Comments Off on Monarch butterfly numbers have fallen by 59 percent, Chile inaugurates its ALMA telescope, and Central America expands GMO food production.

14 March 2013

Monarch butterfly numbers have fallen by 59 percent, Chile inaugurates its ALMA telescope, and Central America expands GMO food production.

ARGENTINA

Argentina’s government has created two new marine protected areas in Patagonia: Isla Pingüino Coastal Marine Park and Makenke Coastal Marine Park. Isla Pingüino covers nearly 1,800 square kilometers (720 square miles) of ocean and coastline while Makenke covers 600 square kilometers (230 square miles). The areas will protect red-legged cormorants, sea lions, penguins, and dolphins, among other marine species.

The number of monarch butterflies that migrate to Mexico’s oyamel fir forest has fallen 59 percent this year. Credit: Aviruthia via Flickr.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from Argentina’s Universidad Nacional de San Martin are raising awareness about the use of stem cells from umbilical cords, particularly in minority groups such as the Tobas and the Mapuches. Currently, Argentine law regarding hematopoeitic stem cells and umbilical cord blood is scarce and ambiguous and there are more private than public clinics preserving this tissue.

CENTRAL AMERICA

In 2012, 170.3 million hectares of GMO crops were planted worldwide. Twenty of the 28 countries those were planted in are developing countries. Though Central America has lagged in adopting GMO technology due to national biosecurity measures, many of its countries are expanding production. Honduras is the region’s most experienced in GMO, having planted 30,000 hectares of GM corn in its last campaign and is hoping to expand that by 1,500 to 5,000 hectares soon. Meanwhile, Guatemala has completed studies of transgenic maize and is set to approve its commercialization by the end of 2013, while Panama is pushing through congress its regulatory process. El Salvador is the furthest behind, according to CropLife Central America, where there is a ¨failure of political will¨ to approve a law to commercialize transgenics.

CHILE

The European Southern Observatory has inaugurated its ALMA telescope in Chile’s Atacama desert at an altitude of 15,000 feet. ALMA is an array of 66 telescopes collect radiowaves from the far reaches of space. Together with telescopes that gather visible light, like Hubble, ALMA will help produce some of the most detailed images of the universe. The Atacama’s zero-humidity climate ensures capturing radiowaves with no interference.

COLOMBIA

Scientists at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Cali are looking at increasing production and quality of mandioca (or yuca). Using genetic engineering, the researchers have developed a variety that allows growers to increase the density of plants per hectare, and thus yield. The researchers have also developed varieties fortified with high levels of provitamin A and iron. Yuca is a staple of Central America and Africa because it is an important source of carbohydrates for the poorest segments of the population. The crop is also used to make glues, dyes, and to produce ethanol.

MEXICO

The number of monarch butterflies that migrate to Mexico’s oyamel fir forest has fallen 59 percent this year. The World Wildlife Fund blames climate change and the use of pesticides to kill of the insect’s food source, milkweed, where the butterflies lay their eggs. The population of monarch butterflies has decreased in six of the last seven years.

PERU

In response to rising pressure on its anchovy and sardine fisheries, the Peruvian government has banned commercial fishing within 10 miles of its northern and central coast and six miles of its southern coast.