News 360

Published: Tuesday 30 June 2009

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The wild Atlantic salmon looks tiny against its genetically modified (GM) avatar, which the US Food and Drug Administration has cleared for aquaculture. Developed by Canadian company Aqua Bounty, its gene has been modified using hormone from fast-growing Chinook salmon. To ensure GM salmon do not escape and breed with wild salmon, the administration has mandated Aqua Bounty to sell only sterile ones. Anti-GM groups fear since GM salmon is aggressive, it could outstrip the wild stock in case of food shortage.
Down to Earth A trial of Shell over allegations that in 1995 it colluded with Nigeria's then military junta in the execution of nine Nigerian activists, including environmentalist Ken Saro Wiwa, has been postponed indefinitely. The trial was to take place in a New York court, which gave no reason for the deferral.

Down to Earth Five hundred doctors staged protests in Pretoria demanding a 50 per cent pay hike and more investment in hospitals. The protest came as it entered recession.

Down to Earth Tanzania seeks funds to bring back five rhinos it had given to South Africa in the 1980s to save them from intensive poaching. Flying back each rhino would cost it US $100,000.

Down to Earth Forty-eight coal mine inspectors resigned in China's Hunan province citing tough rules laid out in the new safety law. One of the rules say work-safety station heads can be sacked for any major mishap in the mine. Over 3,200 people working in China's coal mine industry died in 2008.

Down to Earth China drafted new standards requiring automakers to improve fuel economy by 18 per cent by 2015. The plan, which will be finalized by early 2010, aims to curb the country's dependence on foreign oil imports.

Down to Earth Flash floods and mudslides triggered by heavy rain in Tajikistan killed 33 people and displaced 15,000 in May. The country, with seven million population, has urged for emergency aid.

Down to Earth Wildlife activists built a 43-metre treetop bridge in an orangutan sanctuary in Malaysia to help the endangered apes find new mates and prevent inbreeding. The 26,000-ha Kinabatangan Sanctuary is fragmented by palm oil plantations.

Down to Earth Iceland began its whaling season in defiance of protests by conservationists. It plans to hunt 100 minke whales whose population has dropped by half in two decades. Iceland, whose economy relies heavily on fishing, resumed commercial whaling in 2006 after 16 years of moratorium.

Down to Earth Slovenia passed a law to monitor cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops alongside traditional crops.

Down to Earth Greece extended its ban on importing and cultivating a GM corn, MON810. The government said the strain modified by biotech giant Monsanto to produce insect-repelling toxin could threaten its beekeeping industry. Its latest move comes a month after Germany banned MON810.

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Down to Earth wwf's Roundtable on Responsible Soy initiative, which aims to involve industry in making soy cultivation sustainable, declared GM soy sustainable. About 60 international green groups picketed wwf's Netherlands office for favouring GM soy.

Down to Earth This season, the UK witnessed the biggest mass migration of Painted Lady butterflies in a century as millions of the species fluttered from the Atlas mountains of Morocco to the UK. Entomologists link this year's swarm to heavy winter rains in Morocco.

Down to Earth The UN has urged Nicaragua's government to relax its ban on abortion, at least for incest or rape cases, and repeal a 2006 law that bans therapeutic abortion. In 2006, the government revoked the 1893 legislation that permitted abortion for medical reasons.

Down to Earth Venezuela slashed its social spending by 58 per cent following a drop in oil earnings. In early May, the government had said the shortfall would not affect social spending.

Down to Earth About 77 per cent of voters in the Argentine city of Magdalena backed a public opinion poll to accept a US $9.5 million payment from Shell to end a dispute over a 1999 oil spill that polluted 15 km of its beach. The city had initially sought US $180 million in compensation.

Down to Earth Puerto Rico fired 7,000 government employees after they refused to accept the incentivized voluntary termination programme. The government plans to eliminate 30,000 jobs and outsource them.

Down to Earth General Motors, which filed for bankruptcy protection on June 2, announced its plans to build a small car in the US as part of its restructuring plan.

Down to Earth New York made five streets near Times Square and two at Herald Square car-free. About 350,000 people walk through Times Square every day. The move aims to reduce pedestrian accidents, 140 per cent higher than nearby areas, and curb pollution.

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