HAVANA, (Tierramérica).- Cuban experts warn that the indiscriminate use of chemicals to speed up the maturation process of fruits and vegetables threatens the health of consumers in this Caribbean country, which officially favors ecological farming methods.
The practice is facilitated by the clandestine sales of ethepon and other chemicals used as maturation enhancers and which, in sufficient quantities, can cause acute intoxication and other illness in those who eat treated foods.
Experts in the province of Villa Clara, 300 km from Havana, said in a press conference that in Cuba there are no chemical substances approved for this purpose, much less for unregulated application.
Nevertheless, unscrupulous fruit and vegetable vendors obtain these chemicals and line their pockets with the profits, according to chemical engineer María Matilde Viera, and Public Health Ministry official Dora Martha Rivera.
Aquatic Species Discovered
CARACAS, (Tierramérica).- Two fish species, five new types of crustaceans and two micromollusks were found in the delta of the Orinoco River, in northeast Venezuela, by researchers from the LaSalle Foundation for the Natural Sciences.
''We have already registered the new species and the report with international programs. These discoveries confirm that Venezuela is a 'megadiverse' country,'' Daniel Novoa, director of the Environment Ministry's Delta Project, told Tierramérica.
The Orinoco Delta is a fragile ecosystem of marshes that are home to more than 220 animal species. Since 1991, 30,000 of the delta's 40,000 square km have been part of the Man and Biosphere Program of the United Nations.
The research effort also determined that many of the delta species are threatened by unregulated fishing practices, particularly dragnet fishing.
Defending Water Against Mining Company
SANTIAGO, (Tierramérica).- Los Caimanes, a small rural community in northern Chile, launched a signature collection campaign to convince the government to prohibit a big mining company from building a reservoir that would contaminate the area's aquifers, the only local source of potable water.
The reservoir of Los Pelambres mine would receive 1.7 million tons of toxins, like arsenic, strontium, silicon oxide, chloride, lead and sulfur, above the underground water sources, said Naira Huerta, resident of the community located 280 km north of Santiago.
The region ''suffers prolonged droughts, our streams usually evaporate before they reach us. We resolved the problem when we found the aquifers eight kilometers from our town,'' said Huerta.
Los Pelambres mining belongs to the Luksic Group, the largest business conglomerate in Chile. Los Caimanes residents sent a letter of protest to President Ricardo Lagos, who then delegated it back to the local intendant, the region's top government official.
Forests Produce More Intact than Cleared for Farming
RIO DE JANEIRO, (Tierramérica).- The Amazon forests that remain intact are more ''competitive'' than farming in this globalized economy, according to a doctoral thesis recently approved by the University of Brasilia.
Making the argument is Ecio Rodrigues, a forestry engineer with 18 years of practical experience in the northern state of Acre, in the Brazilian Amazon.
Proving the economic advantages of sustainable exploitation of the forests over converting them to farmland is essential for halting deforestation, destroying the Amazon for agriculture, ranching and logging, says Roberto Smeraldi, coordinator of Friends of the Earth-Brazilian Amazon.
Advances in sustainable management and extraction of forest products have failed so far to stop deforestation, which this year will claim more than the 23,700 square km cleared in 2003.
Rodrigues's thesis, which draws on 300 books and articles about concrete experiences in Acre, is motivation for the environmental effort, but now the challenge is to convince those who are destroying the forest to stop.
Christmas Threatens the Pinabete
GUATEMALA CITY, (Tierramérica).- The situation of the pinabete (Abies guatemalensis R), an endangered tree in Guatemala, worsens every Christmas season due to the widespread use of its branches as decoration by the mostly Roman Catholic population.
''The branches are the main material that illegal vendors use to put together the famous Christmas trees that bring joy and holiday aroma to Guatemalan homes, but they are condemning this conifer, found only in Guatemala, to extinction,'' Pedro López, of the National Council on Protected Areas (CONAP), told Tierramérica.
At least 45,000 households bought a pinabete tree in 2000, according to the National Forests Institute.
The pinabete, which grows at altitudes up to 3,000 meters above sea level, is also threatened by abrupt changes in temperature, the advance of the farming frontier, and pests.
CONAP, with support from the National Civil Police, is pushing a program to stop the cutting of this conifer during the Christmas holiday season. *Source: Inter Press Service.
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