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Safety of Genetically Modified Food: Public Interest and Reality


1         Summery

Genetically modified (GM) foods are any foods obtained from plants, animals or microorganisms in which original genetic makeup is deliberately changed by using recombinant DNA technology with one or more altered characteristics. GM foods are matter of significant public controversy in many countries of the world. Many public healths related and environment related issues have been raised against the GM foods. Significant trade dispute have been experienced among different countries regarding export and import of these products. Attitudes of peoples and authorities of different countries vary regarding GM foods and their effects on health and environment. This article will try to discuss the issues raised against GM foods and reality behind those issues. Public attitudes and technical scientific knowledge about GM foods will also be discussed briefly.  Safety and regulation of GM foods will also be reviewed briefly. 

Agriculture and Food Security Project (AFSP) Nepal: Introduction



Background

Household food deficiency due to low agricultural productivity, limited livelihood opportunities, inefficient food distribution system, weak market linkage, poor infrastructure and lack of awareness among general public about healthy food habit are some of the development challenges in Nepal. Within the country western Nepal suffer more from poverty and hunger with 37% of the people living below the poverty line compared to the national average of 25.16%. Similarly, productivity of major crops is significantly lower than the national average which is already among the lowest in South Asia. Per capita consumption of animal products (32 litres of milk, 7.5 kg of meat and 6.4 eggs per capita per annum) is among the lowest in the region hunger indices pointing to an extremely alarming situation.Household food balance (result of food inflow, household production, household consumption and outflow) is negative almost throughout the year in the region. 

Government of Nepal has developed a Country Investment Plan (CIP) in 2010 in consultation with donors, civil society organizations and other stakeholders to comprehensively address the gap of funding in the area of agriculture and food security issues including availability, access and utilization of food. The Agriculture and Food Security Project (AFSP) is well aligned with country need and government priorities. Building on a Country Investment Plan (CIP) to comprehensively address agriculture and food security issues, the Government of Nepal (GoN) submitted an investment proposal to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) and was competitively awarded a grant of US$46.5 million in June 2011. GoN has designed Agriculture and Food Security Project (AFSP) of US$58 million dollar including US$11.5 million GoN contribution to be implemented from FY 2013/14 for 5 years.  

Competition between sheep and kangaroos in Southern Australia

Summery  

Millions of sheep and kangaroos share the same habitat in the sheep rangelands of southern Australia and dietary competition between these two species has been a matter of concern to pastoralists, conservation ecologists and animal scientists for long time. This issue has been tried to be addressed in this article. It is found that sheep and kangaroos both positively select grass and forb resulting considerable overlapping in their diet during flush season. But when grasses are in short supply during drought, sheep are forced to eat more of less preferred vegetation (chenopods). Sheep are more flexible than kangaroos to shift into chenopods and other shrubs decreasing the overlap in diet during dry season. Dietary competition is not significant when pasture biomass production is high (>30 g DM/m2) but it requires due attention when there is low biomass production during drought. Issue has been discussed and recommendation has been drawn.


Scaling up Climate Services for Farmers

Scaling up Climate Services in Nepal in the Context of Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change


Being large number of farmers depending on subsistence agriculture on rain-fed land, Nepal is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of global climate change and frequent spells of weather extremes. Unique geographical terrain, insufficient capacity of public institutions and almost absence of early warning system with regard to climate services even intensify such vulnerability of small holder farmers. Although farmers have well adapted through ages of experiences to normal seasonal variation in weathers, they are not sufficiently prepared to cope with recent rapid and erratic climate and weather variability. Effective climate services offering reliable climate information and advisory services to farmers, so that they can prepare themselves for such changes and make informed decisions, are very crucial in this context.

The best resolution ever we can make



Jagat Bahadur Shahi (name changed) of Mugu, one of the remote districts of Nepal, hardly remembers when he has been able to feed their fill to his children last time. His six years old daughter and four years old son are so severely malnourished that anyone with kind heart cannot stop tear rolling down his/her eyes seeing them. These children had to bear the demise of their loving mother and Jagat Bahadur's caring wife last year as she was not lucky enough to get adequate food during her pregnancy.  Pouring salt on his wound, his two years old daughter leaved the world last month due to malnutrition. 

Every morning Jagat Bahadur wakes up with a dream of having enough food to feed his children. He has a desire neither for a cozy house nor for a luxury car. He doesn't have a dream to send his children in expensive private school.  He just prays to have a handful of rice for his two little cuties. 

Policy Reform and Strategies for Agricultural Development in Nepal



Since last year there has been a surge of interest and debate in public forum about the need to increase public sector investment in agriculture, and policy reform for agricultural development. Commitment of prime minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai to double the government budget in agriculture sector and promises of other high level officials including vice-chairman of national planning commission and the chief secretary of the government of Nepal to give due priority to agriculture sector have received wide media coverage. In the mean time, the Government of Nepal is preparing Agriculture Development Strategy (ADS), a 20-year strategy paper for agriculture sector development which is almost in the final stage and probably will be disclosed after a few rounds of consultations and validation in a few months. 

Basic Concepts of Food Security: Definition, Dimensions and Integrated Phase Classification



"Food Security" is one of major elements of development and poverty alleviation and has been the goal of many international and national public organizations. The issue is so important that according to the state of food insecurity in the world 2012 published by FAO around 870 million people (out of which 852 million from developing countries) are estimated to have been undernourished in the period 2010-12. Although the phrase "Food Security" is being used widely, the definition and concept of food security is elusive and being evolved and expanded over time.

Impacts of climate change on Emperor Penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri)


Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) are regarded as an icon of Antarctica due to its peculiar appearance and behaviour. These are the largest of all penguins adapted to extreme climatic condition of Antarctica [1] and are particularly susceptible to environmental changes in southern ocean as a result of global climate change due to being ice-obligate species [2]. Size of the bird also increases its susceptibility to climate change [3] and its morphology which prevent them to forage up to greater depth and range make the situation even worse [2]. Alteration in sea ice condition, which ultimately affects availability of pray and breeding and moulting of these birds, significantly affects their population [2]

Impacts of climate change on Pig



Swine are particularly susceptible to increased environmental temperature because evaporative cooling by sweating is of limited value to them due to barely functional sweat glands. Impacts of thermal stress on pig due to increased ambient temperature are described here briefly.  

For Impacts of Climate Change on Cattle, Click Here.

Effects of Heat Stress on Milk Production in Cattle



Reduction in milk production is one of the major economic impacts of climatic stress in dairy cattle. Decrease in milk yield due to heat stress is more prominent in Holstein than in Jersey cattle [1]. Decreased synthesis of hepatic glucose and lower non esterified fatty acid (NEFA) level in blood during heat stress [2, 3, 4] causes reduced glucose supply to the mammary glands resulting low lactose synthesis which in turn ensues low milk yield [5]. Reduction in milk yield is further intensified by decrease in feed consumption by the animals to compensate high environmental temperature [5, 6].

Role of Methane in Global Warming



Although the proportion of CH4 in the atmosphere is very low compared to CO2, the relative contribution of CH4 to global warming is high due to the high radiative forcing contributed by this gas. The global atmospheric concentration of methane reached 1774 ppb in 2005 compared to 1732 ppb in the early 1990s and only 715 ppb in the pre-industrial era (figure). This increase in atmospheric concentration of CH4 is responsible for radiative forcing of +0.48 ± 0.05 W m–2 which is second only to that contributed by CO2 due to CH4 having approximately 25 times higher global warming potential (GWP)  compared to CO2. Therefore, reduction in CH4 emission is more effective and probably an easier strategy than reducing CO2 emission.

Figure: Trend in the increase in atmospheric concentration of CH4 over the last 10,000 years and since 1750 (inset) with corresponding radiative forcing. Source: IPPC (2007)

P.S. References available on request.

Major issues about the Safety of Meat in Nepal



Safety of meat sold and consumed in Nepal is a major concern since long and debate about the legislation and its enforcement to assure safe meat to public has been continuing for more than a decade. Recent incidence about import of frozen chicken by International food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) from India once again makes meat safety the issue of widespread public and media interest. Government has suspended the suspected officials and started the investigation. This is out of scope for this article but issues about meat safety and enforcement of legislation has been discussed here. 

Role of Ruminant Animals in Global Climate Change



Ruminant animals are great contributors to the human food chain due to their ability to utilize complex polysaccharides in plant cell walls (cellulose, hemicelluloses and pectin), which are otherwise non digestible to any of the mammalian digestive enzyme and turn these into meat and milk for human consumption. Digestion of these polysaccharides in ruminant diets is attributable to anaerobic biodegradation of these compounds into their respective monomers by microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) present in the forestomach of the animals. In spite of their contribution to the human food chain, ruminant animals are often debated as one of the contributing factors in global climate change due to the emission of CH4 as a byproduct of fermentative digestion of feedstuffs in the forestomach. In addition, production of methane by ruminants causes a significant amount of feed energy loss which could be used for animal growth and production if methane production is prevented.

International Debate on Climate Change: Developed Countries Vs Developing Countries



In 2009, the United Nations climate change conference was held in Copenhagen, Denmark. There was a widespread hope to the world community about the conference that it would bring a significant policy and commitment to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. But, the conference couldn’t make a consensus decision and thus the accord of the conference was not passed unanimously. The seeds of the debate seem to be sown in Kyoto protocol in which principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” has been initiated. According to this principle developed and industrialised countries which led the industrial revolution are responsible for most of the greenhouse gases now in the atmosphere and therefore should bear a greater responsibility for combating climate change. As a consequence of this principle in Kyoto protocol some large developing nations such as China and India were exempted from the same emissions-reductions obligations as developed countries. Developing countries want rich countries to take bold action to cut their greenhouse emission but developed countries like USA are seemed to be reluctant as it would affect their economy. Furthermore, the developed nations want the same level of commitment and action from high emitting developing nations like China and India but the developing nations led by China and India still oppose taking on mandatory obligations to reduce their emissions. This debate of ‘who is responsible and who should take action’ distracting the world leader from the real problem. 

Management of Heat Stress in Horse


Any physiological, metabolic, behavioral and performance abnormality in animals due to inability of thermoregulatory mechanism to regulate normal body temperature during high ambient temperature can be referred to as heat stress. Heat stress is not only the concern of only tropical region but also a matter of major apprehension in sub-tropical and temperate regions too as frequent spells of high ambient temperature and gradual rise in global atmospheric temperature is being experienced in many of the temperate regions of the world due to global climate change.

Heat stress is one of the greatest climatic challenges faced by horses affecting animal health and welfare in the area of the world where ambient temperature often exceeds upper critical temperature. 

Principle of management of heat stress during hot weather is to hasten the heat loss and avoid the heat gain as far as possible.