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Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

imagePATENT
Non-profits sue Plumpy’nut

Two American non-profits have filed a lawsuit in the federal court challenging the patent to a high-protein, ready-to-use therapeutic food meant for severely malnourished people. The patent for Plumpy’nut—a blend of peanuts, sugar, milk powder, oil, vitamins and minerals—is owned by Nutriset, a French company, and the French Institute for Research and Development since 1996.

The non-profits, Breedlove Foods Inc and the Mama Cares Foundation, said the patent is so broad and generic that numerous products with micronutrients can be accused of violating it.
    

Besides, there should be no restriction on the development and production of life-saving food aid, they said in the appeal seeking a court declaration that their products do not infringe the Plumpy’nut patent. The non-profits plan to produce a high-protein, peanut butter-paste. Unicef, which distributes Plumpy’nut to 200 million malnourished children under five, though has come under fire from nutritionists for promoting it.

TAR SANDS
Shell shareholders worried

Some 142 shareholders of Royal Dutch Shell, Europe’s second largest oil company, have requested a review of investment risks at the company’s tar sands project in Canada. In a resolution, they expressed concern regarding Shell’s long-term prospects as environmental and human rights problems dogged the project in Alberta.

Tar sands make up the world’s second largest oil reserves, but it requires three-five times the energy and releases more greenhouse gases than the conventional crude. Besides, extracting oil from the topsoil involves large-scale deforestation and displacement.

Shell, which suspended a project in Alberta in September following protests by environmentalists, insists sources like tar sands would ensure the world does not run out of oil too soon. Green groups have urged Canada to withdraw its support for tar sands.

imagePOLLUTION
Diesel spill on Yellow River

Malawi is struggling to contain the armyworm outbreak that has destroyed more than 35,000 hectares of crops in the northern and central regions by mid-January. Authorities said the outbreak is threatening the food security of 123,000 families. The swarm has migrated from the neighbouring Tanzania after destroying 50,000 ha of grain by December 2009, they said. The Farmers’ Union of Malawi has called on the government to act urgently as farmers are already grappling with a dry spell, triggered by the El Nino weather anomaly in the Pacific Ocean. Army worms, which can grow to about 5 cm in length, are moth caterpillars. They can destroy swaths of vegetation and crops, and pollute creeks and rivers with their faeces within a day. An infestation in 2009 compelled Liberia to declare a state of emergency.

imageFOOD SECURITY
Armyworms attack Malawi

Malawi is struggling to contain the armyworm outbreak that has destroyed more than 35,000 hectares of crops in the northern and central regions by mid-January. Authorities said the outbreak is threatening the food security of 123,000 families. The swarm has migrated from the neighbouring Tanzania after destroying 50,000 ha of grain by December 2009, they said. The Farmers’ Union of Malawi has called on the government to act urgently as farmers are already grappling with a dry spell, triggered by the El Nino weather anomaly in the Pacific Ocean. Army worms, which can grow to about 5 cm in length, are moth caterpillars. They can destroy swaths of vegetation and crops, and pollute creeks and rivers with their faeces within a day. An infestation in 2009 compelled Liberia to declare a state of emergency.

ENERGY
Uganda sued over oil deals

Ugandan pressure group, Greenwatch, sued the government to force it to disclose details of production sharing agreements (psas) signed with four foreign exploration companies.

By November 2009, the government signed deals to sell some of the blocks in the newly found oilfield in the Lake Albert region to UK’s Heritage Oil and Tullow Oil and usa’s Dominion Oil. It refused to disclose the terms of agreements, arguing that disclosure would weaken its negotiating position in future licensing rounds. By doing so the government is violating the information act, said Greenwatch.

The lawsuit follows a report by a green group in the UK, Platform, that noted the Ugandan psa allows foreign oil exploration companies to make hefty profits, as much as 35 per cent return on their capital investments, leaving Uganda worse off in cash terms. The contracts also remain silent on human rights protection, the report stated.

imageENERGY
Iraq acts tough on oil deals

After multiple amendments to the contract draft of Iraq’s newly discovered oil fields, the oil ministry has awarded contracts to a dozen firms from around the globe. With this, the country’s ravaged oil industry is on the verge of a major resurge. Iraq sits on 115 billion barrels of oil reserves, the world’s third largest behind Saudi Arabia and Canada.

For the last several years, violence and internal squabbling had kept international oil firms out of the country. The firms that got the contract for developing its oilfields are not just from countries that toppled Saddam Hussein, like Exxon, Shell and British Petroleum, but include Russia’s Lukoil, China’s cnpc, Malaysia’s Petronas and Angola’s Sonangol. Analysts say the royalty terms put forward by Iraq are tough: 90 per cent of the oil revenues would flow back to government coffers, one of the highest royalty rates in the world, offering oil companies very little profit.

ROUNDUP HERBICIDE
Monsanto lied, it’s official

France’s supreme court ruled that the US agrochemical giant Monsanto did not tell the truth about the safety of its herbicide, Roundup. The court upheld lower court judgements that Monsanto had falsely advertized the herbicide as “biodegradable” and claimed it “left the soil clean”. Environmental groups had brought the case in 2001 on the basis that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is classed as “dangerous for the environment” by the EU; the toxic chemical is a potential endocrine disrupter and suspected of causing genetic damage. The company now faces a fine of US $22,400. Earlier this month, Monsanto reported a fourth quarter loss, mostly due to a drop in sales of its Roundup brand. The ruling could trigger civil cases from farmers and communities harmed by its false advertizing.

NATIONALIZATION
Venezuela eyes retail chain

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez ordered the takeover of the supermarket chain, Exito. The retail chain, a French-Colombian joint venture, has been accused of hiking prices and violating the country’s law on price control after the Venezuelan currency was devalued recently. The supermarket chain owns more than 200 stores. Chavez suggested the chain could become part of his socialists market project, Comerso, that provides highly subsidized goods and services. The move to nationalize the retail chain comes at a juncture when Venezuela’s relations with Colombia are at an ebb following Bogota’s decision to allow US access to its military bases.

imageSEA ANTIQUES
Pests threaten ship artefacts

Shipwrecks in the Baltic sea, valued for their antiquity, are at risk from shipworms—salt water clams referred to as termites of the sea. Shipworms cannot thrive in low saline water and avoided the Baltic Sea in the past, but now they have been spotted along Danish and German Baltic Sea coasts. Two marine ecologists of University of Gottenburg in Sweden suspect their spread has been induced by global warming—increase in sea temperature may have helped shipworms adapt to lower salinity. The Baltic Sea is said to have 100,000 well preserved shipwrecks. 

 

 

 

 

 

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