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WORLD HUNGER

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Bianca
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« on: June 19, 2009, 07:16:02 am »







EFFORTS TO RELIEVE WORLD HUNGER

http://atlantisonline.smfforfree2.com/index.php/topic,19169.0.html




AGRICULTURAL NOAH'S ARK IN ARCTIC-Svalbard International Seed Vault

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« Last Edit: June 19, 2009, 07:20:55 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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Bianca
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« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2009, 12:47:21 pm »











                                              Bumper crop, but Zimbabwe hungry 





 
BBC NEWS
June 26, 2009

Zimbabwe has had a bumper maize crop but the hunger crisis remains.
 
Some three million people face hunger in Zimbabwe, despite a significant rise in food production, the UN says.

Good rainfall over the past year has boosted production of the staple crop, maize, by 130% to 1.1m tonnes.

But about 2.8m people will still face food shortages this year, warned the report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Food Programme.

They found that Zimbabwe's situation remains critical with basic necessities out of reach for most households.

The BBC's Andrew Harding in Johannesburg (the BBC is banned from Zimbabwe) says that, as so often with Zimbabwe, it is one step forward and two steps back.

The report also forecast the lowest ever harvest of wheat this winter because of high seed prices and electricity shortages.
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« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2009, 12:49:20 pm »










'Struggling to survive'



"This year's improved harvest comes after two consecutive years of poor production," said the World Food Programme's Jan Delbaere, who worked on the report, reports AP news agency.

"Having depleted their food stocks and sold livestock and other assets to cope with the effects of the recent crises, many rural households are still struggling to survive."

Zimbabwe's vice-president pleaded for an international financial stimulus.
 
The warning comes a day after Zimbabwe's vice-president called on the international community to provide her country with a financial stimulus package to offset its economic crisis.

Addressing a gathering of the world's richest and poorest countries at the UN in New York, Joyce Mujuru, a Zanu-PF member, said the lack of external support for Zimbabwe was threatening the unity government's programme.

Also on Wednesday, Zimbabwe launched a public consultation as it prepares to draft a new constitution to pave the way for the next elections.

Plans for the charter were enshrined in February's power-sharing pact between President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

In April, parliament elected a 25-member committee, drawn from both parties, to tour the provinces and carry out a consultation on the new constitution.

The draft document is supposed to be introduced in parliament by February next year, with a referendum to be held by July.
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« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2009, 12:53:08 pm »

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« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2009, 12:54:07 pm »











                                           A 'TIME BOMB' For World Wheat Crop



          The Ug99 fungus, called stem rust, could wipe out more than 80% of the world's wheat

                                        as it spreads from Africa, scientists fear.

                       The race is on to breed resistant plants before it reaches the U.S.







By Karen Kaplan
LA Times
June 14, 2009

The spores arrived from Kenya on dried, infected leaves ensconced in layers of envelopes.

Working inside a bio-secure greenhouse outfitted with motion detectors and surveillance cameras, government scientists at the Cereal Disease Laboratory in St. Paul, Minn., suspended the fungal spores in a light mineral oil and sprayed them onto thousands of healthy wheat plants. After two weeks, the stalks were covered with deadly reddish blisters characteristic of the scourge known as Ug99.

Nearly all the plants were goners.

Crop scientists fear the Ug99 fungus could wipe out more than 80% of worldwide wheat crops as it spreads from eastern Africa. It has already jumped the Red Sea and traveled as far as Iran. Experts say it is poised to enter the breadbasket of northern India and Pakistan, and the wind will inevitably carry it to Russia, China and even North America -- if it doesn't hitch a ride with people first.

"It's a time bomb," said Jim Peterson, a professor of wheat breeding and genetics at Oregon State University in Corvallis. "It moves in the air, it can move in clothing on an airplane. We know it's going to be here. It's a matter of how long it's going to take."


Though most Americans have never heard of it, Ug99 -- a type of fungus called stem rust because it produces reddish-brown flakes on plant stalks -- is the No. 1 threat to the world's most widely grown crop.

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico estimates that 19% of the world's wheat, which provides food for 1 billion people in Asia and Africa, is in imminent danger. American plant breeders say $10 billion worth of wheat would be destroyed if the fungus suddenly made its way to U.S. fields.

Fear that the fungus will cause widespread damage has caused short-term price spikes on world wheat markets. Famine has been averted thus far, but experts say it's only a matter of time.

"A significant humanitarian crisis is inevitable," said Rick Ward, the coordinator of the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat project at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

The solution is to develop new wheat varieties that are immune to Ug99. That's much easier said than done.

After several years of feverish work, scientists have identified a mere half-dozen genes that are immediately useful for protecting wheat from Ug99. Incorporating them into crops using conventional breeding techniques is a nine- to 12-year process that has only just begun. And that process will have to be repeated for each of the thousands of wheat varieties that is specially adapted to a particular region and climate.

"All the seed needs to change in the next few years," said Ronnie Coffman, a plant breeder who heads the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat project. "It's really an enormous undertaking."
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« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2009, 12:55:07 pm »










Ancient adversary



Farmers have been battling stem rust for as long as they have grown wheat. The fungus' ancestors infected wild grasses for millions of years before people began cultivating them for food, said Jorge Dubcovsky, professor of genetics and plant breeding at UC Davis.

"The pathogen keeps mutating and evolving," he said. "It's one of our biblical pests. This is not a small enemy."

When a spore lands on a green wheat plant, it forms a pustule that invades the outer layers of the stalk. The pustule hijacks the plant's water and nutrients and diverts them to produce new rust spores instead of grain. Within two weeks of an initial attack, there can be millions of pustules in a 2.5-acre patch of land.

Wheat plants that can recognize a specific chemical produced by stem rust can mount a defense against the fungus. But the rust is able to mutate, evade the plant's immune system and resume its spread.

Stem rust destroyed more than 20% of U.S. wheat crops several times between 1917 and 1935, and losses reached nearly 9% twice in the 1950s. The last major outbreak, in 1962, destroyed 5.2% of the U.S. crop, according to Peterson, who chairs the National Wheat Improvement Committee.

The fungus was kept at bay for years by breeders who slowly and methodically incorporated different combinations of six major stem rust resistance genes into various varieties of wheat. The breeders thought it unlikely that the rust could overcome clusters of those genes at the same time.

After several outbreak-free decades, it seemed that stem rust had been defeated for good. Scientists switched to other topics, and the hunt for new resistance genes practically slowed to a crawl.
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« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2009, 12:56:18 pm »










A new strain of stem rust was identified on a wheat farm in Uganda in 1999.

"It didn't draw a lot of attention, frankly," said Marty Carson, research leader at the Cereal Disease Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "There's very little wheat grown in Uganda."

East Africa is a natural hot spot for stem rust. Weather conditions allow farmers to grow wheat year-round, so rust spores can always find a susceptible host. Some of the wheat is grown as high as 7,000 feet above sea level, where intense solar radiation helps the fungus mutate.

The highlands are also home to barberry bushes, the only plant on which stem rust is known to reproduce through sexual recombination. That genetic shuffling provides a golden opportunity for the fungus to evolve into a deadly strain.

Within a few years, Ug99 -- named for the country and year it was identified -- had devastated farms in neighboring Kenya, where much of the wheat is grown on large-scale farms that have so far been able to absorb the blow. Then it moved north to Ethiopia, Sudan and Yemen, putting more small farms at risk. Those that can afford it are trying to make do with fungicides, but that's too cumbersome and expensive to be a long-term solution, Ward said.


To make matters worse, the fungus is becoming more virulent as it spreads. Scientists discovered a Ug99 variant in 2006 that can defeat Sr24, a resistance gene that protects Great Plains wheat.

Last year, another variant was found with immunity to Sr36, a gene that safeguards Eastern wheat.

Should those variants make their way to U.S. fields any time soon, scientists would be hard-pressed to protect American wheat crops.
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« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2009, 12:57:37 pm »










A laborious task



Now the pressure is on to develop new wheat varieties that are impervious to Ug99. Hundreds of varieties will need to be upgraded in the U.S. alone.

"You can't just breed it into one or two major varieties and expect to solve the problem," Peterson said. "You have to reinvent this wheel at almost a local level."

The first step is to identify Ug99 resistance genes by finding wheat plants that can withstand the deadly fungus.

Roughly 16,000 wheat varieties and other plants have been tested in the cereal disease lab over the last four years. The tests were conducted between Dec. 1 and the end of February, when the Minnesota weather is so frigid that escaping spores would quickly perish, Carson said.

These and similar efforts at a research station in Kenya have turned up only a handful of promising resistance genes, which crop breeders such as Brett Carver at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater are trying to import into vulnerable strains of wheat.

Each year, Carver crosses hundreds of plants in a greenhouse to produce as many as 50,000 candidate strains. Over the next four years, those are winnowed down, and the most promising 2,000 are planted in the field.

Only the hardiest strains are replanted each year, until the 12-year process results in a single new variety with dozens of valuable traits, such as the ability to withstand drought and make fluffy bread.

The oldest of the plants Carver bred for Ug99 resistance are only 3 years old, but one of the strains has been planted in the field already in case the fungus hitches a quick ride to the U.S. on an airplane or in a shipping container.

"In the absence of stem rust, it would not be the highest-yielding wheat," he said. "In the presence of stem rust, it would be the only thing that would survive."



karen.kaplan@latimes.com
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« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2009, 02:46:38 pm »









                                                   Roots of Asia's rice crisis





By David Montero
Tue Apr 22, 2008
 
BOHOL, Philippines - Gantallan Plorensio's farm is a paradox at the heart of Asia's growing rice crisis. The fields that get enough water have never been more productive, contributing to a 5 percent annual increase in rice production over the past two years.
 
"We have a lot of rice fields, but no irrigation," he says. "They're just sitting there."

As a regional rice crisis looms, threatening political instability and social unrest, the idle fields in Mr. Plorensio's village underscore a failure of policy and foresight repeated across the region: For decades, governments have been encouraging a boom in services and skyscrapers, but not the capacity to grow more rice. Financing in agriculture has stagnated, and fewer farmers are expected to produce more rice for exploding populations.

That neglect is one of the central causes of what some analysts call the "perfect storm" including rising global oil prices, drought in Australia, and inclement weather behind the rice crisis.

"It's a failure to recognize the importance of agriculture," says Duncan Macintosh, a spokesman for the International Rice Research Institute, based in Laguna, about 40 miles from Manila, the capital of the Philippines. "Agriculture is becoming a very unfashionable industry." 
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« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2009, 02:47:34 pm »









Philippines at the center of crisis



At the epicenter of the storm is the Philippines, the world's largest importer of rice. The island nation annually imports between 10 to 15 percent of its rice. But because global rice supplies are so tight causing India, China, Cambodia, and Vietnam to restrict exports the Philippines is having a hard time fulfilling an import order of around one million tons.

The country is paying exorbitant prices for whatever rice it can get its hands on, driving up prices around the world to double last year's.

A shortfall of 10 percent is expected for 2008, causing fears that food riots could erupt here as they have in countries such as Haiti, Egypt, Mexico, Burkina Faso, and Senegal.

Those are just concerns so far in the Philippines, but the government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo like the governments of Haiti and Malaysia, among others has been shaken by the growing crisis and faced with public calls for her ouster.

At the center of the storm lies a simple question: Why can't the Philippines, and other countries in Asia, produce enough rice to feed themselves?

Some reasons are beyond the direct control of the Philippines and other Asian archipelagos like Indonesia and Malaysia. Because their farmland is spread over thousands of miles and different islands, production, maintenance, and transportation make rice cultivation expensive and difficult.

"Thailand, the world's largest [rice] producer, has 9.82 million [hectares of rice fields]. The Philippines has 4 million hectares of productive farmland. And those 4 million hectares are spread over 7,000 miles," says Mr. Macintosh, adding that the Philippines also lacks a river delta, which by providing an easy and abundant water source, allows Asian countries like Vietnam, India, and Cambodia to produce higher rice harvests.

Other factors in the rice crisis are also beyond the Philippines' control. Rising oil prices have made rice more expensive to produce, by increasing fertilizer and transportation costs; pests in Vietnam, one of the world's largest producers, have wiped out as much as 200,000 tons; and the collapse of Australia's rice production due to drought has eaten away at global rice stocks.

But many other factors are directly a failure of foresight here, as in the rest of Asia. Although government spending on agriculture accelerated in the 1960s and '70s, pumped into irrigation systems, fertilizer, and rice breeding that spawned the Green Revolution, it slowed by half throughout the 1990s, according to one study. In 2002, the Philippines invested only $0.46 for every $100 of agricultural output, a level consistent with the rest of Asia, according to a study by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington. It means that Asia is a slacker when it comes to investment in agriculture compared with the rest of the developing world, which spent $.053 for every $100 of agricultural output, and the developed world, which spent more than $2.0. The global average was around $.070.

Instead, Asia is increasingly transforming farmland into office parks and suburbs. In the Philippines, half of irrigated land has been transformed into urban development in the past two decades. While this fuels new economic engines such as services and industry, it also undercuts resources needed to grow food.
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« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2009, 02:49:27 pm »









                                         Sweet sorghum, clean miracle crop for feed and fuel






by Jean-Louis Santini
Mon May 12, 2008
 
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The hardy sweet sorghum plant could be the miracle crop that provides cheap animal feed and fuel without straining the world's food supply or harming the environment, said scientists working on a pilot farming project in India.
 
"We consider sweet sorghum an ideal 'smart crop' because it produces food as well as fuel," William Dar, Director General of the non-profit International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) said in a statement.

Sweet sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) is the world's fifth largest grain crop after rice, corn, wheat and barley.

It grows in dry conditions, tolerates heat, salt and waterlogging, making it an ideal crop for semi-arid areas where many of the world's poor live, ICRISAT agronomist Mark Winslow said in an interview with AFP.

The plant grows to a height of 2.6-4.0 meters (8-12 feet) and looks like corn. Its stalks are crushed yielding sweet juice that is fermented and distilled to obtain bioethanol, a clean burning fuel with a high octane rating.

It has high positive energy balance, producing about eight units of energy for every unit of energy invested in its cultivation and production, roughly equivalent to sugarcane and about four times greater than the energy produced by corn.

Sweet sorghum requires little or no irrigation, limiting the use of fuel-burning water pumps that emit carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas contributing to climate change, Winslow said.

"With proper management, smallholder farmers can improve their incomes by 20 percent compared to alternative crops in dry areas in India," said Dar.

In partnership with Rusni Distilleries and some 791 farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India, ICRISAT helped to build and operate the world's first commercial bioethanol plant, which began operations in June 2007.

Sweet sorghum in India costs 1.74 dollars to produce a gallon (3.78 liters) of ethanol, compared with 2.19 dollars for sugarcane and 2.12 dollars for corn, the research institute said.

Similar public-private-farmer partnership projects are also underway in the Philippines, Mexico, Mozambique and Kenya, as countries search for alternative fuels, India-based ICRISAT added.

The United States and European Union are also very interested in making biofuel from sweet sorghum, Winslow said.

The US Department of Agriculture is sponsoring an international conference in Houston, Texas, in August to examine the plant's potential in ethanol production.

In addition to ethanol, "I think (sorghum) is going to be one of the two big crops in the tropics" that supply biofuel such as ethanol, the demand for which "far exceeds the supply" on the world market, Winslow said.

"It's a win-win situation" for developing nations since it allows them to save money they now spend on oil imports and invest it in sweet sorghum-ethanol production in dry areas.

He said India could meet its entire fuel needs with 100 bioethanol plants like the the one in Andhra Pradesh, which produces 40,000 liters (10,568 gallons) of ethanol every day.

Unlike corn, sweet sorghum is not in high demand in the global food market, so its use in biofuel production would have little impact on food prices and food security, ICRISAT said.

Sweet sorghum is grown on more than 42 million hectares (107 million acres) in 99 countries, with United States, Nigeria, India, China, Mexico, Sudan and Argentina its leading producers.
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« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2009, 02:51:10 pm »



Rain clouds shroud a forest near the western Austrian
city of Dornbirn, June 12, 2007.

Rising temperatures have forced many plants to creep
to higher elevations to survive, researchers reported
on Thursday.

(Miro Kuzmanovic/Reuters)









                                    Climate change forces plants higher: study By Michael Kahn






Fri Jun 27, 2008
 
LONDON (Reuters) - Rising temperatures have forced many plants to creep to higher elevations to survive, researchers reported on Thursday.
 
More than two-thirds of the plants studied along six West European mountain ranges climbed an average of 29 meters in altitude in each decade since 1905 to better conditions on higher ground, the researchers reported in the journal Science.

"This is the first time it is shown that climate change has applied a significant effect on a large set of forest plant species," said Jonathan Lenoir, a forest ecologist at AgroParisTech in France, who led the study.

"It helps us understand how ecosystems respond to temperature changes."

Earlier this week, U.S. researchers warned warming temperatures could turn many of California's native plants into "plant refugees" looking for more suitable habitats.

They concluded that a warming climate and rainfall changes would force many of the U.S. state's native plants to range north or to higher elevations or possibly even go extinct in the next 100 years.

The French team's findings suggest plants at high altitudes face the same or greater impacts from rising temperatures, Lenoir said in a telephone interview.

"Plant species move where it is optimal for them to grow," Lenoir said. "If you change these optimal conditions, species will move to recover the same conditions."

Using database on plant species found at specific locations and elevations stretching back to 1905, the researchers showed many plants have steadily crept higher to conditions best suited for survival and growth.

Plants move higher by dispersing their seeds in the wind, which blows them to higher elevations and cooler temperatures similar to their former location, Lenoir said.

The researchers tracked 171 forest plant species during two periods -- between 1905 and 1985, and from 1986 to 2005 -- along the entire elevation range from sea level to 2,600 meters.

They found that two-thirds of the plants responded to warming temperatures over that time by shifting to higher altitudes.

Plants at higher altitudes also appear most sensitive to warmer conditions because slight temperature changes at higher altitudes have a bigger impact, he added.




(Reporting by Michael Kahn; Editing by Maggie Fox and Ibon Villelabeitia)
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« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2009, 02:58:38 pm »











                             Satellite Data Can Warn Of Famine, NASA Researchers Find






ScienceDaily
(July 19, 2007)

A NASA researcher has developed a new method to anticipate food shortages brought on by drought. Molly Brown of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and her colleagues created a model using data from satellite remote sensing of crop growth and food prices.

Brown conceived the idea while working with organizations in Niger, West Africa, that provide information regarding failed crops and help address local farmers' worries about feeding their families. Brown's new approach could improve the ability for government and humanitarian aid officials to plan and respond to drought-induced food price increases in Niger and elsewhere.

Supply and demand largely dictate food prices, with greater supply leading to lower prices and less supply leading to higher prices. During a food crisis in semi-arid regions like Niger, food shortages are often brought on when lack of rainfall significantly reduces the amount of grain farmers are able to grow. Farmers in regions like Niger are able only to grow a few drought-resistant crops, and therefore must buy grain at unaffordably high prices at the end of the year to make up for shortfalls in production. This scenario could drive a drought-driven food security crisis. A lack of locally-produced and affordable grain, coupled with increased prices and reduced access to food, could lead to starvation and hunger-related illness in the most vulnerable segments of society.

Brown, the lead author of a study to be published early next year in the journal Land Economics, said that until now officials have primarily studied the after effects of occurrences like floods or droughts that might affect crop production as their best means of warning of a coming food security crisis. "With this new study, for the first time we can leverage satellite observations of crop production to create a more accurate price model that will help humanitarian aid organizations and other decision makers predict how much food will be available and what its cost will be as a result. This is a unique opportunity for an economic model to take climate variables into account in a way that can aid populations large and small," she said.

Agricultural economists often use a mathematical formula and typically data on crop yield, a range of market prices, and other variables to develop a price model that estimates what food prices may be in the marketplace. Brown applied remote-sensing data in an economic model producing an enhanced way for aid officials to combat a problem that affects 3.6 million people in Niger alone.

To use their price model in a real-world situation, Brown and her colleagues compared variations in crop production to variations in food prices in parts of West Africa. They focused on a sample crop, a drought-resistant grain called millet. Locally, people use millet to create a couscous-like dish. Brown's team observed the June-September wet season to the October-May dry season -- and the amount and growth rate of green vegetation. Then, it studied how seasonal climate differences affected the crop's price in local markets.

Brown used long-term data from sensors on NASA-built satellites to gauge the density of local plant life, an indicator of the strength of the crop. From space, sensors pick up reflections from the ground to determine the ground's "greenness" and enable researchers to estimate the amount of rainfall. Those data in turn may be used to estimate the amount of grain that crops will produce. Brown combined the satellite data and climate variables with the price model to create maps of millet prices covering a complete area. With these maps decision makers can predict price changes, food availability and ultimately food insecurity.

Food prices are not determined solely by human action. Climate variables affect about 20 percent of the process of market pricing, according to the study's co-author Jorge Pinzon, a research scientist and mathematician at Goddard. This is a factor that decision makers often do not take into account when analyzing food security, Pinzon said.

"It is critical to include climate and environmental variables in food security planning when piecing together all of the forces that come together to create famine," said Pinzon. "This model can help officials better understand the role that climate plays in food availability and pricing, and also in famine warning when applied to a real-time planning effort."

Brown believes that information provided by this new technique can aid organizations that are part of the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Famine Early Warning System to stem suffering that occurs every year from food crises. Brown hopes that her method, funded by NASA and USAID, may eventually help the farmers in Niger more effectively plan what to grow and when to grow it to earn a living wage.

"This price model can be used in any region of the world where there are seasonal climate factors that can contribute to local food production crises," said Brown. "Even a country with normally adequate food production can still experience a food crisis if a drought hits. We hope that decision makers will work together with scientists to apply this model so that even a farmer on a small plot of land can better sustain his family during a drought."


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Adapted from materials provided by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.
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 MLA NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (2007, July 19). Satellite Data Can Warn Of Famine, NASA Researchers Find. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 18, 2009, from


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« Reply #13 on: June 26, 2009, 11:16:15 pm »

Good topic, Bianca, I have been reading it.  People don't appreciate how dangerous fungus is.  Also, climate change has really effected rainfall patterns.  It is going to get a lot worse before it gets better! Unfortunately. 

Some of these countries, there isn't even much that America can do about it.  Even when we drop food someplace, the warlords confiscate it and use it as leverage over their people, such as in Somalia.  The human race was born to suffer, one way or another, it seems.
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« Reply #14 on: July 07, 2009, 07:27:58 am »











All true, Lisa. 

Still, I feel hopeful since there are enough people out there who are willing to help, in
many ways, even us here by bringing up the subject and raising awareness as best we can.
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