Science News reports that farmers and other residents pumping groundwater from Earth’s crust probably triggered an earthquake that killed nine people last year in southeastern Spain, scientists have found. Follow the link to read the full report.
Following two months of stability, the FAO Food Price Index rose slightly in September 2012, up 1.4 percent, or 3 points, from its level in August.
The Index, based on the prices of a basket of internationally traded food commodities, climbed to 216 points in September from 213 points in August. The rise reflected strengthening dairy and meat prices and more contained increases for cereals. Prices of sugar and oils, on the other hand, fell.
The FAO Index currently stands 22 points below its peak of 238 points in February 2011, and 9 points below its level of 225 points in September 2011.
"with the worst drought in half a century driving feed prices sky high, pork producers are facing an untenable choice: drain their savings and gamble on a better future, or sell off their herd and get out of the business altogether.
A disappointing corn harvest has forced the slaughter of sows - adult female hogs that are the building blocks of a herd - at record rates, swelling pork supplies and sending prices plunging". Follow the link to read the full report.
BBC News reports that thousands of people in Sri Lanka have been struck by a mysterious and deadly form of kidney disease. Most of them are rice farmers. A new study points to a likely cause - pesticides and fertilisers.
"Four years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the government of Sri Lanka launched a joint investigation into its causes.
Scientists tested people and the environment. They took blood, urine, and tissue samples and tested the region's food, water, and air.
The results, released this summer in a one-page press release, suggested that the culprits were two toxic metals - cadmium and arsenic - contaminating food and the air.
Relatively high levels of the metals showed up in the blood and urine of people in the North Central Province, says Palitha Mahipala, an official with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health.
Although the levels were generally within what is considered the safe range, Mahipala says that continuous exposure to those levels may have been damaging.
"Probably the chronic exposure would have been the reason for this," he says.
But if arsenic and cadmium are to blame, where are they coming from?
The new study blames farm chemicals, which are cheap in Sri Lanka, thanks to government subsidies, and often overused.
Cadmium is found in some fertilisers. Arsenic is an active ingredient in some pesticides.
Companies that import and sell pesticides and herbicides contest the government's conclusion. They point out that the government and WHO have not yet released their full study.
"We believe the evidence is not scientific enough to say that the pesticide is the main reason for this chronic kidney disease," says Senarath Kiriwaththuduwage, research and development manager at Crop Life Sri Lanka, an industry trade association.
The WHO says it will publish the study in the coming months, but are still finalising details.
Some doctors and scientists familiar with the study agree that more research needs to be done, but many believe that farm chemicals are at least partly to blame for CKDu."
Follow the link to read the full article - we will await the full report.
Africa's urban population is growing faster than that of any other region, but many of its cities are not keeping pace with the increasing demand for food that comes with that growth. A new FAO publication says policymakers need to act now to ensure that African cities will be "green" enough to meet their nutrition and income needs in a sustainable way.
The publication, Growing greener cities in Africa, is the first status report on African urban and peri-urban horticulture - the home, school, community and market gardens that produce fruits and vegetables in and around the continent's cities.
The report draws on surveys and case studies from 31 countries across the African continent, and makes recommendations on how cities can better prepare to face the rapidly increasing demand for food and other basic amenities.
Many African countries have recorded strong, sustained economic growth over the past decade, leading to more urbanization and raising hopes of a new era of shared prosperity. But increasingly, urban areas also draw people in search of a way out of rural poverty, only to find little, if any improvement in their lives.
More than half of all urban Africans live in slums, up to 200 million survive on less than $2 a day, and poor urban children are as likely to be chronically malnourished as poor rural children.