Aquaculture accounts for 50 percent of fish consumed globally

Washington, September 8 (ANI): A new report by an international team of researchers has determined that aquaculture, once a fledgling industry, now accounts for 50 percent of the fish consumed globally.

The findings are published in the Sept. 7 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“Aquaculture is set to reach a landmark in 2009, supplying half of the total fish and shellfish for human consumption,” according to the authors.

Between 1995 and 2007, global production of farmed fish nearly tripled in volume, in part because of rising consumer demand for long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

Oily fish, such as salmon, are a major source of these omega-3s, which are effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“The huge expansion is being driven by demand,” said lead author Rosamond L. Naylor, a professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Program on Food Security and the Environment.

“As long as we are a health-conscious population trying to get our most healthy oils from fish, we are going to be demanding more of aquaculture and putting a lot of pressure on marine fisheries to meet that need,” Naylor added.

To maximize growth and enhance flavor, aquaculture farms use large quantities of fishmeal and fish oil made from less valuable wild-caught species, including anchoveta and sardine.

“With the production of farmed fish eclipsing that of wild fish, another major transition is also underway: Aquaculture’s share of global fishmeal and fish oil consumption more than doubled over the past decade to 68 percent and 88 percent, respectively,” said the authors.

In 2006, aquaculture production was 51.7 million metric tons, and about 20 million metric tons of wild fish were harvested for the production of fishmeal.

“It can take up to 5 pounds of wild fish to produce 1 pound of salmon, and we eat a lot of salmon,” said Naylor, the William Wrigley Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment and Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

One way to make salmon farming more environmentally sustainable is to simply lower the amount of fish oil in the salmon’s diet.

According to the authors, a mere 4 percent reduction in fish oil would significantly reduce the amount of wild fish needed to produce 1 pound of salmon from 5 pounds to just 3.9 pounds. (ANI)

Researchers make bacteria to produce useful proteins

Washington, Sep 7 (ANI): Researchers at the University of British Columbia have turned the bacterium Caulobacter crescentus into a protein production factory by adapting a single protein on its surface, thus making useful proteins that can act as vaccines and drugs.

C. crescentus is a harmless bacterium that has a single protein layer on its surface.

Led by Dr. John Smit, the researchers adapted the system that secretes this protein, which self-assembles into a structure called the “S-layer”, to secrete instead many proteins that are useful for vaccines and other therapeutic purposes.

In other words, by keeping the S-layer protein intact and genetically inserting new things inside it, they produce a very dense display of useful proteins on the cell surface.

The researchers are now hoping to use the entire bacterium in a therapeutic application.

Bacteria are commonly used in biotechnology to produce useful protein products.

If the bacteria secrete the protein rather than keep it contained within the cell, purification costs are greatly lowered.

The researchers have developed a commercially available kit based on this technology, which could be especially useful in developing countries as it might be used to manufacture HIV-blocking agents very cheaply and with little specialist expertise.

“This S-layer system is very efficient at producing and secreting proteins – we can make the bacterium into a protein pump, secreting over half of all the protein it makes as engineered S-layer protein,” said Smit.

He added: “Applications of S-layer display that we are currently developing include anti-cancer vaccines, an HIV infection blocker and agents to treat Crohn’s and colitis, and diarrhoea in malnourished populations”.

Smit presented the findings at the Society for General Microbiology’s meeting at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. (ANI)

Here’s what ups amyloid beta production in Alzheimer’s patients’ brains

Washington, September 4 (ANI): A new class of medicines to effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease may soon be available, for an international research group has shed light on how a fragment of a protein increases the production of the amyloid beta protein in the brain.

The researchers say that knowing that the N60 fragment of the RanBP9 protein increases the production of the amyloid beta protein, which is present in excessive amounts in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, gives scientists a more specific focus for developing new drugs.

Most experts believe that if the creation of amyloid beta protein can be halted or slowed, the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease may also be stopped or slowed too, according to background information in a research article published in the FASEB Journal.

David Kang, assistant professor of neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego, and one of the researchers involved in the work, said: “Our study suggests that targeting RanBP9 expression and/or N60 fragment generation may lead to novel strategies to combat this devastating disease.”

During the study, Kang and his colleagues examined extracts from brains with Alzheimer’s disease and age-matched healthy controls.

The researchers found that the N60 section of RanBP9 was increased in Alzheimer’s brain.

“Alzheimer’s might seem hopeless to some, but this research shows that we’re closer than ever to unraveling both the protein tangles and mysteries surrounding this devastating disease,” said Dr. Gerald Weissmann, the Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. (ANI)

Maldives uses coconuts to reduce its CO2 emissions

London, September 4 (ANI): The Maldives government has launched a project to reduce its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions using “biochar”, a charcoal made from bio-wastes such as coconut shells.

According to a report by BBC News, the pilot project, launched by the Maldives government together with a UK-based company, Carbon Gold, aims to produce biochar using bio-waste, including coconut shells, which are abundantly available in the archipelago.

Biochar is produced through the “slow cooking” (pyrolysis) of plant wastes. The resulting black char is rich in carbon and can be mixed with soil as a fertiliser.

“While wasting the environment we are wasting a lot of money by buying (fertilizer) from abroad,” said Minister of state for fisheries and agriculture, Aminath Shafia.

“So, we were looking into a project that could develop it using something that is available in the country,” she said.

The Maldives wants to be carbon neutral by 2020

President Mohamed Nasheed, who earlier announced a target of going carbon neutral by 2020, has welcomed the new partnership.

“Biochar has a crucial role in helping us achieve carbon neutral status as well as providing an economic and environmental boost to our people,” he said.

Shafia said that the project would be launched on three islands and rolled out to others if farmers responded positively.

According to officials at Carbon Gold, biochar is an effective way of removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

The company said that the fertiliser also improves soil fertility and locks up its carbon contents for several years after it is ploughed into the ground.

Daniel Morrel, a co-founder of the company, told BBC News that the Maldives was the first government to sponsor its production.

He described biochar as “carbon negative”.

“Waste that would have rotted or been burnt before is now locked up and put very safely in the soil,” he said.

“It is not one of the best solutions, but the great thing about biochar is while everybody is talking about reducing the CO2 emissions, this is actually taking CO2 out of the atmosphere,” he added. (ANI)

Indoor plants could be injurious to health

Washington, Sept 4 (ANI): Potted plants might add a certain aesthetic value to your house, but they are likely to have adverse health effects, suggests a new study.

The research team headed by Stanley J. Kays of the University of Georgia’s Department of Horticulture has shown that these indoor plants actually release volatile organic compounds into the environment.

During the study, they identified and measured the amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by four popular indoor potted plant species Peace Lily, Snake Plant, Weeping Fig and Areca Palm.

Samples of each plant were placed in glass containers with inlet ports connected to charcoal filters to supply purified air and outlet ports connected to traps where volatile emissions were measured.

A total of 23 volatile compounds were found in Peace Lily, 16 in Areca Palm, 13 in Weeping Fig, and 12 in Snake Plant. Some of the VOCs are ingredients in pesticides applied to several species during the production phase.

Other VOCs released did not come from the plant itself, but rather the micro-organisms living in the soil.

“Although micro-organisms in the media have been shown to be important in the removal of volatile air pollutants, they also release volatiles into the atmosphere”, said Kays.

Furthermore, 11 of the VOCs came from the plastic pots containing the plants. Several of these VOCs are known to negatively affect animals.

Interestingly, VOC emission rates were higher during the day than at night in all of the species, and all classes of emissions were higher in the day than at night.

The study concluded, “while ornamental plants are known to remove certain VOCs, they also emit a variety of VOCs, some of which are known to be biologically active.

“The longevity of these compounds has not been adequately studied, and the impact of these compounds on humans is unknown.”

The study is published in the American Society for Horticultural Science journal HortScience. (ANI)

Anil Ambani welcomes government’s fresh plea on gas row dispute with brother Mukesh

Mumbai, Sep 2 (ANI): Anil Ambani of Reliance Natural Resource Limited (RNRL) welcomed a fresh application filed by central government in the Supreme Court on a row over gas price with estranged elder brother Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Limited (RIL).

Top Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries, headed by Mukesh Ambani, and Reliance Natural, led by Anil Ambani, have been fighting over terms of a gas-supply agreement struck when the Reliance empire was split in 2005.

The fresh application by the government said that the government’s policies and contracts on production and gas pricing would prevail over any private arrangement.

“Reliance Natural Resource on behalf of its over 26 lakh shareholders is grateful to the Government of India for its neutral stand in proposing these amendments,” Anil Ambani told reporters in Mumbai.

“With the filing of application, the role of government in Reliance Natural Resource-RIL matter remains limited only to interpretation of just two issues. Issue A – the gas utilisation policy and issue B – provisions of the Production Sharing Contract. This is exactly the same scope of intervention that was permitted to the government of India by the Bombay High Court,” he added.

The latest tussle between the feuding brothers, which stems from the 2005 break-up of the Reliance empire built by their father, has raised concerns it could discourage investment in the sector as India scrambles to shore up its energy security.

In July, India’s apex court said it would club all petitions and applications in the case together.

The Indian government had earlier made a petition to intervene in the case, arguing that the gas is ‘state property’ and that the private agreement between the Ambanis over the gas is not valid. (ANI)

Lily Cole owes acting career to late Heath Ledger

Washington, Sept 2 (ANI): English actress Lily Cole insists that she owes her acting career to late actor Heath Ledger.

Cole said he taught her the tricks of the trade while they were filming ‘The Imaginarium Of Dr Parnassus’.

After a small role in Trinian’s movie, the 21-year-old actress was hired for Terry Gilliam’s fantasy epic, opposite Ledger and Christopher Plummer.

She calls Ledger “a great friend and mentor.”

“He definitely helped me,” Contactmusic quoted her as saying.

“From the beginning, he understood that I would be overwhelmed and scared by the size of the project. He encouraged me and said he was really proud of me, constantly fed me support,” she added.

Cole reveals she came close to giving up on the film when Ledger was found dead of a prescription drug overdose in January 2008.

His role was taken on by three other actors – Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp.

“Everyone loved Heath. For everyone who knew him, (his death) was devastating. The practicalities of continuing the production were difficult, but it seemed irrelevant,” she said.

“Johnny (Depp) slipped seamlessly into the role, but that didn’t stop it being bizarre. I thought I was in at the deep end in the beginning – then look what happened!” she added. (ANI)

Saraswat takes charge as new DRDO chief

New Delhi, Sep 1 (ANI): Dr Vijay Kumar Saraswat, who is in charge of the development of missile and strategic systems in the country, today took charge as scientific adviser to Defence Minister AK Antony and will also serve as Director General of the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

Dr. Saraswat, who replaced the present incumbent M Natarajan on September 1, will also serve as Secretary Department of Defence Research and Development,.

He is presently Chief Controller Research and Development (Missiles and Strategic Systems) since November 2005 in DRDO.

In this capacity, he spearheaded the development of country’s strategic and tactical missile systems, including the AGNI series of strategic missiles covering a range up to 3000 kms.

Dr Saraswat, who has a doctorate in Combustion Engineering, started his career in DRDO in 1972 at Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad and was responsible for the development of country’s first Liquid Propulsion Engine.

As Project Director ‘PRITHVI’, he steered the design, development, production and induction of first indigenous Surface-to-Surface missile system ‘PRITHVI’, into armed forces.

The successful testing of DHANUSH missile on board a moving ship with high terminal accuracy brought new dimension in the national defence capability. Dr. Saraswat also pioneered the concept of theatre defence system and integration of national Air Defence elements.

He was Director RCI before taking over as CCR and D(MSS). He has headed various committees of national importance.

Dr Saraswat is forerunner in the development of number of critical missile technologies that were under denial due to Missile Technology Control regime, thus making India self-reliant in Missile Technologies.

He has received several awards including Prof Jai Krishna Memorial Award of Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE) and National Systems Gold Medal by Systems Society of India.

International Academy of Engineering, Russia, elected Dr. Saraswat as Member of Academy and honoured him as an academician. (ANI)

New sugar season to begin with much lower stocks: Pawar

New Delhi, Sep. 1 (ANI): Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Tuesday said that the new sugar season will begin with much lower stocks, as the production will be hit by lower sugar recovery from cane after the failure of monsoon rains.

“The production of sugar in India during year 2008 and 2009 sugar season has not been adequate to meet the domestic demand of the country. We started with very comfortable opening balance that was around 10 million tonnes of sugar on 1st October 2008. However we expect sugar production during 2009 and 2010 definitely less…somewhat 8-22 billion tonnes,” Pawar told reporters.

Recently, the head of the National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories Ltd, J.B. Patel had said India’s opening stocks would be at 2.7 million tonnes, down three quarters from 10 million tonnes on October 1, 2008.

India’s dwindling stocks and rising demand have helped raw sugar futures surge to the highest in nearly three decades on prospects of large purchases by the world’s top sugar consumer.

Weak monsoon rains have further raised supply concerns in India.

Many Indian farmers abandoned cane cultivation last year as they found wheat more attractive after the government raised the purchase price for the grain handsomely.

India had exported five million tonnes of sugar last year, but it swiftly turned into a large importer to counter low supply and rising prices.

Sugar industry officials say the government should lift controls on the sugar sector to correct the demand-supply mismatch. (ANI)

US report reveals Pak enhancing nuke weapon capability to target India

Washington, Sep.1 (ANI): Top US nuclear scientists have shockingly revealed in a report that Pakistan is enhancing its nuclear weapons and production capabilities.

According to the report, which is yet to enter the public domain, Pakistan is readying a new nuclear capable ballistic missile for deployment and two nuclear capable cruise missiles.

It also says that Pakistan is building two new plutonium production reactors and a second chemical separation facility at Chasma, Khushab and Dera Ghazi Khan in southern Punjab.

Pakistan is also renewing work on a partially built separation plant at Chasma.

It is believed that this secretive and substantial arsenal build-up is targeted at India.

Based on official estimates of Pakistan’s current uranium and plutonium technology, scientists had so far thought the country far short of having a 100 nuclear warheads in its kitty.

The new report, however, suggests that Pakistan has exceeded earlier estimates, and from being able to build 30-40 nuclear weapons it actually could possess as many as 70-90 – a disturbing figure from India’s point of view and that of the US, currently debating financial and military aid to its friend in keeping with the AFPAK agreement.

Moreover, if this report is true Pakistan is clearly going beyond the moratorium existing as an unwritten code of conduct in South Asia to halt the arms race. (ANI)

Modalities of BrahMos-II project to be finalized soon

Tiruchirapalli, Sep. 1 (ANI): The modalities for developing hypersonic missile BrahMos-II by the Indo-Russian joint venture BrahMos Aerospace are in the final phase of finalization.

BrahMos Aerospace CEO and managing director A Sivathanu Pillai told reporters here on Tuesday that a final shape of the project, aimed at developing the aerial version of BrahMos missile that could traverse at speeds between Mach 5 to Mach 7, would emerge shortly.

The design team had already been lined up and discussions would be held shortly between the joint venture partners on investments, sharing of technical responsibilities, administration and sharing of manufacturing facility infrastructure, he added.

Supersonic cruise missile BrahMos, which has a capability of carrying 300 kilograms conventional warheads at a speed of around 2.8 Mach, has already been inducted by the Army and the Navy.

Work related to the design and development of this version had been fruitful and the advanced missile, which weighs 0.5 tonne less than that of the three-tonne land version BrahMos, was ready and the company awaited the modified SUKOI-30 MKI aircraft that would carry the weapon.

Pillai said he was hopeful that the target for induction of the air version set for 2012 would be achieved.

After being fitted on an aircraft, BrahMos will be the only cruise missile with the capability of being launched from land, sea and air, he said.

To a query on export potential of BrahMos missile, Pillai said a number countries evinced keen interest in it, but the priority was to meet the high domestic requirement.

For meeting the demand, the company was in the process of upgrading the production infrastructure at multiple locations besides enhancing component suppliers by including new large and medium sized industries.

On BrahMos Aeropsace’s Thiruvananthapuram facility, Pillai said seven acres of land in possession of Indian Air force adjacent to the main campus was expected to be handed over to BrahMos Aerospace shortly. (ANI)

New ultrasensitive electronic sensor to speed up DNA testing (corrected)

Washington, Sept 1 (ANI): Singapore scientists have developed a new ultrasensitive electronic sensor that would speed up DNA testing for disease diagnosis and biological research.

The novel electronic sensor array would be rapid, accurate and cost-efficient.

According to lead researcher Dr Zhiqiang Gao, from Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), the Nanogap Sensor Array has shown “excellent” sensitivity at detecting trace amounts of DNA.

“By saving time and lowering expenses, our newly developed Nanogap Sensor Array offers a scalable and viable alternative for DNA testing,” said Gao.

The biosensor translates the presence of DNA into an electrical signal for computer analysis.

The distinctively designed sensor chip has the ability to detect DNA more efficiently by “sandwiching” the DNA strands between the two different surfaces.

“The novel vertical nanostructure design and two different surfaces of the sensor allow ultrasensitive detection of DNA,” said Gao.

“This sensitivity is best-in-class among electrical DNA biosensors. The design of the sensor also took into consideration the feasibility of mass production in a cost-effective way for expanded usage,” the expert added.

Presently, human DNA is detected through the use of polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which while effective, is also expensive, cumbersome and time-consuming for widespread use.

Although effective, tests involving PCR may not be optimal for situations such as a pandemic outbreak.

The biosensor captures DNA strands more effectively. This is possible because the two surfaces of the sensor are coated with a chemically treated “capture probe” solution through an electrochemical technique specially developed by IBN.

This allows DNA strands to “stick” more easily to the sensor, resulting in a faster and more accurate analysis.

“This new biosensor holds significant promise to speed up on-going efforts in the detection and diagnosis of debilitating diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular problems and infectious viruses,” said Dr Jackie Y. Ying, Executive Director of IBN, one of the research institutes of Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).

“We aim to make healthcare accessible to the masses with early disease diagnosis as the critical driving force behind the research we undertake here at IBN,” she added.

The study appears in Journal of the American Chemical Society. (ANI)

Gene behind gum disease, osteoporosis, arthritis identified

Washington, Aug 31 (ANI): An international team of researchers have identified a gene that is common in the development of gum disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoporosis.

Experts at Hospital for Special Surgery say that their findings about the gene, called interferon regulator factor-8 (IRF-8), may lead to new treatments in future.

“The study doesn’t have immediate therapeutic applications, but it does open a new avenue of research that could help identify novel therapeutic approaches or interventions to treat diseases such as periodontitis, rheumatoid arthritis or osteoporosis,” said Nature magazine quoted Dr. Baohong Zhao, a research fellow in the Arthritis and Tissue Degeneration Program at Hospital for Special Surgery located in New York City, as saying.

The researchers discovered that downregulation of IRF-8 (meaning that the gene produces less IRF-8 protein) increases the production of cells called osteoclasts that are responsible for breaking down bone.

In humans and animals, bone formation and bone resorption are closely coupled processes involved in the normal remodelling of bone. Enhanced development of osteoclasts, however, can create canals and cavities that are hallmarks of diseases such as periodontitis, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The genome-wide study showed that the expression of IRF-8 was reduced by 75 percent in the initial phases of osteoclast development.

The genetically engineered mice deficient in IRF-8 had decreased bone mass and severe osteoporosis.

The researchers concluded that IRF-8 suppresses the production of osteoclasts.

“This is the first paper to identify that IRF-8 is a novel key inhibitory factor in osteoclastogenesis (production of osteoclasts),” said Zhao.

“We hope that the understanding of this gene can contribute to understanding the regulatory network of osteoclastogenesis and lead to new therapeutic approaches in the future,” Zhao added.

The study has been published in the journal Nature Medicine. (ANI)

Low apple production causes unemployment in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla, Aug 31 (ANI): The low apple crop production in Himachal Pradesh has led to loss of business and unemployment in the state.

Many people have been left jobless in the state, as apple crop production has come down by almost seventy five percent.

Thousands of people are associated with the apple business. Starting from the apple crop production, packing, loading and transportation to marketing and buying. A large number of people get employment from the month of July to October. But this year the fall in production of apples have left people jobless.

Director of the Himachal Horticulture department, Gurudev Singh, said that low production has affected the transportation business as well as the lower class labourers.

“The category of people that are getting affected are mostly the truck owners because the lack of work will bring them in a difficult condition to make payments of loans for the trucks. Last year when the production was 2,55,00, 000 apple boxes, transportation were needed but not much trucks are being required.

Meanwhile, the lower class labourers associated with the loading work is also being affected as not much labourers are being employed,” he added.

Himachal Pradesh is one of India’s major apple-producing regions, with over 90 per cent of the produce sold in the domestic markets.

Shimla, Kullu, Mandi, Lahaul and Spiti, Kinnaur and Chamba districts are the major hubs of apple production.

Lack of rainfall this monsoons and poorer snowfall last winter has led to a downfall in apple production in Himachal Pradesh this year. (ANI)

Photosynthetic viruses keep world’s oxygen levels up

London, August 31 (ANI): A new research has shown that photosynthetic viruses can keep the world’s oxygen levels up.

The viruses, which infect single-celled algae called cyanobacteria, are hyper efficient photosynthesisers thanks to a unique set of genes.

Previous work had shown that cyanophage viruses have some photosynthesis genes, apparently used to keep the host cyanobacteria on life support during the infection, which otherwise knocks out the cells’ basic functions.

Now, according to a report in New Scientist, Oded Beja from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa said that the cyanophages’ photosynthetic proficiency doesn’t stop there.

While screening DNA sequences in water samples collected during Craig Venter’s Global Ocean Sampling Expedition, his team discovered seven more photosynthesis genes coding for a complex of proteins collectively named photosystem I.

They believe the viral complex has a unique shape that makes cyanophage photosynthesis hyperefficient.

In normal photosynthesis, photosystem I grabs electrons from proteins higher up in the photosynthesis chain reaction.

According to the team, the viral photosystem I genes allow the cyanophages to not only take electrons from the proteins involved in photosythesis but also from other algal proteins.

“We suspect that when these phages enter the cell, they start to replace (the cell’s) photosystem,” said Beja.

“By grabbing electrons from all sources available at the time, they get more energy out of photosynthesis,” he added.

Eric Wommack of the University of Delaware in Newark said that the discovery suggests these viruses may play a role in global oxygen production.

“Their hosts produce half the world’s oxygen and roughly 10 per cent of these cells are infected by cyanophages,” he said.

“So it is possible that as much as 5 per cent of the world’s oxygen production results from cyanophage infected cells,” he added. (ANI)

Pakistan rejects reports about obtaining French submarines

Islamabad, Aug.30 (ANI): Pakistan has rejected reports about purchase of submarines from France.

Briefing Senate’s Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production, Defence Production Secretary, Israr Ghumman said an evaluation committee formed by the Naval Headquarters has recommended purchase of German submarines.

Ghumman clarified that the government has not inked any agreement with France regarding the purchase of submarines as was being reported in the media.

Senator Raja Zafarul Haq said the committee was informed that several foreign submarine manufacturing companies had put up their bid to provide submarines to the Pakistan Navy, but the German submarines were preferred by the Navy on the basis of their technological superiority and cost.

He said the committee is following the submarine purchase minutely.

“The committee was following the purchase of submarines and if anybody was found involved in receiving kickbacks he would be exposed to the media,” The Dawn quoted Haq, as saying.

The committee also sought continuity of safeguards for the Pakistan Ordnance Factories, Heavy Mechanical Industries and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, which were authorized through the 17th Constitutional Amendment. (ANI)

Beefed-up diets of Asia’s middle class may lead to chronic food shortages

Washington, August 30 (ANI): Scientists have said that the beefed-up diets of Asia’s expanding middle class could lead to chronic food shortages for the water-stressed region.

According to a report in National Geographic News, the threat was highlighted in a study by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which estimate that Asian demand for food and livestock fodder will double in 40 years.
Asia’s growing economy and appetite for meat will require a radical overhaul of farmland irrigation to feed a population expected to swell to 1.4 billion by 2050, scientists warned at Stockholm’s World Water Week recently.
At current crop yields, East Asia would need 47 percent more irrigated farmland and to find 70 percent more water, the study found.
South Asia would have to expand its irrigated crop areas by 30 percent and increase water use by 57 percent.
Given existing agriculture pressure on water resources and territory, that’s an impossible scenario, according to the study authors.

Scientists urge modernization of existing large-scale irrigation systems, most of which were installed in the 1970s and 1980s.
It’s estimated that India, the world’s largest consumer of underground water, has 19 million unregulated groundwater pumps.
Groundwater in northern India is receding by as much as a foot (0.3 meter) a year due to rampant water extraction, most of it for crop irrigation, according to a study.
More than 109 cubic kilometres of groundwater were drained from the region between 2002 and 2008, according to the satellite image-based study led by scientists with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
“Governments’ inability to regulate this practice is giving rise to scary scenarios of groundwater over-exploitation, which could lead to regional food crises and widespread social unrest,” said Tushaar Shah of IWMI.

As for China, the country’s per capita “water footprint” for food production has almost doubled since 1985, according to Junguo Liu of the Beijing Forestry University.
“A switch from traditional rice and noodles to a meatier diet is behind the change,” Liu said. “Changes in food consumption are the major cause of worsening water scarcity in China,” he added.
Total water requirements for food production in China are predicted to rise by 40 to 50 percent in the next 30 years, he further added.
“Where do you get such a big amount of water? It is a really big question and a big challenge,” he said.
“If other developing countries follow China toward a Western diet, the global water shortage becomes even more serious,” he added. (ANI)

Himesh Reshammiya seeks divine blessings for his forthcoming film

Mumbai, Aug 30 (ANI): Deviating from the usual glitz and glamour associated with any Bollywood event, the movie unit of the forthcoming film ‘Radio’ led by singer-composer-actor Himesh Reshammiya, released the music album of their production amid religious fervour in Mumbai.

The music album was released during the ongoing festival at the ‘Lalbaug Ka Raja’, as the film crew sought divine blessings of Lord Ganesha, for the success of their film.

‘Radio’ is a modern day love story that deals with the issue of incompatibility between couples today.

The film revolves around the life of a radio jockey Vivan Shah, played by Himesh.

Vivan is undergoing a bitter divorce when he meets Shanaya, who hosts a show with him. The show becomes popular and sends across wrong signal that they are married.

Later the saga relates how Vivan’s estranged wife realises her mistake and wants to reconcile with him.

Himesh admitted that he had to prepare a lot to get into the role of a radio jockey.

“I’m playing the role of a radio jockey working at Radio Mirchi. I had to train with the radio jockeys. I used to observe these radio jockeys and how a radio jockey keeps his reflexes. I want all of you to pray for the success of my film,” he said.

‘Radio’ is slated to hit the screen worldwide on December 11. (ANI)

UCLA economist blames Hoover’s pro-labour policies for Great Depression

Washington, Aug 30 (ANI): A University of California, Los Angeles economist has blamed former US President Herbert Hoover’s pro-labour policies for Great Depression in 1929.

“These findings suggest that the recession was three times worse – at a minimum – than it would otherwise have been, because of Hoover,” said Lee E. Ohanian, a UCLA professor of economics.

The policies, which included both propping up wages and encouraging job-sharing, also accounted for more than two-thirds of the precipitous decline in hours worked in the manufacturing sector, which was much harder hit initially than the agricultural sector.

“By keeping industrial wages too high, Hoover sharply depressed employment beyond where it otherwise would have been, and that act drove down the overall gross national product,” said Ohanian.

“His policy was the single most important event in precipitating the Great Depression,” he added.

According to Ohanian, Hoover was concerned about two potential crises. He was afraid the stock market collapse of October 1929 would result in a recession with deflation, leading to dramatic wage cuts, as a period of deflation had done just a decade earlier.

And because of a series of recent legislative and court decisions that had expanded the power of organized labour, he also worried about the possibility of crippling strikes if such wage cuts were to come to pass.

“Hoover had the idea that if wages were kept high for workers and they shared jobs instead of being laid off, they would be able to buy more goods and services, which would help the economy improve,” Ohanian added.

After the crash, Hoover met with major leaders of industry and cut a deal with them to either maintain or raise wages and institute job-sharing to keep workers employed, at least to some degree. In response, General Motors, Ford, U.S. Steel, Dupont, International Harvester and many other large firms fell in line, even publicly underscoring their compliance with Hoover’s program.

Designed to placate labour and safeguard workers’ buying power, the step had an unintended effect. As deflation eventually did set in, the inflation-adjusted value of these wages rose over time, effectively giving workers a raise precisely at the time when companies were least in a position to afford such increases and precisely when productivity was beginning to fall.

“The wage freeze effectively raised the cost of labour and, by extension, production,” Ohanian said.

“If you artificially raise the price of production, your costs go way up and you pass them on to the customers, and they buy that much less,” he added.

Reluctant to lower wages due to Hoover’s entreaties, employers in the manufacturing sector responded by reducing the workweek and laying off workers. By September 1931, the manufacturing sector was already hurting: Hours clocked by workers had fallen by 20 percent and employment by 35 percent.

Overall, the economy suffered, with the GDP falling by 27 percent.

“The Depression was the first time in the history of the U.S. that wages did not fall during a period of significant deflation,” Ohanian said.

“In late 1931, industry finally did cut wages, but it was too late. By this point, the economy was in an unprecedented, full-blown depression,” he added.

The findings are slated to appear in the December issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Economic Theory. (ANI)

Rajasthan Government demands lion’s share in Cairn project

Barmer (Rajasthan), Aug.29 (ANI): The Government of Rajasthan on Saturday demanded a lion’s share of the value added tax (VAT) that would be generated from the extraction of crude oil from the Mangala Processing Terminal ( MPT) here.

According to sources, the issue will be settled later when state government representatives meet the officials of this Cairns Energy India-ONGCjoint venture.

ONGC Chairman R.S. Sharma said that it would take at least four years to meet this demand of the Rajasthan Government, which was made by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. Sharma said that the approach of the state government would determine the way forward on the issue of revenue sharing.

Officials attached with the joint venture said they are leaving no stone unturned in doing their bit for the local people.

The media contingent accompanying the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, on the inaugural visit to the project site were shown the entrepreneural centre where various social projects for local people are showcased.

Cairn India CEO Rahul Dhir emphasised the point that the maximum number of labourers are locals, and added that out of the 700 contractors, a majority are local people.

Inaugurating the project, Dr. Singh said the present venture is an indication that foreign investment in the country will grow and that the Indian Government will honestly provide all facilities to attract foreign investment.

He also congratulated the technical personnel for successfully finding oil reserves.

It maybe recalled that the Dutch firm Shell had abandoned the search for oil in this desert area. cairn india then stepped in, and after four years of continuous labour, was able to discover oil. arlier, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora described the activation of the Mangala Processing Terminal ( MPT) as a historic achievement, as the crude oil production from this block will meet about 20 percent of the nation’s current crude oil production.

He said this will enable the country to save seven percent of the crude oil import bill and reduce import dependence.

Deora also emphasised the need for stabilising crude oil prices for ensuring the sustained economic growth of the country, Deora said the MPT find is a significant step towards achieving this goal.

Cairn has invested about Rs.10000 crores in the area.

The total investment in this project will be more than Rs. 20000 crores. The government will get Rs. 46000 crores as profit petroleum revenue over the life of the project and will provide job opportunities for more than 6000 people.

According to company sources, the supply terminal to the Mangala field, the second largest oil discovery in the country in two decades, will be a giant step towards curtailing the country’s oil import bill.

With an initial 30,000 barrels capacity per day (bpd), Cairn India plans to add another 1,00,000 bpd over the next 18 months.

Mangala oil field officials are confident of reaching the target of producing 1,75,000 bpd in the next 20 months.

The project would contribute more than 20 per cent of India’s domestic crude oil production by 2011, the company sources said. By Pankaj Chaudhary (ANI)