GUATEMALA CITY, (Tierramérica).- Over the next two months a biology center will be set up in the northern Guatemala department of Petén to gather satellite data on the plant and animal life of the Yaxhá Park.
The center would also help detect illegal land invasions and forest fires, Federico Fahsen, head of Protect Yaxhá, told Tierramérica.
"Petén is the last 'lung' of the nature reserve and provides oxygen to Guatemala," said Vinicio Montero, director of the National Council on Protected Areas. The data will also reveal more information on the crocodiles, turtles, migratory birds, tapirs, jaguars and deer that inhabit the area.
Yaxhá Park covers 37,000 hectares, and its attractions include a natural lagoon and ancian Mayan temples.
RIO DE JANEIRO, (Tierramérica).- Fields of genetically modified crops will see rapid expansion in Brazil now that the Biosecurity Law, approved by Congress on Mar. 2, legalizes channels for pursuing this form of biotechnology.
This is evident in the heightened competition between companies that develop seed varieties -- especially soybeans. The government farm research agency EMBRAPA exhibited eight types of transgenic soy last week at a fair in the southern city of Nao-Me-Toque.
''They are especially for planting in southern Brazil'' and are very high-yield and resistent to pests, Paul Bertagnolli, an EMBRAPA soy improvement expert, told Tierramérica. Other genetically modified soy varieties have already been developed for other climates and ecosystems.
Farmers have shown ''enormous interest'', but it will be years before the authorized seeds conquer the market. Unfortunately, soybean growers ''have grown accustomed'' to the illegal transgenic seeds, smuggled in from Argentina and less productive and which brought in pests.
Dogs and Cats Poisoned
RIO DE JANEIRO, (Tierramérica).- Hundreds of dogs and cats in Venezuela have died in recent weeks after consuming Dog Chow and Cat Chow, made by the transnational Purina, which accidentally distributed a shipment contaminated by aflatoxin, a poisonous substance that develops in corn as a result of excess heat and humidity.
''Aflatoxin (produced by Apergillus mold) affects the liver of some animals, similar to hepatitis. We halted production and have begun to recall the affected lot throughout the country,'' Germán García, Purina-Venezuela trademark manager, told Tierramérica.
Some pet owners are demanding that the company leave the country, but Purina is not considering that option ''because there are many jobs at stake,'' said García. The firm has made public apologies and offered to pay for the veterinary costs of the sick animals, and return money to those who purchased the contaminated pet food.
Forest Fire Leaves Devastating Bottom Line
SANTIAGO, (Tierramérica).- The 16,000 hectares consumed by a fire in Chile's Torres del Paine National Park included native plant species like lenga, coigüe de Magallanes and ñirre, devastating forests and plains that are the habitat of guanacos, puma, fox and rhea.
The fire was started accidentally on Feb. 17 by a tourist using a camping stove in an unauthorized area. Some areas continue to smoulder but should be under control soon, according to officials.
Created in 1959, the park was declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1978 by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). It is located in the far south and covers 181,000 hectares.
Rodrigo Pizarro, head of the environmental Terram Foundation, the destruction is irreparable. ''We can work to replant, to strengthen conservation efforts, to recreate the forest, but it will never again be the ecosystem that was created naturally over thousands of years,'' he told Tierramérica.
HAVANA, (Tierramérica).- A modern system for collecting urban solid waste in the Havana district of Playa will allow conversion of biodegradable waste into fertilizer and ''biogas'', as well as helping to protect health and the environment.
The project -- to be implemented gradually throughout the capital and the rest of Cuba -- is backed by two million dollars from Switzerland through the Secretariat of State for Economic Affairs, and includes citizen participation in separating out different types of waste, according to the initiative's promoters.
Households will be given receptacles for paper and cardboard, metals, plastics and glass. Biogas produced from the organic materials, meanwhile, may be used as a fuel for vehicles and in the home.
The launch of the project involves several institutions, including the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, the Ministry for Foreign Investment and Economic Collaboration, and community groups in Playa *Source: Inter Press Service.
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