BBC News reports that Professor Douglas Kell has suggested that "food riots are a real threat in some developing and emerging countries unless funds for agricultural research are increased." His concern is the lack of investment and the article states that the investment required "in the UK alone needs to be increased by £100m if farmers are to produce sufficient food to meet global demand" otherwise this could lead to food shortages and civil unrest. Follow the link to read the full article.
BBC News reports that the presidents of five Central Asian states are due hold a summit in the Kazakh city of Almaty about water. Access to water is becoming more and more of an issue in the region because Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan "hold almost 80% of all Central Asia's water resources in their mountains and reservoirs" whilst Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan need access to the supply. This requires a formal management approach to be developed. The impact of water use on the Ural Sea is severe as it has shruck by 90% and this brings the problems into sharp focus. Check out the article.
Yesterday, I wrote a blog post about the H1N1 outbreak in Mexico, which has over the last twenty-four hours now been identified in many other regions of the world. The UK Health Protection Agency has produced an information statement and Wikipedia are keeping a tally of cases.
The 1918 flu epidemic that caused the death of 20-40 million people worldwide was also caused by H1N1, but it is important to remember that there were no antiviral drugs at the time to combat the virus. The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has determined that laboratory tests have found that the swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is susceptible to the prescription antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir. It has issued interim guidance for the use of these drugs to treat and prevent infection with swine influenza viruses. These drugs have been stockpiled in some countries because of theconcern over another flu virus H5N1 - so-called avian or bird flu.
According to the FAO there are three types of influenza virus: A, B and C. Influenza A is the most dangerous for humans, influenza C is the least dangerous. The FAO states that "the H stands for one of the 16 different hemagglutinin proteins contained in a virus that allows it to penetrate a foreign body. The "N" stands for another protein in the genetic make-up of a flu virus called neuraminidase, of which there currently exist nine variations".
Viruses can also be described as low pathogenic (LP) i.e. mild or highly pathogenic (HP) - severe. All of these key words will be part of the news in the coming days as we wait to see the ultimate impact around the world.
I have been writing on this blog about avian flu H5N1 since it began, mapping its impact around the world. My interest first began five years ago when I was researching for a paper that I was writing on zoonotic diseases.
What is a zoonotic disease? Well these are diseases that animals carry that can be transmitted to humans. Infection usually happens either as a result of eating products of animal origin or direct contact with an infected animal. The UK Health Protection Agency has produced a list of these diseases which include avian (bird) influenza and porcine (pig or swine) influenza.
In Mexico there is concern over a human influenza outbreak that may have killed as many as eighty people. It is believed that the virus may have been formed by a combination of human, avian and pig viruses. The virus has been identified as H1N1. Follow the link to the report by BBC News.
The Indepeendent reports that agriculture ministers from the world's richest countries are holding an unprecedented meeting as the United Nations warns that hunger threatens to "spiral out of control".
The report states that The UN's World Food Programme warned: "As the global financial crisis deepens, hunger and malnutrition are likely to increase as incomes fall and unemployment rises. The world is at a critical juncture where we risk watching hunger spiral out of control. We cannot afford to lose the next generation......The UN adds that it would cost $6bn (£4bn) to stave off the resulting hunger, which would be "relatively inexpensive compared to the trillion-dollar rescue packages designed to save financial institutions." The article outlines the current food crisis in so many regions of the world. Do check it out.
Food Politics reports that in 2008 the USDA has spent nearly $61 billion of taxpayers’ money on food and nutrition assistance programs for low-income individuals and families. This is 11% more than in 2007. Overall, 2008 was the eighth year in a row that there was an increase in spending on food assistance. Check out the article.
The Independent reports that at least 1,500 farmers in the Indian state of Chattisgarh committed suicide after being driven to debt by crop failure. The area, as has many other regions of the world, has been hit by falling ground water levels. They used to be at 40 feet and are now below 250 feet. This means that the water can no longer be reached by simple wells and expensive borehole equipment is needed. Many farmers under such difficult conditions have found themselves in debt. A truly sobering report. Follow the link to find out more.