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As concerns about global food security are on the rise, there are many questions as to how the world will face growing demands for a sustainable food supply. While poverty and food distribution seem to underlie many of the challenges regarding food security, biotechnology in the form of genetically modified seeds could continue to play an increasing role in how food is grown and traded in both developed and less developed countries.
Does patenting seeds create new risks to food security or provide a way of securing the world food supply through centralisation? Are we simply looking at a new way of meeting the demands placed upon agriculture or a new way for chemical corporations such as Monsanto, Dupont, Dow Chemical and others to place new demands on society? Most importantly, where does this leave farmers and the communities they support?
Dr Giulio Selvaggi is former Director of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV). He gave the first IHRR seminar of the term on the L’Aquila earthquake and its aftermath. He is one of six scientists in Italy found guilty of manslaughter for downplaying the risk of earthquakes in the region. They are appealing the verdict. The aftermath of the L’Aquila earthquake is possibly one of the most politicised and publicised affairs of recent times involving scientists.
The L’Aquila earthquake led to the deaths of 309 people. The 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila not only revealed the unpreparedness of the city in dealing with the 6.3 magnitude earthquake, but the vulnerability of the buildings that collapsed. The fact that the earthquake took place is nothing unusual. It’s well known that L’Aquila is in a region of Italy with high risk of earthquakes. Unfortunately, the message conveyed to the general public of L’Aquila by government misinformed them about the actual risk of an earthquake occurring.
Selvaggi explained how one week prior to the earthquake he attended a meeting between The High Risk Commission (HRC) and National Service of Civil Protection (NCP) of Italy. The High Risk Commission is assigned with forecasting and mitigating large-scale risks, which includes serving as an interface between the scientific community and government. The NCP are responsible for taking action to protect the public from potential risks. The advice, however, given by scientists to the High Risk Commission, does not seem to match the message the NCP disseminated to the public. Read the rest of this entry »
Over the past summer regions of China have also experienced intense heat waves with eastern China setting a record of 40.8 C (105.4 F). Russia (Northern Siberia) has also had harsh rises in temperature over the summer. In China, cities such as Shanghai were particularly vulnerable. These images taken from the NASA Earth Observatory show the concentrations of the heat wave in different parts of China.
The ground breaking film Chasing Ice is now widely available online, on DVD, in cinemas and on TV. In fact, quite a few screenings are scheduled in the UK this autumn. It is also possible for education institutions to host a screening of this amazing film. It is really a film that should be seen on the big screen, but at the same time those who see it should think carefully about what it portrays so elegantly. The disappearance of the Earth’s glaciers in the Arctic has large implications for how it will affect the future of human societies, not to mention the ecosystems we depend on for survival. Read the rest of this entry »
Trials of the first vaccine to show evidence of full protection against the deadly disease Malaria will take place at the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania, who are working with the developer of the new vaccine, the private company Sanaria. Some postgraduate researchers with IHRR who have also worked at Ifakara have concentrated on preventing the spread of malaria, (such as providing bed nets) including Christina Makungu, a Moyes Postgraduate Fellow who completed her dissertation on the health of young people in self-care in Tanzania. Prevention is still likely the best way in combating the spread of the deadly disease that has plagued less developed countries. A vaccine would be most welcome.
While researchers have expressed ‘cautious optimism’ about the results, this scientific advance is clearly great news. The new vaccine (PfSPZ) ‘uses a weakened form of the whole parasite to invoke an immune response’, something that was previously thought too difficult to achieve. It was produced from 850 mosquitoes that were dissected in about one hour by six researchers. Six subjects given five doses of the vaccine were completely protected against malaria, compared to three of nine who were given four doses. The vaccine must be given intravenously, which is not as efficient as injection or oral administration, but the dosage is small (.5 ml) and researchers are working on improving the delivery of the vaccine. Read the rest of this entry »