Published: Thursday 15 January 2004

modified reality: Genetically modified (GM) sugar beet is more ecofriendly than conventional beet, as per an analysis. It is said to be the first to measure GM crops' impacts such as the contribution to global warming, damage to the ozone layer and toxicity to aquatic life. "Overall, GM beet is 15 to 50 per cent better," says Richard Phipps, the lead researcher from the UK-based University of Reading. The benefits arise because less pesticide is sprayed onto GM beet. For instance, less spraying saves tractor fuel, which means less of greenhouse gases are emitted.

deadly relation: Unlike conventional theory, a study of HIV-infected pregnant women has found that co-infection with malaria significantly increases a mother's risk of transmitting the AIDS virus to her baby before or during birth. The study was conducted by researchers from the US-based Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

not in the drag-net: The UN member states only tiptoed around the debate over who should control the Internet in the run-up to the first ever World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) held on December 13, 2003. At present, an array of US private organisations make decisions about Internet regulations. Therefore, some nations have called for the control to be handed over to an international body. But UN members, such as the US, Europe and Japan, agreed only to create a working group of experts to discuss the issue and make recommendations at the WSIS meeting to be held in 2005.

insights into chimps: On December 12, 2003, scientists from the US-based Broad Institute and Washington University School of Medicine released a draft version of the genetic sequence of the chimpanzee Pan troglodytes -- the closest relative of humans. The chimp's sequence is roughly the same size as that of humans -- three billion base pairs. A comparison of the chimp's genetic code with the human genome should reveal what makes humans superior.

no year ache: Despite expectations that it would turn out the hottest year ever, 2003 looks unlikely to enter the record books. Provisional data from the UK met office shows it will only be the third warmest year globally. The global temperature was lower than expected because of a weak El Nio.

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