UPA, Health and Environment, session 2, week 1 Contributions received 2/9 - 8/9
From: Kaspar Wyss
All in all Jo Lines propositions are correct, but need to be put into
perspective. Anopheles-breeding sites need clean and standing water as a
requirement. This condition is given in some growing areas but in others
not (for example in Ouagadougou and Noukchott this pre-condition is not
given, and this is transferable for the whole Sahel).
From: Marcela Andre Lopez (summarized by moderator)
Subject: Genetically Modified seeds
Ing. Marcela Andre Lopez (La Casa del Arbol, Guanajuato, Mexico) is sending us information on the Campaign on Genetically Manipulated foods (GM foods). She points out that it is important to post this information because of the huge impact "improved" approaches offered by agrocompanies from the USA, that are displacing the reliance on home gardens and urban orchards and create a growing dependence on manufactured agroproducts at the market.
According to her information US firms involved in GM foods apparently are looking for markets in Latin America after rejection of GM foods in the EU and USA. This creates the risk that local seeds, well adapted to the local conditions and prerences, are gradually replaced by GM seeds. There is a lack of information in Latin America reagrding these 'dumping' practices and the dangers of GM foods in general.
More information can be obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org and at the website of The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods: http://www.thecampaign.org
The American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) resently published a brochure "To Help Agricultural Producers Make Educated and Informed Planting Decisions" that can be found at: http://www.acga.org/GMOBrochure
Las personas que buscan informacion en espanol sobre el tema de las semillas geneticalmente manipulados, podrian comunicarse con: Ing. Marcela Andre Lopez (La Casa del Arbol, Guanajuato, Mexico): email@example.com
Henk de Zeeuw, Moderator
From: Tanya Bpwyer-Bower
A very brief contribution to the Malaria debate
Jo Lines says:'maize-growing is hardly ever a problem. For maize you don't ridge the soil?..'
With regard to ridging and maize, she is right. However, in Harare, another 'environmental' reason used by the authorities for traditionally putting a stop to the widespread maize cultivation of public land is Malaria vis a vis the pools of water that accumulate on the maize plants where the leaves join the stems during the rainy season.
These apparently act as perfect areas vis a vis Van den Berg's description: small shallow ephemeral pools of water which an. Gambiae like. I do not know the references for the research that determined this, but it was a health worker who informed me that this was a proven hazard for Harare. Can anyone confirm whether this is so. In which case Jo Lines's assessment should be modified accordingly.
Lecturer, researcher and consultant,
Department of Geography,
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS),
University of London,
From: Evan Fraser
Subject: environmental effects of UPA
My name is Evan Fraser; having worked in urban forestry for some time I am now completing a doctoral on peri-urban agriculture in Vancouver Canada. I am also a project manager for an urban greening project in Bangkok, Thailand and have helped teach a soil science and conservation course.I was extremely interested by Tanya Bowyer-Bower's comments on the environmental implications of UA, and, if she doesn't mind, would be extremely interested in more details and information on this research. Dr Bowyer-Bower highlights three specific problems, namely, ground water runoff, erosion (leading to siltation) and the fact that UA reduced ground water recharge.
With regard to the ground-water recharge, it is a global fact that agriculture competes with urban uses for water. Given the massive demand that agriculture puts on our global water supplies, water efficiency will probably become a dominant theme in agricultural policy in the future.
The other two problems - surface runoff and water erosion - have to do with the soil's ability to hold and transfer water. Unless damaged, soils that are covered with vegetation will normally store enough water to prevent any surface runoff, which occurs when the rainfall exceeds the "water-storing capacity" of the soil it is falling on. In addition, normally, soils with vegetation will not erode much; the force of the rain is slowed by the vegetation, and roots support soil aggregates. Of course, this all will vary with soil type - clays and organic soils will have a higher water holding capacity while sandy soils will be inherently more prone to erode.
In an urban situation, however, soil structure is almost always damaged. Research in British Columbia (which is, admittedly a long way from Africa, though the lessons should still apply), has shown that problems of nutrient loading and siltation in urban water ways are directly related to the "hard surfaces" ( buildings, roads, pavement, etc) in that area. In other words, in an urban environment, the roads, compacted soil, buildings and pavement all prevent the soil from storing water and allowing it to trickle slowly into the nearby streams. In an urban environment rainfall races off roofs, along roads, over compacted soil and floods drain sewers. Not only does this rainfall pick up debris that is lying on the ground it can also be fast enough moving that it erodes the soil it passes over.
As Dr. Bowyer-Bowers suggested there are many local, low-tech solutions to problems of surface runoff, erosion, siltation and nutrient loading. In places where I've worked and flooding and erosion are problems I have tried to support replacing hard surfaces with vegetated ones, establishing dykes, or baffles so that water runoff cannot build up enough speed to cause erosion, and promoting urban greening. Also I've tried to encourage people who are doing UA to subsoil; after repeated agriculture you often see a compacted layer of soil immediately below the "tillage depth" or the depth that people are digging to. In this situation water will not be able to penetrate very deeply, the soil will fill up, and you will have problems with runoff. By digging deeper every few years, it is possible to break up the compacted layer. Also, I've encouraged people to plant legumes that they do not harvest every fourth or fifth year. Finally, an active composting programme in the neighbourhood will help build u soil organic matter, which will increase water-holding capacity. Of course all of these proposals requires a certain amount of support. In situations where UA is actively repressed it will be virtually impossible to take the long-term perspective on soil management that is required to ensure the soil health and sustainability of UA.
All the best, and thanks for this excellent discussion.
Ph.D. Candidate, Resource Management and Environmental Studies,
University of British Columbia
Project Manager, International Centre for Sustainable Cities
Vancouver, Canada and Bangkok, Thailand
From: Karen Lock
Subject: physical problems, GM-foods, heavy metals
Some comments in relation to issues brought up this week by other participants:
1. Health effects of agricultural labour
Occupational injury of agricultural labourers has been estimated to be up to 1/3 of all occupational injuries in developing countries. Three main issues:
a- Poisoning/ illness due to pesticides and agrochemicals.
b. Disorders associated with heavy physical work and its bio-mechanical demands. Poor posture is common. Associated with the use of some tools e.g. sickles and hoes. But also methods of water carriage. It is estimated the 2 most common physical problems are back problems due to poor posture and spinal loading, and repetitive movements causing repetitive strain injury. They can both cause significant levels of disability,
c. Specific occupational disorders of agriculture a.o. related with use of machinery during growing, harvesting and processing of agricultural products.
2. Genetically Modified Foods
The main issues are consumer concerns about environmental and health impacts of GM technology. In reality there is (still?) very little evidence. The health concerns include the safety of genetically modified foods and the use of marker genes that could confer antibiotic resistance. One obvious environmental concern is the transfer of genes from genetically modified crops to non-modified crops, where they may have unforeseen consequences. Yet, as observed in the Royal Society's report, well established practices already minimise such dangers in the case of conventional cultivars. However, this may not be the case in developing countries.
The following papers and editorials (all accessible on-line via the British Medical Journal Website www.bmj.com <http://www.bmj.com>) discuss these concerns:
>BMJ 1999;318:581-584 ( 27 February ) Review: Genetically Modified Foods. L.Jones
>BMJ 1999;318:547-548 ( 27 February )Editorial: The paradoxes of GM foods. Dixon.
>BMJ 1998;316:1845-1846 ( 20 June )Editorial: Why all the fuss about GM foods? Much depends of who benefits. Burke.
The only comment I want to make is that air pollution of crops is relatively minor compared with that from soil and water uptake. The evidence for the uptake of lead from crops grown at the road side is equivocable. I know of 4 studies: 2 from China and India show a strong relationship,between lead levels on crops and food, and blood lead levels, 2 other studies from Israel and Japan do not.
Karen Lock (LSHTM)
From: Pay Drechsel
Anopheles needs at least five days for breeding. Means, if the water doesn't evaporate completely in this period, it might be possible.
International Board for Soil Research and Management (IBSRAM)
Africa Office c/o KN-UST, Kumasi, Ghana
Tel/Fax: +233-(0)51-60206, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Web: www.ibsram.org; www.cityfarmer.org/ibsram.html
From: Leo van den Berg
Although I am very happy with Jo Lines' clear points on the relationships between malaria and UPA, I 'd like to endorse Tanya'svery persistent question. This has bothered me for a long time. I have a cutting from the Zambia Daily Mail of 10/2/1977, where someone "with thirty years mosquito work" stated that "the mosquitoes which carry malaria in Zambia do not breed in plant axils" (like those of maize). When I raised the question in October last year on a malaria website the only answers I got was that "by providing shadow maize plants disfavour An gambiae", and that a Mike McDonald from John Hopkins Institute had stressed at a recent conference in Dar es Salaam that "slashing of grass around houses makes absolutely no difference to the prevalance of malaria". You see, the evidence is not complete and with Tanya I am very much looking forward to the ultimate answer!
dr. L.M. van den Berg
P.O. Box 47
6700 AA WAGENINGEN
NL (tel: 31-317-474435)
From: Aileen Robertson
Subject: Urban Food and Nutrition Action Plan WHO-Europe
We are still working on the draft URBAN food and nutrition Actoin Plan but the draft is on our web-site. We have also translated two small booklets from the environmental services here in Copenhagen. In addition we are developing a monograph series of examples of food production in cities in the European Region (our 50 Member States).
In addition it might be useful for participants of the conference to know that the First WHO Food and Nutrition Action Plan (FNAP)(on the web) will be debated next week in Copenhagen (13 September) by 50 delegations from ministries of health. They will be asked to endorse a resolution which proposes a ministerial conference in 2005 to evaluate the impact of the FNAP.
Both the Urban Food and Nutrition Action Plan and the Food and Nutrition Action Plan for the European Region of WHO are available on our web-site. Along with our presentation leaflet which outlines some of our related activities in the area of food and nutrition policy development.
I would be very interested to know via the conference if there are any people working in Europe that might be interested in developing a "case study" for WHO EURO from any of our 50 Member States for our monograph series? also any comments on the draft URBAN Food and Nutrition Action Plan
will be welcome.
Dr Aileen Robertson
Acting Regional Adviser for Nutrition
Food and Nutrition Policy Unit
WHO Nutrition Copenhagen
Tel: 45 - 39 17 12 26 Fax: 45 - 39 17 18 54
From: Ruben Rodriguez F.
Subject: Re-use of waste water
Es grato saludarlo y a la vez informar que El CENTRO PANAMERICANO DE INGENIERIA SANITARIA Y CIENCIAS DEL AMBIENTE (CEPIS), pone a disposición de la Conferencia, en el tema: AUP, SALUD Y MEDIO AMBIENTE, dos separatas(archivo: cepis.doc) que corresponden al "Curso de Tratamiento y Uso de Aguas Residuales".
Dr. Ing. Ruben Rodriguez Flores
CENTRO PANAMERICANO DE INGENIERIA SANITARIA Y CIENCIAS DEL AMBIENTE
Los pinos 259 - Urb. Camacho, Lima 12, Perú
Casilla Postal 4337 - Lima 100 - PERU
Tef.: (511) 437-1077
Fax: (511) 437-8289