Published: Tuesday 31 July 2001

The UN world food body has reached a landmark agreement for saving the diversity of agricultural crops. Members of the body, including the US, have decided to make it mandatory for plant breeders and geneticists developing new crop varieties to pay for having access to public seed banks. The agreement, encompassing 34 nutritional crop groups and 39 forage crop groups, underlined the need to protect farmers' rights, enabling them to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed. Until now, international seed exchanges have operated informally on the principle of 'common heritage'.

The UN Gulf War compensation body will pay US $243.3 million to five West Asian countries to study the environmental damage caused by the Gulf war. The funds would also help Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan and Syria to regulate public health and screen people who might have been affected by pollution. This is the first compensation awarded against the US $46 billion claims filed after the war. Iraqi troops fleeing Kuwait after a seven-month occupation had set fire to oil wells that had resulted in extensive pollution.

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