once for harvesting in Central Park, and many public spaces have rules against collecting.
San Francisco bans wild food from markets or restaurants, but Rabins said the city seems willing to look the other way.
"People come into the city to experience these things," he said. "It may be on the books that we are not supposed to be there, but it is in everyone's interest to keep it going."
Still, there are dangers to eating wild foods.   "Anybody who is foraging and serving should be very knowledgeable, know the edible plants and know how to identify their toxic look-alikes," said Kent Olson, medical director of the San Francisco division of the California Poison Control System. "Consumers have to put their trust in procurers and servers - so try to find out the reliability of the people procuring the foods."
All of it is an opportunity to learn more about the natural world, Skenes said: "It is about constant exploration."
For full story, please see:
www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hxacOoxjhjIcYwdKeaGiaTwcI9QD9I6SSS01
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  • USA: Native plants now herbal remedies

Source: www.kansan.com (University of Kansas, USA), 19 September 2010

Standing near Rockefeller Prairie northeast of Lawrence, Kelly Kindscher said he was going to take people into the native Kansas prairie behind him.
Kindscher, senior scientist for the Kansas Biological Survey, led the medicinal plant walk as part of the fall open house for the Native Medicinal Plant Research Garden in northeastern Douglas County. Some of the seeds for the research garden came from the University of Kansas’s Rockefeller Prairie in Jefferson County.
The garden is part of a collaborative effort between the botany and medicinal chemistry departments at the University. Kindscher and Barbara Timmermann, chair of the medicinal chemistry department, head the Native Medicinal Plant Research Program. The goal is to understand medicinal compounds in native plants that could be used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, foods and medicines for pets and livestock.
The program is funded by a five-year, US$5 million grant from Heartland Plant Innovations, which received start-up funding from the Kansas Bioscience Authority.
The garden melds the old and the new: the state’s native plants and modern technology.
“We’re kind of in a new game, as I see it,” Kindscher said. He said that is where the University and research come in.
Kirsten Bosnak, outreach coordinator for the program, said there were no plants in the five-acre garden at the beginning of May. Now, 20 species of native plants grow there. These include common milkweed, stinging nettle and white sage.
Tall boneset was the garden’s first plant to be harvested. After plants are harvested, they are sent to medicinal research labs at the University’s West Campus.
Along with continuing their research, Kindscher said another goal of the project is to teach people about plants and medicinal plants native to Kansas.
The use of herbal products to help with sickness or injury is common in countries in Europe and Asia, Kindscher said. With more knowledge and understanding, he said more Americans could use herbal products in this manner as well.
What can native plants do for you?
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is found in the prairies, meadows and open woods of all northern continents. Yarrow has been used for its wound-healing properties. If dried powder from the plant is put on a wound, it will heal faster.
Mint (Mentha arvensis ): Wild mint tends to grow in moist soil of stream banks and prairie ravines. Peppermint (often used in tea) can be used to help digestion.
Purple coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia) grows in dry upland prairies of the Great Plains, often in rocky areas. Some Native American tribes considered the plant a “cure-all.” The medicinal properties of the plant act as an immune-stimulant.
To learn more about the program or plants that are native to Kansas, please visit: www.nativeplants.ku.edu.
For full story, please see: www.kansan.com/news/2010/sep/19/native-plants-and-modern-technology-mesh-medicinal/?news

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  • Vietnam cracks down on illegal wildlife trade

Source: Wildlife Conservation Society, 9 September 2010

Last week, more than 100 police officers raided restaurants in Da Lat City, Vietnam. What they found was unappetizing: illegally poached animals of nearly 20 species. The authorities arrested more than a dozen restaurant owners for planning to serve meals of pangolins, porcupines, mouse deer, monitor lizards, bears, snakes, and other rare animals - amounting to more than 850 pounds of meat.
Criminal prosecutions are in store for the wholesaler who was supplying the restaurants with the unlawful wildlife goods. A larger investigation is also underway to determine where the animals were captured and what trading networks were involved in transporting and selling them.
"The detection and prosecution of restaurants illegally serving wildlife is a critical step in the battle for wildlife conservation in Vietnam," said Mr. Tran Thanh Binh, head of Lam Dong Forest Protection Department. "The campaign today is our warning shot to illegal wildlife traders that Lam Dong province will not condone wildlife violators anymore."
The raid that swept through Da Lat City and neighboring towns came after recent surveys revealed that 44 restaurants and 33 traditional Chinese medicine shops in the area were selling wildlife. The surveys are part of a campaign that WCS and its partners have developed to help curb the illegal wildlife trade.
"WCS commends the strong and decisive actions of Lam Dong province on tackling wildlife trade in Da Lat City and hopes these seizures will be followed up with investigations to identify and prosecute the illegal traders behind the restaurants," said Scott Roberton of WCS-Vietnam. "The future of wildlife in Vietnam hangs in the balance, but with more agencies showing a strong commitment like Lam Dong Forest Protection Department, things could change for the better very quickly."
For full story, please see: www.wcs.org/new-and-noteworthy/huge-wildlife-crime-bust-in-vietnamese-restaurants.aspx

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  • Vietnam: How to reduce bamboo toothpick import

 

Source: Voice of Vietnam News, 12 September 2010

Bamboo is everywhere in Vietnam and there is no need to use advanced technology to produce bamboo toothpicks. Notwithstanding, Vietnam is importing hundreds of tonnes of bamboo toothpicks every year.
The Vietnamese Government is trying to limit the trade deficit while the Political Bureau is implementing a campaign to encourage Vietnamese people to use Vietnamese products in an effort to reach the highest possible economic growth rate. But in the last month, up to 200 tonnes of bamboo toothpicks worth US$25 500 were imported through Cat Lai port in HCM City and in the first half of this year, nearly 1 000 tonnes of bamboo toothpicks were imported via border gates.
Vietnamese bamboo is exported, then the country imports bamboo products at a much higher price.
In fact, domestic bamboo toothpicks are produced by local Blind Associations and people are encouraged to buy them as a charitable activity so the price is very low and they are not highly competitive.
As people’s living standards improve, the demand for high-end consumer products grows.
If Vietnam can produce bamboo toothpicks itself, it would generate thousands jobs in the country and the State would save a lot of foreign currency.
For full story, please see: http://english.vovnews.vn/Utilities/PrintView.aspx?ID=119500

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NEWS

  • Biopiracy: Nations urge deal on protocol to stem biopiracy

Source: Reuters, 23 September 2010

Developing countries called on Wednesday for renewed efforts to agree on a U.N. protocol to control access to genetic resources, a step with potentially huge implications for drug companies.
Countries with a rich variety of plant and animal species, including Brazil, India and Colombia, say the measure would help end centuries of "biopiracy" and ensure developing countries benefit from discoveries based on native species or traditional medicine.
Biopiracy refers to the commercial exploitation of plants or other genetic matter without adequately compensating the communities where they are found.
"Countries like Brazil and India have been victims of biopiracy over many decades; we need to protect our bio-resources and we have to protect our traditional knowledge," Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told reporters during the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
The protocol on "access and benefit sharing" was expected to be finalized at talks in Montreal earlier this week and then adopted at a meeting in Japan next month. However, diplomats failed to finalize a draft.
"Between now and Nagoya, it is up to the ministers to find the political solution to some of the issues," Ramesh said. The minister said the protocol would put controls over the commercial use of traditional knowledge as well as genetic resources such as plant species.
The so-called ABS protocol would, among other things, affect how and when researchers, universities, and companies from developed countries could use genes from plants or animals that originate in developing countries.
For example, it would set rules on how and when drug companies could use plants from the Amazon forest in their work and it would commit them to share the benefits or royalties of any discoveries with the indigenous peoples of the area.
Colombia's Vice Minister for the Environment, Carlos Castano, said agreement on the protocol was vital to ensure "the benefits of biodiversity reach indigenous local communities."
Officials in developing countries say it will also help safeguard their property rights.
"In Brazil we had a fruit whose name was patented by another country and we had a fight over the right to use the name of our fruit in our products," said Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado, Brazil's lead climate negotiator, referring to the Acai berry.
"We won that fight but that is the kind of uncertainty we want to overcome with this new regime."
The protocol is part of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity, which recognizes the sovereign rights of states over their natural resources in areas within their jurisdiction and legally binds countries to conserve biological diversity.
For full story, please see: http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE68M05L20100923

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  • Bringing the voice of forest people to the world at the IUFRO World Congress

Source: People and Forests E-News, 9 September 2010

More than 30 years after “Forests for People” was the theme of the 1978 World Forestry Congress, the subject is resurfacing with new hope. Key players in the forestry world are again recognizing that the health of forest ecosystems depends on what people want from forests, as well as institutions that help them achieve their goals. The resurgence of these ideas was particularly evident at August’s IUFRO World Congress in Seoul, attended by more than 3 000 forestry experts from 110 countries.
Throughout the Congress, speakers emphasized the connection between people and forests. In her keynote address, Director General of CIFOR Frances Seymour discussed the critical need for the international community to work together to better understand the connections between forests, climate change, and communities. Similarly, in a message given on behalf of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, listeners were reminded that next year is the International Year of Forests with the theme “Celebrating Forests for People.” Keynote speaker and 2009 Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom also weighed in with field findings showing that including communities in resource management is much more likely to achieve sustainable development than excluding them.

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  • “Inspired by Nature” Competition

Source: International Association for Impact Assessment, 20 September 2010

In honour of 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity, the Biodiversity and Ecology Section of the International Association for Impact Assessment has organized a competition to celebrate the diversity, value and beauty of life on earth, and the natural systems that provide goods and services for our health and wellbeing.  Submissions can be written, photographs, or images of art work, and they should comprise interesting, unique and exciting perspectives, insights, epiphanies and experiences involving nature, and/ or “nature as muse or inspiration.”
Entries to the “Inspired by Nature” competition can be through 15 October 2010. Complete guidelines and information are available on the website.  Winning entries will be showcased at IAIA’s annual conference in Puebla, Mexico in May 2011 and on the IAIA web site, and the winners will receive a free year of IAIA membership.
For more information, please contact:
Bridget John
Marketing/Financial Specialist
International Association for Impact Assessment
1330 23rd Street South, Suite C
Fargo, ND  58103-3705, USA
Tel:  +1.701.297.7908   Fax:  +1.701.297.7917
E-mail: bridget@iaia.org
Website: http://iaia.org/inspired-by-nature/

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  • NGOs call for biodiversity centre in Africa

Source: www.straittimes.com (Singapore), 17 September 2010

NGOs have called for a biodiversity centre to be set up in Africa to study species and control their exploitation, on the sidelines of a pan-African ministerial meeting.
“On behalf of civil society, we insisted on the establishment of a regional African centre on biodiversity” Nicaise Moulombi, the head of the High Council of Non State Parties told Agence France Presse when experts met in Gabon this September.
“One of Africa's deficits is its real knowledge of its genetic resources. This centre would enable us to conduct monitoring because we do not know what the resources are,” added Mr Moulombi, who also heads the Gabonese NGO Growth for a Healthy Environment. “There are big laboratories which earn enormous amounts of money in Africa from taking samples of species. So there really is a need for a centre on biodiversity.”
According to the organizing committee, 36 countries are taking part in the Libreville conference aimed notably at agreeing on a common African stance on biodiversity before a UN summit on biological diversity due to take place at Nagoya in Japan on 18-19 October.
Mr Mouloumbi said that NGOs he represented also called for “a strengthening of the regulatory and legislative frameworks covering access to genetic resources” and the means of “enabling indigenous populations, which still live off hunting and gathering, to have their share. Unfortunately, at the moment there is no equitable distribution.”
He added that in looking ahead to the Nagoya summit, NGOs were “concerned because of the failure of Copenhagen,” where a global summit on climate change took place at the end of 2009. Mr Mouloumbi hoped that the Nagoya meeting would be different.
For full story, please see:
www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/TechandScience/Story/STIStory_579850.html

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  • The Middle East’s tradition of environmental protection

Source: Environmental News Network, 20 September 2010

Hima, practised for over 14 000 years in the Arabian Peninsula, is believed to be the most widespread system of traditional conservation in the Middle East, and perhaps the entire world.
In these modern times, it is easy to think of environmental protection as a new concept that has emerged in response to modern problems linked to industrialisation and globalisation. In reality, the need to protect the environment from abuse has been a constant concern for humans since the beginning of time - especially for people who were living directly of the earth's resources.
http://www.enn.com/openx/www/delivery/avw.php?zoneid=8&cb=%3c%25=%20rand%20%25%3e&n=a30c42f2&ct0=INSERT_CLICKURL_HERE            Hima, which roughly translates into "protected or preserved place", is a system of resource protection in which pastures, trees or grazing lands are declared as forbidden and access to them and their use is denied by the owner. Types of Himas included reserves for bee-keeping, forest trees, reserving woodland to stop desertification as well as the seasonal regeneration of fields. Hima pre-dates the emergence of Islam in Arabia and was sometimes placed under the protection of tribal deity.
Fauna and flora were protected. The animals consecrated to them grazed there safely, and no one dared to kill or steal them.
For full story, please see:
www.enn.com/top_stories/article/41791

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  • What Are Species Worth? Putting a Price on Biodiversity

Source: Yale Environment 360, 27 September 2010

We live in what is paradoxically a great age of discovery and also of mass extinction. Astonishing new species turn up daily, as new roads and new technologies penetrate formerly remote habitats. And species also vanish forever, at what scientists estimate to be 100 to 1 000 times the normal rate of extinction.
So why do species matter? It may seem too obvious to need asking. In certain limited contexts, people clearly do care. We will go to great lengths to protect a boutique species like the giant panda, for instance. We also thrill to the possibility of finding the slightest microbial hint of life in outer space, hardly blinking when the U.S. government spends US$7 billion a year largely for that purpose. Meanwhile, we spend pennies exploring the alien life forms that are all around us here on Earth.
Maybe it is just human nature not to value - or even see - the thing that’s right in front of our faces. And maybe it is also a failure of communication. We need to understand that our lives depend on species we have never heard of. That is, scientists may need to explain their work on a far more basic level - not “Why do species matter?” but “Is food important to you?” or “Do you want your children to have effective medicines when they get sick?” or even “Do you like to breathe?” None of these questions overstates the importance of species.
For instance, Prochlorococcus is an ocean-dwelling genus of cyanobacteria and among the most abundant life forms on Earth. Why should we care? Because it produces about 20 percent of the oxygen we breathe - and yet until an MIT microbiologist named Sally Chisholm discovered it in 1986, Prochlorococcus was unknown. We need to understand in short that our lives depend on species most of us have never heard of - species we otherwise tend to shrug off as obscure, trivial, even undesirable.
Vultures, for instance. When we cause a species to go into decline, we almost never know - and hardly even stop to think about - what we might be losing in the process. In truth, it may be hard to think about, because the cascading effects of our actions are sometimes freakishly distant from the original cause. So in India in the early 1990s, farmers began using the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac for the apparently worthy purpose of relieving pain and fever in their livestock. Unfortunately, vultures scavenging on livestock carcasses accumulated large quantities of the drug and promptly died of renal failure. Over a 14-year period, populations of three vulture species plummeted by between 96.8 and 99.9 percent.
Losing these efficient scavengers meant livestock carcasses often got left in the open to rot. It was one of those “ecosystem services” - manufacturing oxygen, soaking up carbon dioxide, preventing floods, taking out the garbage - that species generally provide unnoticed, until they stop.
Moving into the niche vacated by the vultures, feral dog populations boomed by up to 9 million animals over the same period. Dog bites and the incidence of rabies in humans also increased, and the authors conservatively estimated that an additional 48 000 people died during the 14-year period as a result. Calculating the bottom-line worth of what we get from the natural world is notoriously difficult. But even pricing lives at a fraction of developed world values, the near-total loss of three insignificant vulture species has so far cost India an estimated US$24 billion.
A diversity of species can also help prevent the emergence of new diseases, though we tend to blame, rather than credit, nature for this particular ecosystem service. We sometimes respond to Lyme disease, for instance, by trying to kill the major players, blacklegged ticks and white-footed mice. But the “dilution effect,” proposed by Rick Ostfeld at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, suggests counter-intuitively that having the broadest variety of host species in a habitat is a better way to limit disease. Some of those hosts will be ineffective, or even dead ends, at transmitting the infectious organism. So they dilute the effect and keep the disease organism from building up and spilling over to humans. But when we reduce biodiversity by breaking up the forest for our backyards, we accidentally favour the most effective host - in this case, the white-footed mouse. And we free the undiluted disease organism to operate at full strength.
The implications go well beyond Lyme disease. Around the world over the past half-century, researchers have tracked about 150 emerging infectious diseases, from Ebola to HIV, with 60 to 70 percent being zoonotic - that is, transmitted from animals to humans. “The question,” says Aaron Bernstein, a Harvard pediatrician and co-editor of the 2008 book Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity, “is whether humans are doing something to make these zoonotic diseases come out of the woodwork.” Clearly, we are doing a lot of one particular thing - knocking down forests and creating species-poor habitats with no “dilution effect” in their place. Thus the fear is that many more such epidemics may lie ahead.
So do individual species matter? Or is it just the diversity of species? The truth is that our understanding of the natural world is far too primitive for anyone to say one species is important, and another is not. In fact, scientists do not even have names for most species; they have described only about 1.8 million of them, with an estimated 10 to 50 million still to go. So instead of waging pitched battles for individual species, conservationists in recent years have prudently tended to emphasize diversity, working to protect large swaths of habitat for a multitude of species.
Some conservationists may cringe at the thought of cheapening the natural world by defending it in economic terms.
The yew, for instance, was until recently a “trash tree,” says David J. Newman of the National Cancer Institute; he figures it was last valued around the time his ancestors used it to fashion bows for firing arrows at the Battle of Agincourt. But it is now the source for taxol, relied on by tens of thousands of people as a life-saving treatment for breast, prostate, and ovarian cancers. Sales topped US$1.6 billion last year, according to IMS Health, a healthcare information and consulting company.
For full story, please see:
http://e360.yale.edu/feature/what_are_species_worth_putting_a_price_on_biodiversity/2322/

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  • World’s governments set to agree three big boosts for biodiversity and human security

Source: CBD Press Release, 15 September 2010

Next month, governments from around the world will gather in Nagoya, Japan to make three key decisions that will determine whether current and future generations continue to benefit from nature’s riches.
On the table is a comprehensive ten-year strategy that - if enacted - would revolutionise the way we manage and interact with the world about us, and bring immense social and economic benefits to people worldwide.
Scientists warn that such action is urgent to prevent tipping points, such as a widespread dieback of the Amazon rainforest and cascades of extinction triggered by invasive species.
Also up for agreement in Nagoya are large flows of finance that will be needed to enact the strategy - for instance, to support developing countries that are asked to protect large areas of wilderness for the good of all of humanity.
The costs will be high but the returns on the investment will be far greater as biodiversity provides an important variety of goods and services that benefit humankind, from ensuring food security and clean water supplies to stabilising our climate.
The third piece of the puzzle is a new set of international rules that would provide transparent access to the biological resources of the world while ensuring that countries and communities get a fair share of any benefits that arise from their use - such as when companies develop commercial medicines from plants or other life-forms.
This new “protocol” on access and benefit-sharing could create major incentives for countries to protect their forests and other natural capital while enabling businesses to use biological resources to develop useful new products in a sustainable way.
The meeting in Japan - known as COP10 - will bring together 193 parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), an international law that was created at Rio Earth Summit in 1992.
Since then, there has been growing awareness of how important nature is to human health, livelihoods and national economies. But at the same time the state of the natural world has continued to decline steeply, as revealed in the Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 report which was released in May 2010.
In 2002, governments agreed to reduce significantly the loss of biodiversity by 2010. But they failed, in large part because they did not address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss - such as a lack of awareness of the true value of biodiversity and a failure to include the true costs of biodiversity loss in policies and plans.
With a new, more ambitious and better-designed strategy, governments now have another chance to create a global agreement to preserve and wisely use our planet’s living resources in ways that bring benefits to all. But the meeting in Japan could be a missed opportunity if governments cannot reach agreement on key issues.
“The three big outcomes of the COP10 meeting in Nagoya would be global agreement on a new strategy, the mobilisation of the finance needed to make it happen, and a new legally-binding protocol on access and benefit sharing,” says Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the CBD. “The decisions we take now will affect biodiversity for the coming millennium. We cannot have one outcome without the others. The COP10 meeting is all or nothing.”
For more information, please see: www.cbd.int/information/nfp.shtml

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  • World is off-track on biodiversity goals

Source: Reuters, 22 September 2010

The world's countries are bankrupting their natural economies and must take bold action to reverse biodiversity losses caused by pollution, deforestation and climate change, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a U.N. summit on Wednesday 22 September.
World leaders at the annual U.N. General Assembly gathering sought to energize a global effort on biodiversity - the preservation of animal and plant species - before U.N. talks in Japan next month to agree on a formal plan.
At a mini-summit on the issue, Ban said the world would fail to reach a 2010 goal of making a "significant reduction" in biodiversity losses.
"Last year's financial crisis was a wake-up call to governments on the perils of failing to oversee and regulate complex relationships that affect us all. The biodiversity crisis is no different," Ban said.
"We are bankrupting our natural economy. We need to fashion a rescue package before it is too late," he said.
The United Nations says the world is facing the worst losses since dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago. A quickening pace of extinctions could disrupt food and water supplies for a rising human population, which is on track to reach about 9 billion by 2050.
Half of the earth's wetlands, 40 percent of its forests and 30 percent of mangroves have been lost in the past 100 years.
It is possible to reverse the degradation of ecosystems over the next 50 years if governments can agree on major changes, the world body says.
"If the destruction of the ecosystem continues at this pace, mankind could eternally lose most of nature's bounty in the near future," said Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara.
At a news conference earlier in the week, a group of those calling for tough targets - including U.S. actor Edward Norton, a U.N. goodwill ambassador - called on the United States, which has not ratified a 1993 biodiversity convention, to take a stronger leadership position.
Norton said it was "deflating to note that in the last year, countries as chaotic as Iraq and Somalia" had become parties to the convention, "and yet, the United States has apparently not found its way to figuring out how to get that done. And that is shameful."
Some nations, such as those in the European Union, want to set a 2020 deadline "to halt the loss of biodiversity," a target many experts say is out of reach. Poor countries say such a goal would require a 100-fold increase in funds for safeguarding biodiversity, currently about US$3 billion a year.
An alternative is to set no firm deadline, merely discussing action by 2020 "toward halting" loss of plant and animal species.
For full story, please see:
www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE68L1QK20100922

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EVENTS

15èmes Journées Scientifiques de l’INRGREF sur les PFNL
Hammamet, Tunisie
12-14 Octobre, 2010
L'Institut National de Recherches en Génie Rural, Eaux et Forêts consacre ses 15èmes Journées Scientifiques au thème de la valorisation et la gestion durable des produits forestiers non ligneux, avec les objectifs de: (a) présenter l’état des lieux des PFNL dans les forêts Méditerranéennes; (b) présenter les acquis de la recherche dans le domaine des PFNL; (c) présenter et discuter les approches d’implication de la population forestière dans la gestion durable des PFNL; et (d) présenter l’état des lieux des PFNL dans les forêts Méditerranéennes.
Les themes sont:

  • Graines et fruits sauvages.
  • Plantes aromatiques et médicinales.
  • Champignons.
  • Faune sauvage (escargots, cynégétique…)
  • Artisanats liés aux PFNL.
  • Rôle de l’éco-tourisme dans la valorisation des
  • PFNL
  • Aspects socio-économiques

Pour plus d’informations, contacter:
Abdelhamid Khaldi
Institution de la Recherche et de l'Enseignement Supérieur Agricoles
30, Rue Alain Savary
1002 Tunis Belvédère –Tunisie
Adresse électronique : bo.iresa@iresa.agrinet.tn
Téléphone: (00 216) 71 798 244
Fax: (00 216) 71 796 170
Web: www.iresa.agrinet.tn/index.jsp?pg=14&rub=01

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Terra Madre
Turin, Italy
21-25 October
More than 5 000 representatives from the worldwide Terra Madre network will meet in Turin, Italy for the fourth time this October - coinciding once again with the international Slow Food fair “Salone del Gusto.” The five-day meeting will bring together food communities, cooks, academics, youth and musicians from all over the world, who are united in a desire to promote sustainable local food production in harmony with the environment while respecting knowledge handed down over the generations.
A new feature in 2010 will be a focus on cultural and linguistic diversities - in recognition of the need to defend minority ethnic groups and indigenous languages, and with an appreciation of the value of oral traditions and memory. At the opening ceremony, representatives of indigenous communities from all continents across the world will speak to the audience in their native languages.
The second day will be dedicated to examining eight crucial issues for the future of agriculture and the planet (from biodiversity to renewable energies and education to traditional knowledge). On the third day communities will meet in national and regional sessions, while on the fourth day Earth Workshops will be held.
The official closing session of Terra Madre will be marked by the presentation of a program of proposals from the Terra Madre network for a sustainable future.
There will be specific opportunities during the event to receive information, to present projects involving taste education (e.g. gardens, canteen projects etc.) or food biodiversity (e.g. Earth Markets) and to organize Terra Madre Day in your community or country - with the second edition to be held on 10 December 2010 around the world. The Terra Madre youth network will play an important role during the event.
For more information, please contact:
Website: www.terramadre.info/pagine/incontri/?-session=terramadre:5F4B23E6167ce19A41KlorwC3C14

 

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Reminder: UN Biodiversity Conference: CBD’s COP 10
Nagoya, Japan
18-29 October
The tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 10) will be held in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan this October. COP 10 will include a high-level ministerial segment organized by Japan in consultation with the Secretariat and the Bureau.
This meeting will take place during the International Year for Biodiversity (IYB) as declared by the United Nations General Assembly.
Strategic Issues for Evaluating Progress and Supporting Implementation of the Convention will be considered. It is anticipated that the negotiations on an International Regime on Access and Benefit-sharing will result in the adoption of an instrument on Access and Benefit-Sharing.
For more information, please contact:
Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity
413, Saint Jacques Street, suite 800
Montreal QC H2Y 1N9
Canada
Tel: +15142882220
E-mail: secretariat@cbd.int
Website: www.cbd.int

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LITERATURE REVIEW AND WEB SITES

41.       Almost Chimpanze: Searching for What Makes Us Human, in Rainforests, Labs, Sanctuaries, and Zoos.
From: Blum, Deborah in The Washington Post, 12 September 2010

During the early 1920s, the pioneering primatologist Robert Yerkes kept two young chimpanzees - cleverly named Chim and Panzee - at his home to observe them in a human environment. He became particularly attached to Chim (later identified as a bonobo), admiring the animal's obvious intelligence and generous nature. When Panzee became ill, Chim actively tried to comfort and care for her. Yerkes described this behaviour in a 1925 book he titled Almost Human, although he admitted that he worried about "idealizing an ape."
It has been years, decades really, since researchers worried about idealizing chimpanzees or emphasizing their similarities to ourselves. The shift is largely credited to the fieldwork and educational activism of another pioneering scientist, Jane Goodall. Indeed, as Jon Cohen points out in his gently provocative new book, Almost Chimpanzee, the conservation-minded Goodall deliberately dwelled on people-parallels. "She believed that a critical mass of humans would most likely come to her cause if they imagined their own hands reaching for the curl of a chimpanzee's finger."
But today, Cohen suggests, it may be time to dwell again on our differences. Chimpanzees are well established as our closest cousins on Earth; some research sets the genetic difference at a mere one percent. On the other hand, even that slight deviation set us on widely divergent evolutionary paths and, in the end, provided only one species with real power over life on Earth. "Humans will determine the fate of chimpanzees," Cohen notes. “Chimpanzees of course will have no say in the fate of humans."
Cohen's book, then, is a meticulous exploration of how both small quirks and large kinks in biology and culture led to such different destinations. He searches for the best evidence of when human and chimpanzee ancestors first separated - usually fixed at about five million years ago - and whether it was a genuinely dramatic break. He mulls over why small genetic variances have such enormous impact, leading him into a wonderful discussion of whether human-chimpanzee hybrids are possible - a notion dubbed "humanzees" by some researchers.
All of this leads to the ever-troubling question of what comes next. Many scientists working with chimpanzees in labs find their studies restricted or too expensive to maintain over the long term. And many conducting field research wonder how much longer the animals will last as a wild species, because of habitat loss, poaching and the notorious African bushmeat trade. One scientist whom Cohen interviewed predicted that within 50 years only captive chimpanzees will be left alive, almost entirely due to the activities of their human cousins.
For full story, please see:
www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/10/AR2010091002923_pf.html

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  • Biodiversity conservation in certified forests

From: European Tropical Forest Research Network’s (ETFRN) News, 22 September 2010

Logging was once viewed as a major threat to tropical forests and their rich biodiversity. But over the last two decades that view has become more nuanced. Timber certification has been widely embraced as a strategy to conserve forests, and the biodiversity they contain, by promoting good forest management.  But is it effective?
The 33 articles in the latest issue of the European Tropical Forest Research Network's "ETFRN News" attempt to answer this important question based on practical experiences from concessions and community forests. They address the challenges of monitoring biodiversity, assessing high conservation value forests and a range of other subjects. The results of a dedicated on-line survey gauge expert opinion and provide additional insights.
The evidence indicates that certification has helped to conserve tropical forest biodiversity but the extent of both the evidence and the implied conservation benefits remains limited.  In spite of these uncertainties, certification, and therefore regulated timber harvest, remains a viable strategy in the fight against biodiversity loss in tropical forests
Link: www.etfrn.org/etfrn/newsletter/news51/index.html

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  • Trends in patent activity in the cosmetics and perfume sectors

Source: Emma Brooks in Biodiversity Info Mailing List, 23 September 2010

Biodiversity is recognized as a source of innovation in the cosmetics sector.  But how is it addressed in the context of increasingly active patenting strategies?
To contribute to efforts to understand and improve the manner in which patenting strategies support the ethical sourcing of biodiversity, the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT) commissioned an analysis of the patent landscape for natural ingredients in the cosmetics sector. Research was conducted for UEBT by Dr. Paul Oldham at Lancaster University, UK.
A series of four information notes, to be released in the run up to the UN Biodiversity Summit in October, will provide a summary of the data and main findings of this research.              The first information note, entitled “Trends in patent activity in the cosmetics and perfume sectors," has just been published. This note addresses issues such as:

  • Growing importance of patents to cosmetics companies,
  • Relative significance of patent activity in relation to natural ingredients,
  • Top patent assignees for cosmetics and perfumes,
  • Initial questions raised by this information on how the cosmetics sector addresses the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

            The other three information notes, to be published within the next month, will focus on species and countries involved in patents in the cosmetics and perfumes sectors, including insights on the issue of disclosure of origin, the types of patent claims in cosmetics sector, and conclusions and recommendations on the basis of the research conducted.
For more information, please see: www.ethicalbiotrade.org

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  • Other publications of interest

From:  FAO’s NWFP Programme

Bojang, F. (ed). Nature et Faune. 2010. 24: 2. Rome, Italy: FAO.
Link: www.fao.org/africa/publications/nature-and-faune-magazine/

Gordon, I.J., Pettorelli, N., Katzner, T. et al. 2010. International Year of Biodiversity: missed targets and the need for better monitoring, real action and global policy. Animal Conservation: 13; 113-114.

Hooper, Ted. 2008. Guide to Bees & Honey. UK: Northern Bee Books.

Huber, F.K., Ineichen, R., Yang, Yong Ping., and Weckerle, C.S. 2010. Livelihood and conservation aspects of non-wood forest product collection in the Shaxi Valley, Southwest China. Economic Botany. 64:3, 189-204.
Abstract: The Shaxi Valley in Yunnan Province, P.R. China, is inhabited by Tibeto-Burman ethnic groups. We found a clear dichotomy between household strategies in the valley bottom and the mountain areas, with significantly lower household income in the mountains. The majority Bai people live predominantly in the fertile valley floor and cultivate rice, keep livestock, and commonly pursue off-farm work. Other ethnic groups live in more remote mountainous areas of the Shaxi Valley, where the collection of NWFPs, especially wild mushrooms, plays an important role in securing livelihoods. However, only households in the valley's central villages engage in the profitable NWFP trade. Mushroom populations appear to be less vulnerable to commercial harvest than the rapidly declining wild medicinal plant populations. Due to this decline, local farmers have gained interest in cultivating medicinal plants, but only if risks are low and if financial and technical support is provided. Encouraging the cultivation of medicinal plants appears to be an appropriate means of sustainable community development.
Link: www.springerlink.com/content/ju44p5m121n20103/

Kathe, W., Pätzold, B., Leaman, D., Timoshyna, A., Newton, D., Khou, E., Kinhal, G., Sapkota I.B., Pasha, M.K.S., Ndam, N., Melisch, R., Bundalo, S., Honnef, S., Osborn, T., Buitrón, X., and Liu, X. 2010. Wild for a Cure: Groundtruthing a Standard for Sustainable
Management of Wild Plants in the Field. TRAFFIC International.
Link: http://assets.panda.org/downloads/traffic_species_plants14.pdf

Kritsky, Gene. 2010. The Quest for the Perfect Hive: A History of Innovation in Bee Culture.
Guide to Bees and Honey, Ted Hooper. New York: Oxford University Press.

Man, A. 2009. A preliminary study concerning the forest fruits consumption. Bulletin of University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Cluj-Napoca. 66: 2, 518.

Metis Nation of Ontario. 2010. Southern Ontario Métis Traditional Plant Use Study. Canada: Metis Nation of Ontario.
Link: http://indigenouspeoplesissues.com/attachments/article/6688/37624833-Metis-Plant-Use-Study.pdf

Osadebe, P.O., Ajali, U., Okoya, F.B.C., and Diara, C. 2010. Investigation into the folkloric antimicrobial and antiinflammatory properties of Nauclea latifolia leaves and stem bark extracts and fractions. Medicinal plants: phytochemistry, pharmacology and therapeutics. Volume 1: 421-429.

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  • Websites and e-zines

From:  FAO’s NWFP Programme

A Community List for Small Island Developing States (SIDS)
The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is pleased to announce the launch of SIDS-L, a community announcement list for policy makers and practitioners involved in the sustainable development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS.)  
www.iisd.ca/email/subscribe.htm

NTFP Information Exchange
The purpose of this website is to provide information and tools to help advance commercial development of NTFP on non-industrial private lands in the United States.  For the purposes of this website NTFPs are defined as all wild, wild-simulated, and cultivated native forest vegetation other than industrial timber.
You can help by activiely posting copyright free materials in the Discussion Forum.  The public will be able to find your posted material through Internet search engines and we will periodically copy selected posts to the static pages on our website.  The NTFP Information Exchange is hosted by the Institute for Culture and Ecology (IFCAE). www.ifcae.org/ntfp/

“MycoAfrica:” Newsletter of the African Mycological Association
The African Mycological Association (AMA) promotes mycology and contact between members in Africa and other international mycologists. Regional and international congresses are also promoted through the AMA. To contribute to the newsletter, please contact:
Marieka Gryzenhout (Editor)
Forestry & Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI),
University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa 0002
Marieka.Gryzenhout@fabi.up.ac.za
Tel: +27-12-4203938
Fax: +27-12-4203960
www.africanmycology.org

Peak to Peak Newsletter
The Mountain Partnership is a voluntary alliance of partners dedicated to improving the lives of mountain people and protecting mountain environments around the world. Launched at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in 2002, the Mountain Partnership taps the wealth and diversity of resources, information, knowledge, and expertise of its members to support positive change in mountain areas.
“Peak to Peak' is an opportunity to keep you up-to-date with the latest news, activities and events related to the Mountain Partnership. This newsletter is prepared by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat.
www.mountainpartnership.org

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MISCELLANEOUS

  • Malaria parasite crossed to Man from gorilla: scientists

Source: Agence France Presse (AFP), 22 September 2010

The parasite that causes the most lethal strain of malaria among humans crossed the species barrier from gorillas, scientists reported on Wednesday.
Plasmodium falciparum is the deadliest of the five known strains of malaria parasites, causing several hundred million cases each year, of which around a million are fatal.
The parasite passes from one human to another via a female Anopheles mosquito, which hands it on when the insect takes a blood meal. Until now, conventional thinking was that the parasite was first transmitted to humans from chimpanzees, our closest relatives, from which we genetically diverged between five and seven million years ago.
The chimp carries its own type of malaria parasite, Plasmodium reichenowi, and it was thought that P. falciparum was simply one of P. reichenowi's many strains.
This assumption was indirectly strengthened by findings that the AIDS virus probably came to humans from chimps, which have a similar immunodeficiency microbe. The first case may have occurred in central-western Africa around a century ago, possibly involving an individual who ate or handled infected bushmeat.
But a new look at the origins of malaria, published in the British science journal Nature, says that the Plasmodium parasite crossed from another of our great-ape cousins, the gorilla, and adapted to humans.
Scientists led by Beatrice Hahn of the University of Alabama at Birmingham went to painstaking lengths to investigate their hypothesis.They collected almost 3 000 samples of faeces dropped by wild-living great apes - chimps, gorillas and bonobos (Pan paniscus) - at field sites across central Africa and sequenced the DNA of any Plasmodium pathogen found in these droppings.
Between a third and a half of the chimp and western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) populations were infected with Plasmodium parasites, and infections were almost always of mixed strains.
There was no sign of infection among bonobos and eastern gorillas (Gorilla beringei).
On the Plasmodium family tree, a "nearly identical" match for P. falciparum was found in faeces in western gorillas rather than in chimps, the researchers found.
"These findings indicate that P. falciparum is of gorilla origin and not of chimpanzee, bonobo or ancient human origin," the paper says.
The scientists suggest that the transmission may have resulted from a single cross-species event. What is unclear, though, is when the handover occurred. Also uncertain is whether gorillas represent a reservoir today for recurring human infection.
www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jsTPXAMBOCm-fTFjakCP-WSGoTjQ

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  • Millennium Development Goals: Next MDGs “should be more holistic”

Source: Scidev.net, 16 September 2010

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were conceived with an outdated, fragmented approach to international development, and a new way forward will be needed after their due date in 2015, according to a report.
"Patchy" progress towards achieving the eight goals reflects fundamental problems with the way they were set up, says the report, launched ahead of the international summit on the goals in New York (20 September).
In particular, they were not designed to interact and support each other, says the London International Development Centre (LIDC) and the Lancet, which have set up the Lancet–LIDC Commission, producer of the report launched on 13 September.
The eight United Nations MDGs were agreed in 2000 and are due to be met by 2015. A UN report published in June showed that countries have made only partial progress. But a draft declaration, expected to be formally adopted at next week's summit, maintains that the goals are achievable despite setbacks caused by the global financial and economic crises. 
"MDGs do address many but not all key development challenges," said Andy Haines, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. "This report for the first time really casts an interdisciplinary spotlight on the MDGs, what they will have achieved and where we need to go afterwards."
"The broad picture of MDGs is patchy progress, and not at a pace capable of achieving the goals by 2015," said Jeff Waage, director of the LIDC, who added: "Is this just a matter of effort or are there fundamental problems with the MDGs themselves that will hamper their achievement?"
The commission's report identifies a number of common features across the goals that have limited their implementation, he said. First, the goals were put forward as separate, unconnected targets by the relevant communities working in those sectors, and each community had its pre-existing aspirations. Secondly, the goals were brought together without broader analysis of what was needed for them to work as a set, or how the different targets might interact, according to Waage. As a result "there are considerable gaps between goals that undermine their capacity to achieve some interaction and synergy in development".
For example, the focus on children's early years in the education goal has meant it could not support one of the aims of the health goal, to build the workforce of health professionals in higher education.
The report also highlights the plight of those not targeted by the goals - such as those living on just over US$1 a day.
Another key problem has been ownership, according to Elaine Unterhalter, professor of education and international development at the Institute of Education in the United Kingdom.
"Certain MDGs have powerful advocates at international level or in certain ministries in individual countries, but the other MDGs do not," she said. The commission has concluded that future goals should be centred on 'wellbeing', which has human, social and environmental components. We propose a conceptualisation of development as a dynamic process operating at multiple scales and with multiple agents, involving sustainable and equitable access to improved wellbeing ," said Andrew Dorward, professor of development economics at the School of Oriental and African Studies in the United Kingdom.
For full story, please see:
www.scidev.net/en/news/next-millennium-development-goals-should-be-more-holistic-.html#

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  • New UN effort seeks to conserve bats and their critical role in seed dispersal

Source: UN News Centre, 22 September 2010

The United Nations and partners today launched the Year of the Bat to conserve the world’s only flying mammal and its critical role in seed dispersal and pollination for the benefit of humankind.
“From insect-eating bats in Europe that provide important pest control to seed-dispersing bats in the tropics that help sustain rainforests, bats deliver vital ecosystem services across a wide range of environments,” UNEP said, noting that bat populations have declined alarmingly in recent decades due to habitat loss, human disturbance at hibernation sites, increasing urbanization and epidemics.
The joint campaign, led by the UN Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats (EUROBATS), concluded under the auspices of the CMS, will draw attention to the world’s 1100 bat species - around half of which are currently at risk.
“Compared to animals like tigers and elephants, bats receive little positive attention,” EUROBATS Executive Secretary Andreas Streit said. “But they are fascinating mammals and play an indispensable role in maintaining our environment.”
The Year was launched in Prague, the Czech capital, where EUROBATS is holding its sixth session of member parties. The actual Year will be spread over two years with 2011 focusing on a European campaign and then the event going global in 2012.
Bat species throughout the world need continued protection, UNEP said in a news release. “Most people are unaware that bats provide invaluable services to the environment,” it stressed. “Fruit agriculture, central to tropical economies, depends to a large extent on the ecological contributions of fruit bats. An estimated 134 plants that yield products used by humans are partially or entirely reliant on bats for seed dispersal or pollination.”
Bat populations in large urban areas can consume up to 30 000 pounds of insects in a single night.
“When migrating, bats can travel up to 4 000km in one year,” CMS Executive Secretary Elizabeth Mrema said. “Africa’s greatest mammal migration involves 8 million fruit bats that fly into Zambia from across the continent each year. This flight is an incredible spectacle that scientists are still unravelling.”
Besides the Arctic, Antarctic and a few isolated oceanic regions, bats are found everywhere on Earth. Having inhabited the planet for the last 50 million years, bats today make up nearly a quarter of the global mammal population.
The Year of the Bat will coincide with the UN’s International Year of Forests next year. Bat species disperse seeds and aid pollination in temperate and tropical forests, helping to regenerate and sustain almost a third of the Earth’s land area. Sustainable forestry management is essential for maintaining healthy bat populations as well as balanced ecosystems in forests and woodland areas.
For full story, please see: www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=36063&Cr=unep&Cr1=#

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last updated:  Thursday, May 3, 2012