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Norway funds bio-security project in Vietnam

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2010 at 9:58 am

Norway’s Ambassador Stale Torstein Risa (R) and Mr. Nguyen Tran Hien, president of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE) sign the agreement (Photo: Courtesy of NIHE)

The Norwegian Embassy has approved a two year non-refundable aid project of approximately US$1 million to enhance the control and management of bio- safety and bio-security in Vietnam.


Norway’s Ambassador Stale Torstein Risa and Mr. Nguyen Tran Hien, president of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE) jointly signed the agreement in Hanoi on December 13.


The project targets at improving standards for the management of bio-safety and bio-security and to increase its management capacity in laboratories at NIHE, National Lung Hospital (NLH) in Hanoi and Pham Ngoc Thach Hospital (PNTH) in Ho Chi Minh City as well as capacity building for the NIHE on evaluation, assessment and monitoring of bio-safety laboratories in the country.


The two year project will be conducted at the three above mentioned locations.

Source: SGGP

Philippines, Norway vaults saving rice diversity

In Uncategorized on October 24, 2010 at 12:02 pm

AFP/File – A farmer separates rice grains from husks on a farm near Manila.

LOS BANOS, Philippines (AFP) – In a greenhouse near the Philippine capital, botanists grow strange grasses that bear tiny seeds which are promptly flown to a doomsday vault under Norway’s Arctic permafrost.


The Norway deliveries are just the newest facet of a decades-old effort by more than 100 countries to save the world’s many varieties of rice which might otherwise be lost.


A fire-proof, quake-proof, typhoon-proof gene bank set up by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines in 1962 now holds 115,000 varieties of one of the world’s most important grains.


“We’ve got genes stored which could potentially help us increase the yields of rice, improve pest tolerance and disease resistance, and help us address the effects of climate change,” IRRI geneticist Fiona Hay said.


The rice varieties are grown at IRRI’s sprawling complex at the university town of Los Banos, two hours’ drive south of Manila, so that they can be provided — free of charge — to farmers or governments around the world.


Yet Hay said that rice varieties were constantly being lost forever, despite the preservation efforts of IRRI, a non-profit organisation funded by governments, multilateral banks and philanthropists.


Such losses are under a global spotlight this week as delegates from more than 190 countries meet at a UN summit in Nagoya, Japan, to map out a strategy to stop the world’s rapid loss of biodiversity in all plants and animals.


A rice variety can easily vanish due to pests, disease, drought or other natural disasters like a cyclone, or if for some reason farmers simply stop planting it, Hay said.


Not just urbanisation, but even farming can push wild rice varieties into extinction.


And while some countries run their own gene banks, they are not always successful in preserving seeds. In the tropics, high humidity causes rice seeds to spoil after several years, Hay said.


At the IRRI gene bank in the Philippines, seeds are stored in dry and cool conditions and can remain usable for up to 40 years.


The institute keeps its base collection in tiny, sealed, bar-coded aluminium cans in a room kept at a temperature well below freezing.


They include a Malaysian variety that was collected soon after the gene bank opened in 1962, some reed-like Latin American ones that grow taller than a man, and Indian varieties that look more like crawling weeds.


Duplicates in small foil sachets of about 400 seeds each are stored in a separate vault kept at two degrees Celsius (35.6 Fahrenheit) and low humidity for passing on to those who need them for farming or research.


Given the importance of the collection, extra insurance is always desirable — hence the rice gene bank being duplicated in Svalbard, Norway, Hay told AFP on a tour last week of the Philippine facility.


Since the Svalbard seed vault opened in February 2008, IRRI has reproduced 70,000 of its own grains and sent them in tiny freeze-dried aluminium cans to northern Norway, in a series of flights that take four days.


One final delivery of about 40,000 varieties is due to be flown out from Manila airport this week to complete the project.


The seeds include those no longer grown by farmers, plus 4,000-odd weeds with genes harnessed by scientists to make the rice plant more aromatic and more resistant to pests and disease, and tolerant of drought and saltwater.


Once completed, the Norway facility will act as a further backup to a US Department of Agriculture vault in Colorado that already holds duplicates of IRRI’s seeds.


IRRI has in particular helped Cambodia’s farmers to recover from the ravages of war. The Khmer Rouge regime killed millions of people — many through starvation — and forced farmers to grow only certain rice varieties in the 1970s.


Flora de Guzman, senior research manager of the gene bank, said she had once processed a request by Cambodia to send back seeds for about 500 of their native rice varieties.


“They lost the materials during the war. We had the collection here, so between 1981 and 1989 we repatriated the varieties that they lost,” she said.

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Source: SGGP

Obama lands in Norway to accept peace prize

In World on December 10, 2009 at 1:29 pm

US President Barack Obama landed in Norway on Thursday to accept his Nobel Peace Prize, amid controversy over his role as a “war president” and widespread doubts about whether he deserves the honor.


Obama touched down after an overnight flight from Washington on Air Force One, ahead of a day of ceremonies marking the surprise decision by the Nobel committee to honor the first-year president.


Norway was rolling out its biggest ever security operation to protect Obama, who aides said would address the apparent paradox in being honored as a man of peace days after ordering 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.








Police guard the main entrance of the Grand Hotel in Oslo where US President Barack Obama will stay during his visit to Oslo

Two military choppers circled above the hotel where Obama will stay while others flew over the city centre as part of an operation costing the government around 92 million kroner (10.9 million euros, 16 million dollars) — more than 10 times the prize money awarded to the Peace Prize laureate.


Barricades were placed along the sidewalks of Oslo‘s main avenues, between 2,000 and 2,500 police officers have been mobilised, the Schengen-member country reinstated border controls and anti-aircraft missiles were deployed near the airport and around Oslo to ensure the president’s security.


The beefed-up protection was however not necessarily reflective of support for the choice of Obama as the 2009 Peace Prize laureate.


A controversial choice as soon as it was announced on October 9 because of US engagement in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama’s decision to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, announced only nine days before Thursday’s Nobel prize ceremony, raised eyebrows further.Related article: Obama to address Afghan war paradox


Obama will dwell on the sombre paradox of waging war in Afghanistan even as he is lauded as a man of peace when he accepts his prize, White House director of speechwriting Jon Favreau told AFP.


After less than a year in power, with few defining foreign policy wins and with his once soaring popularity fading at home, Obama faces a sensitive political assignment during a day of solemn ceremonies in Oslo.


Favreau said Obama would speak solemnly about the odd coincidence of accepting the revered prize a week after ordering 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in a major war escalation.


“The president is receiving a peace prize as the commander-in-chief of a nation that is in two wars,” acknowledged Favreau, one of two White House speechwriters working on the text with Obama.


With many critics suggesting that Obama’s resume is too thin to stand scrutiny with other Nobel peace laureates, the president will also seek to deflect attention from himself, aides said.


“He sees this as less of a recognition of his own accomplishments and more of an affirmation of a desire for American leadership in the 21st century,” Favreau said.


Geir Lundestad, secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, told public radio NRK this week that most US presidents face conflicts and wars — but the new mood in US foreign policy justified Obama’s elevation.


Obama will be in Oslo for just over 24 hours to pick up the award that adds him to a list of laureates including Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Aung San Suu Kyi.


Events related to the formal Nobel Peace Prize ceremony normally run over three days, but the president has shortened his visit and excluded the traditional lunch with the king and a Friday night concert in his honour.


There will also be no day-before press conference or lengthy CNN sit-down interview laureates usually grant — enabling him to avoid potentially embarrassing questions.


Obama will however watch the traditional torchlight procession on Thursday evening from the balcony of the Grand Hotel, where bullet-proof glass has been installed.

The other Nobel laureates in the fields of medicine, physics, chemistry, economics and literature will meanwhile receive their awards at a gala ceremony in Stockholm on Thursday.


Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share