RIO DE JANEIRO, (Tierramérica).- The Brazilian agricultural research agency Embrapa has invented an "electronic tongue" to taste and control the quality of coffee and other beverages.
A small device has polymer conductors that can identify five flavors and the amount of salt in water at a concentration a thousand times beyond what the human tongue can discern.
The so-called "cyber-tongue", created to improve the speed, precision and cost effectiveness of assessing and classifying coffees, will be on the Brazilian market next year.
But it will not replace human tasters, assures Joăo Naime, an Embrapa technology researcher in Sao Carlos, 240 km from Sao Paulo, where the project was developed.
"The human factor will remain indispensable" for determining which is the better product for the taste of different groups of people and to establish comparisons, he told Tierramérica.
Condor Population on the Rise
BOGOTA, (Tierramérica).- The number of Andean condors (Vultur griphus) in Colombia has grown by 10 percent this year, under a repopulation program of the environment ministry.
The number of these enormous birds has grown to 160 with the release of nine condors from zoos into their naturla habitat in March and November.
But biologist Armando Leal, with the Species Repopulation Research Center, said in a conversation with Tierramérica that this program will not be enough to preserve the condor.
He says there needs to be an awareness campaign and community participation to ensure the protection of these birds not only at the repopulation sites but throughout their natural habitat in the Colombian Andes.
Filtering a Threatened Lake
GUATEMALA CITY, (Tierramérica).- The Guatemalan government has installed a plant to treat and filter water as it arrives at the southeastern Lake Amatitlán, which is in danger of turning into a swamp by 2015.
The plant's bio-filters will draw in the polluted water of the Villalobos River, which flows into the lake and brings with it some 500,000 tons of sediment each year, filling in the lake bottom by 70 cm annually.
The filtration process is the second phase in efforts to save the lake, says Edgar Zamora, director of AMSA, the Amatitlán watershed management authority.
The second phase started on Dec. 3 and has a budget of 20 million quetzales (2.5 million dollars). The first phase began in March.
Zamora told Tierramérica that the bio-filters will treat 300 liters of water per second, which will come out 70 percent pure.
Over-Fishing the Paraná River
BUENOS AIRES, (Tierramérica).- The Proteger Foundation of Argentina, which promotes sustainable development around the Paraná River, warns that artisanal fisherfolk in the region face "an unprecedented crisis" due to over-fishing.
The rise in catches of sábalo, boga, surubí, dorado and bagre fish for export has caused a decline in these species, forcing national and provincial authorities to impose a total ban on fishing since November.
The fisherfolk who live off their catches are not responsible for the over-fishing, but are strongly affected by the measure, says Norberto Oldani, of the Proteger Foundation.
"Some are working in temporary jobs, but the truth is that fishing is what they should be doing," he said.
Since 2002, the volume of fish taken from the Paraná annually grew from 2,700 to nearly 40,000 tons.
Amazon Deforestation on the Decline
SAO PAULO, (Tierramérica).- Brazil's environment ministry announced this month a 31-percent decline in the deforestation rate of the Amazon region.
The total area deforested fell from 27,200 to 18,900 square km, comparing the August 2003-July 2004 and August 2004-July 2005 periods. According to the government it is the first time the rate has fallen since 1997.
"This was much hoped-for news for us. What we are worried about is that 18,900 square km is still a great deal, and it was a year when agricultural products performed badly on the international market," Marcelo Marquezini, forestry engineer with the watchdog group Greenpeace, told Tierramérica.
"The government must continue its attack on forest-destroying activities," he said.
Stan Leaves Bitter Taste for Coffee Growers
MEXICO CITY, (Tierramérica).- More than 5,000 people associated with coffee production in Mexico are looking at a gloomy forecast for 2006, following the destruction of more than 100,000 hectares by Hurricane Stan in October.
Stan's torrential rains damaged coffee plantations in the southeastern states of Chiapas, Veracruz and Oaxaca, producers of high-quality coffee beans, as well as some organic production. Roads were also damaged, preventing the coffee from reaching the market, thus driving up losses.
"The delay in government aid and continued natural disasters are undermining the future of coffee," Marcelo Herrera Herbert, member of the Chamber of Deputies coffee commission, told Tierramérica.
The lawmaker, from the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), explained that annual coffee output, estimated at four million sacks, will fall by 75 percent in 2006. *Source: Inter Press Service.
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