Biodiversity OLD News
Extracts from EEIN 1991-1994. Latest news is at the bottom. Provided by Eubios Ethics Institute , at
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A comment on the use of pesticides in the USA is in a letter in Science 252: 350. The letter states that since the end of the 1970's there has been no increase in pesticide use, and since then there has been the development of safer pesticides. There has also been the increasing use of pest management programs using resistant varieties, crop rotation, which has lowered the use of chemical pesticides. It is argued that local situations determine how pesticides will be used in the future. There are still problems in the USA. Several million birds are still killed annually, and 67,000 cases of pesticide poisoning and approximately 6,000 cases of pesticide related cancers, in the USA alone. The USA spends US$1.3 billion a year to monitor well and ground water for pesticides, and the annual environmental and public health cost damage is estimated at US$8 billion in the USA. The 1990 estimate on the number of resistant species of insects and mites is 504, weeds 273 and plant pathogens 150, respectively.
The need for consideration of the loss of nonrenewable resources in economies, is discussed in G.E.Foy, "Accounting for non-renewable natural resources in Louisiana's gross state product", and A. M.Friend & D.J.Rapport, "Evolution of macro-information systems for sustainable development", Ecological Economics 3: 25-41 & 59-76 respectively.
A related report has been produced by the World Resources Institute, a Washington D.C. think tank, with their report Paying the Farm Bill: U.S. Agricultural Policy and the transition to Sustainable Agriculture (Washington D.C., March 1991). They present the costs of sustanable agriculture, including environmental costs such as soil erosion, versus traditional practice. The use of a greater variety of crops in the rotation cycle saved considerable sums of money, directly for farmers; Science 252: 207. A recent book in this area is Manfred Mackauer et al., eds., Critical Issues in Biological Control (330pp., US$75, New York: VCH publishers 1990) which is reviewed in Ecology 72: 1173. It is the contents of two 1988 symposia, and it covers some of the ecological research behind the control ideas.
The shift to biological control is occuring. The major corn seed producer, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, has joined the farming trend to switch to the use of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) as a pest control agent instead of chemical pesticides; Science 252: 211-2. Many mainstream US farmers are using the biocontrol agents, including pheromones to upset pest mating, as well as Bt (SG 136-7), viruses and fungi. There are many supspecies of Bt which have different activities, which has limited the use of it as a general pesticide. Recent interest has led to the costs coming down, and why it is already useful on high value crops such as strawberries and lettuce. Genetic engineering of the toxins is broadening the specificity of the protein toxins that one species can produce. Baculovirus research is also discussed. Another factor in the switch is consumer preferance for crops free of chemical pesticides. The research into discovering the mechanisms of insect resistance to BT is discussed in Biotechnology 9: 415.
The farming of the sea continues. This can take many forms. The conservation of particular areas can reestablish breeding grounds that may aid fisheries nearby. Such a system is described in Belize, where part of the reef is a marine park, for tourists and conservation. The mature fish that can grow, are more fertile thus more young are produced which leave the areas and can then be caught by fishermen; SA (May 1991), 11. Species such as spiny lobster, snapper and grouper are increasing again. The dual purpose of conservation and economic management of fishery resources can be performed together. In the future we can hope for more such systems, which are found in Australasia as well as some Carribean islands.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science has made a resolution on biodiversity, in which they support the establishment of a US National Center for Biodiversity: Science 252: 587. A new book by Richard Tobin, The Expendable Future: US Politics and the protection of Biological Diversity (325pp, US$19, Duke University Press 1991) is reviewed in Nature 350: 668. It considers the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the political barriers to its operation, with considerable emphasis on endangered species. The future of London zoo is under debate; Nature 350: 546.
The origin of the use of agriculture in Europe is described in a paper in Nature 351: 143-5, 97-8. The origin of farming communities represents the spread of farmer groups, into the existing groups, so it is an interesting picture into the genetic origins of European peoples.
A major review book on the future use of biotechnology is by Albert Sasson, Feeding tomorrow's world (805pp, ISBN 92-3-102083-8, Paris: UNESCO 1990). It reviews the work of UNESCO, and provides much background on human nutrition and food (The UNESCO address is 7 place de Fontenoy, 75700 Paris).

The procedure that is being used in the current European Community backed aid programme to Africa for the eradication of tsetse fly is not high technology, but it can use satellite mapping to check on the rainfall which is correlated with the spread of the flies; Nature 351: 695, 739-41. Tsetse fly is the transmitter of trypanosome diseases, which is extremely important in Africa. A simple fly trap is being used to catch flies, which is safer and more efficient than insecticide spraying. Despite the wealth of high technology, we need to utilise both new and old technology in efforts to eradicate pests.
On the question of technology transfer, a new group called the International Biotechnology Coordination Programme has been set up to aid this; Biotechnology 9: 511.
A review is G.A. Strobel, "Biological control of weeds", SA (July 1991), 50-60. It includes details of some of the agents now sold in the USA, and being developed including the use of phycotoxins.
There are efforts underway to attempt to protect the biodiversity that is being lost, especially with the destruction of rainforests in the tropics, but also in every country and habitat. The suggestion that protection of biodiversity be protected in developing countries in exchange for biotechnology transfer to those countries; Biotechnology 9: 683 is one idea, which is being considered, and would be ethically consistent with the principle of distributive justice.
Other reports on biodiversity are in Nature 351: 596; 352: 2, 10; On preserving tropical diversity see NS (6 July 1991), 17. A suggestion that biotechnology companies should pay a levy for biodiversity is reported in NS (22 June 1991), 17.

A recent report from the National Research Council of the USA is entitled Microlivestock: Little Known Animals with a Promising Economic Future ; Science 253: 378. It recommends the growth of small animals, rather than the well known large domestic animals, for meat production in developing countries, because they are more efficient. It would certainly be an advantage to have small animals for food in some countries, you would also avoid the need for food storage. However, in times of food shortage plants would seem to be more efficient at producing protein. In Australia and New Zealand little imported animals are more a pest than anything, and the possibility of putting a contraceptive into a rabbit virus is discussed in NS (19 Oct 1991), 18. Maybe they should be eaten more!
A new book from UNESCO is Biotechnologies in Perspective , eds. A. Sasson & V. Costarini (Paris: UNESCO 1991, 166pp., ISBN 92-3-102738-7). It is some of the proceedings of an International Seminar held in Oct. 1991, in France on the economic and socio-cultural implications of biotechnologies. A series of papers are included, with special emphasis on developing countries, and on economic effects. A comment on the future of food production and biotechnology for ecological sustainability is found in a comment on a book in Biotechnology 9 : 899.
A review is D. Zilberman et al., "The economics of pesticide use and regulation", Science 253; 518-22. It discusses how fees can be used to regulate pesticide use, instead of outright bans.
A series of papers on preserving biodiversity appear in the 16th August edition of Science. See Science 253: 717, 736-8 (extinctions), 740-1 (encouraging seabird reproduction using replica puffins to attract puffins to breed on an island), 744-57 (a series of papers on conservation), 758-62 (on biodiversity studies), 866-72 (on ex situ conservation of plant genetic resources). On declining amphibian populations see Science 253: 892-5, 1467; SA (Nov 1991), 15.
On the resources of plant germplasm see an editorial in Science 253: 833, and a new report National Research Council, Managing Global Genetic Resources. The National Germplasm System (Washington, National Academy Press 1991). It proposes free provision of genetic material to worldwide requests.
Also important to encourage is in situ conservation. The first major commercial licenses to find new drugs in return for fees for exploration, as has occurred between Merck & Co., and Costa Rica; Nature 353: 290; Science 254:28. It is like a hunting license for useful compounds. If successful, a share of the profits will be paid to Costa Rica, and this would also encourage other countries to preserve large areas of their forests. See also C. Joyce, "Prospects for tropical medicines", NS (19 Oct 1991), 36-40.

On the sustainibility of agriculture see HortScience 26: 1252-6. On sustainable development for the developing counties see TIBTECH 9: 257-8, 297-9.
On the dangers of biological immigrants see Science 254: 1444-7. It is an increasing problem. The USDA is attempting to introduce more biocontrol efforts, such as introducing insects to prey on insects, especially on importing natural predators of the organisms that have turned into pests after introduction to the USA; Science 254: 1580-1. Sometimes there are ecological concerns about biocontrol, see Science 254: 934-5.
There are still many chemical pesticides being developed. On new insecticides, see TIBTECH 9: 446-7; and the 11th edition of the International Pesticide Directory, ed. D.P. McDonald, has just been published. On new high activity herbicides see Chemistry & Industry (2 Dec 1991), 864. On the use of herbicide containing methacrylates see J. Controlled Release 17: 113-22. A review on biodegradable microspheres is in J. Controlled Release 17: 1-22.
A new international plan has been devised to save plant seeds, including the establishment of a special seed bank in Spitsbergen; Science 254: 804. The seed bank would be run like a Swiss bank, but would ensure cold and lasting storage. On the possibility of exchanging transgenic rice varieties between poor Asian countries, without paying breeding or other costs, see Science 254: 1283. On gene banks in zoos see Science 254: 1291. On genetic mosiacs in strangler fig trees and tropical conservation see Science 254: 1214-6.
In general on biodiversity see EST 25: 1817-8. On a plan devised by the G7 countries to rescue the Amazon, see NS (7 Dec 1991), 15. On mushroom extinctions see Science 254: 1458. On wetland conservation in the USA see SA (Dec 1991), 8-10. On elephant conservation and the ivory trade see Nature 354: 175. On the problems of race and conservation in South Africa see SA (Dec 1991), 11.

Biodiversity may continue to be lost as a result of agricultural systems that look only at immediate increases in productivity; NS (1 Feb 1991), 16. On preserving biodiversity by plant conservation in farming see NS (18 Jan 1991), 8. On a new FAO proposal to attempt to save animal genetic resources see Nature 355: 382. It will attempt to save unusual animals from especially developing countries. On genetics and speciation from a technical side see; Nature 355: 511, and on extinction methods; Nature 355: 22-3. On whether there is such a topic as "conservation biology" see Science 255: 20-1. On
A discussion of the debt for nature schemes is in NS (11 Jan 1991), 50-1. On the protection of wild life resources in Kenya, and attempts to kept the resources within the country; see Nature 355: 489. France is being pressured to commit resources to conservation of a large area of French Guiana, perhaps as a "European tropical Park" in South America; NS (25 Jan 1991), 21. On the debt crisis in Costa Rica (see a comment on a recent deal with Merck in EEIN 1: 75; New York Times (11 Feb 1991), C4) and how this threatens natural resources see Science 254 (1991), 1724. We should let money be used to save resources, but it should be a means not an end. On Siberia's threatened forests see Nature 355: 293-4.
In a surprise move, the Japanese Environmental Agency is preparing a bill aimed at protecting endangered species, nationally and internationally. It is tentatively called the "Preservation of endangered species of wild flora and fauna bill"; Japan Times (23 Feb 1991), 22. Japan has a very poor record in the international trade of endangered species, and this may cover the current loopholes. It may be the result of international pressure, that they have decided to attempt to enact this bill by April.
A further issue of concern for the Japanese is the calls by Sweden and other countries to limit the number of tuna caught. Japan uses 60% of the world's tuna catch, so they are especially concerned. The world stocks of tuna have been said to have fallen by 90% according to Alburon, the US based group. There is a need for managed fishing.

A monthly newsletter on food system analysis that may be of interest is The Ram's Horn. Annual subscription is C$15, from 125 Highfield Road, Toronto, Ontario, M4L 2V4, Canada. On applications of biotechnology research that may be useful to developing countries see Science 255: 919; Biotechnology 10: 250.
Agricultural systems are designed to exploit the energy conversion from light, to biomass, to provide food. It appears that agricultural systems may be able to convert energy between different levels of the food chain more efficiently than natural ecosystems, according to a study M. Oesterheld et al., "Effect of animal husbandry on herbivore-carrying capacity at a regional scale", Nature 356: 234-6. They looked at South American agricultural ecosystems and found that the biomass of herbivores that were supported was about an order of magnitude more than in natural ecosystems.

Biodiversity The worldwide ivory trade ban has been renewed, despite calls for exceptions at the conference on protecting endangered species; NS (29 March 1991), 3, 23-7; Science 255: 407, 1206-7; Nature 355: 758. There is still the question of funding of conservation programs; Nature 356: 8. On how to trace endangered species of sea turtles in the wild see EST 26: 424-6.
A plan to save Guyana 's rain forest is summarised in NS (21 March 1991), 15. More aid may go to save the Amazonian rain forest from rich nations; NS (28 March 1991), 42-6, though bureaucracy can delay such payments; Nature 356: 7. An article on how to sustainably log rainforests is in NS (14 March 1991), 9.
A recent World Watch Report released on the 25 April on Environmental Change and destruction has warned that urgent action is required to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to reduce the increase in the greenhouse effect, and that long term conservation efforts are impossible without such changes. The main focus of Life Support: Conserving Biological Diversity was on biodiversity. Many examples of extinctions are cited, and calls made for better stewardship. Comments on where to find biodiversity are in Science 255: 940, 976-9. We need to save both tropical drylands, which are often neglected, and forests.
Genetic analysis, and DNA fingerprinting is being used to determine the relationship between different populations of organisms, e.g. MJA 156: 27-30.

A good example of succesful switching from the use of chemical pesticides in agriculture is the case of rice farming in Indonesia, summarised in Science 256: 1272-3. They use some biological control methods, and integrated pest management, and the rice yiled has increased 10% since 1986 when many chemical pesticides were banned, and this has also avoided much pollution of drinking water.
The introduction of aquaculture in the USA is very slow, compared to in Norway or Japan, and a new National Research Council report has been released; Science 256: 1391. On the issue of Japanese rice production see T. Yoichi, "An environmental mandate for rice self-sufficiency", Japan Quarterly (Jan/March 1991), 34-44.
The loss of fish species is discussed in U.S. News and World report (22 June 1992), 64-75; Canadian Forum (May 1992), 14-7, see also p. 18-22 on biodiversity in agriculture. The biodiversity at different layers of the ocean is discussed in Nature 357: 278-9.
The latest figures suggest that in 1991 the destruction rate of the Amazon rain forest dropped by 20%; EST 26: 1071. See also articles; on forests in EST 26: 1096-9; Lancet 339: 1330-3; Nature 356: 625-6 conserving biodiversity EST 26: 1090-95; endangered species and the law, Nature 357: 274-6; conserving plants, Science 256: 1055-6, 1386; conserving germ plasm in eastern European gene banks with help from the FAO, Science 256: 19; protecting land in developing countries, EST 26: 876-7; on saving forests with returns from pharmaceutical sales using renewable harvesting , Science 256: 312, 1142-3.

The view of the US refusal to sign the biodiversity treaty from the perspective of the biotech business, and the support of the Association of Biotechnology Companies is in GEN 12(10), 1, 12. Their major objection is to the patent protection clauses, and to giving countries legal rights to their national flora and fauna. However, it is likely that an international law will be developed to extend national patrimony, something which may move some of the ownership of technology back to developing countries. Ideally we could hope for all humanity to share the benefits, but while industry continues to seek ownership of a disproportionate total of the world's genetic resources, some counter protection should be developed.
Within the company Genentech there has also been criticism of their president's support for President Bush's stand; Science 257: 323; Nature 358: 97. A review of the treaty and US position is in Science 256: 1624; Biotechnology 10: 848-9; Nature 357: 639. Other comments on biodiversity are in BMJ 304: 1590-1; Nature 358: 200; NS (4 July 1992), 9; (1 Aug 1992), 7.

The question of how many species there are is discussed in a review article in SA (Oct 1992), 18-24. This question is relevant to biodiversity. The frozen seed storage facility at Colorado State University has been expanded to allow further storage space; Science 257: 1343. It contains about 232,000 seed samples, and now has been given extra space to accommodate up to a million seed samples in safe conditions. Methods for preserving frozen sheep embryos for preservation of biodiversity and germ plasm are reported in an abstract No. 26 in the abstracts from the 84th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Animal Science in J. Animal Science Supplement 1, 1992. An Indian seed bank has been set up in collaboration with the USA; NS (12 Sept 1992), 8.
Environmental policy regarding wetlands in the USA, which are declining, is discussed in Science 257: 1043-4. Some botanists in the USA have sued the US Forest Service in an attempt to require them to preserve the complete ecosystem, not just some individual species; Science 257: 1618-9. US funding for biodiversity is also discussed in Nature 359: 563-5. On the issue of preserving forest biodiversity see H. Heiner, "The challenge of global forest management. Report from UNCED", J. Forestry (Sept 1992), 28-31; C.D. Oliver, "A landscape approach. Achieving and maintaining biodiversity and economic productivity", J. Forestry (Sept 1992), 20-5; J. Josephson, "Sustainable forest management in cold and warm lands", EST 26: 1892-4. Britain has announced that it won't actually ratify the biodiversity treaty until May 1993; NS (5 Sept 1992), 5.
The role of pollution in disturbing land populations is discussed in EST 26: 1694-1701. The role of global warming in triggering the extinction of species is discussed in Natural History (Sept 1992), 2-8. The damage caused by just one event, such as Hurricane Andrew, is reported in Science 257: 1339-40, 1852-4.

The loss of topsoil from Africa has been found to be an important nutrient source for the Atlantic ocean, Amazonian rain forests and the Caribbean; Washington Post (28 Oct 1992), A1, A16. This study shows the global relationships that exist between ecosystems on different continents.
A proposal for a 50 year study of biodiversity throughout the world is in Science 258: 1099-1100. A paper on the molecular origins and symbiosis and biodiversity by L. Margulis is in BioSystems 27: 39-51. A book review of E.O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life, is in NS (14 Nov 1992), 43; letters in Nature 360: 291. Some US aid to save germplasm banks in Eastern Europe is being given, but further international investment (of the order of a few million dollars only) is required to save very important germplasm banks; Nature 360: 201. A program of freezing species for preservation of biodiversity is advocated in PNAS 89: 11098-11101.
A letter on drug companies ethical duties to countries from where they extracted the drugs is in Science 258: 203-4. The real ethical duty however is the duty to save life, to love other people, which is more crucial than intellectual property rights to national species. A review of the medical usefulness of Ginkgo biloba is in Lancet 340: 1136-9.
Books on conservation biology are reviewed in Nature 359: 683-4. An objective case for conservation is made in a letter by F.J. Leavitt in Nature 360: 100, who argues that conservation will ensure the survival of the whole system of living organisms because humans cannot husband species for long-term good. A new book is Noel Grove, Preserving Eden, The Nature Conservancy (Harry N. Abrams, New York). An article adapted from this book is in American Forests (Nov/Dec 1992), 26-9.

In addition to the papers referred to in the above section, a book review of R.L. Peters & T.E. Lovejoy, Global Warming and Biological Diversity (Yale University Press 1992, 386pp., US$45) is in Science 258 (1992), 1505-6. A review of E.O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life is in Nature 361: 311-2. Methods to conserve biodiversity are given in D. Pimentel et al., "Conserving biological diversity in agricultural/forestry systems", BioScience 42 (1992), 354-62.
There have been protests in India against a US-led gene bank; Nature 361: 291. In the USA, a National Biodiversity Repository Center has been founded; Nature 361: 197. Comments on how drug companies are looking for new drugs from plants are in SA (Jan 1993), 118-9; Science 259: 294-5. A discussion of biodiversity at Rio is in BioScience 42 (1992), 773-6.

President Clinton has signed the Biodiversity Treaty that Mr. Bush did not sign at the Rio summit last year (EEIN 2: 62); Nature 362: 577. Fourteen countries have ratified the treaty (30 countries are needed to bring it into force).
Comments on a frozen plant tissue bank for preservation of endangered plants are in NS (27 Feb 1993), 16. The role of zoos and breeding programs to increase numbers is reviewed in Nature 361: 689-90.
Other comments on biodiversity are in Nature 361: 579, 597-8; 362: 30; SA (March 1992), 108-10; Science 259: 1774-5. An environmental assessment approach for the Himalayas is in Ambio 22: 4-9. Comments on tropical deforestation around the world (in total about 0.8% or the various forest types are being lost) are in Science 259: 1390; and for Cameroon, Ambio 22: 44-9; and Amazon, SA (March 1992), 80-6.
A review of ecological engineering is W.J. Mitsch, "Ecological engineering. A cooperative role with the planetary life-support system", EST 27: 438-45.

A project looking at the relationship between biodiversity and the environment is underway at The International Academy of the Environment, 4 Rue de Conches, 1231 Conches/Geneva, Switzerland. One of the topics is to attempt to value "germplasm", and those interested should contact Dr Anatole Krattiger at the Academy.
Estimates of the biodiversity of the world are difficult, as a conference report says; Science 260: 620-1. On the relationship between biological activity of a rain forest and soil composition see Science 260: 521-3. The cute Koala may eat itself to death in parts of Victoria, Australia unless less forests are cut down or controls are placed on the koalas; Newsweek (29 March 1993), 44. On a symbol of endangered species, a book review of The Last Panda is in Nature 363: 219.
President Clinton has signed the biodiversity treaty ; Science 260: 1415; Biotechnology 11: 665; but many scientists see it as irrelevant to real protection. The US Congress is also supporting biodiversity protection; Science 260: 479. Japanese government attitudes to protection of wetlands are discussed in Nature 363: 662; following a world conference. A paper on the value and functions of wetlands in Southern USA is in J. Forestry (May 1993), 15-9.

Biodiversity Management of Australian biodiversity is discussed in Search 24: 173-8. A potential anti-HIV chemical extract has been isolated from a West Australian shrub, for which the US National Cancer Institute is applying for a patent; NS (3 July 1993), 4. Australia is calling for their inclusion in the patent deal, consistent with the Biodiversity Treaty. A letter on Native rights is in Nature 364: 376.
General comments on how biotechnology may support biodiversity are Science 260: 1900-1; Biotechnology 11: 878-9. The high costs of protecting biodiversity in the USA are reviewed in Science 260: 1868-71. Also on conservation of specific species and habitats see Science 260: 1890-2, 1905-10; 261: 287, 293; Newsweek (2 Aug 1993), 54-5. Insect diversity in the fossil record finds that their extinction rates have been small, Science 261: 310-5. Estimations of current extinction rates for species are made in Nature 364: 494-6.
A review of M.J. Plotkin & L.M. Famolane, eds., Sustainable Harvest and Marketting of Rain Forest Products (Washington DC, Island Press, 1992, 312pp, US$20) is in BioScience 43: 396-7. On the topic of harvesting forests for profit , Science 260: 1895-6; Biotechnology 11: 765; SA (July 1993), 76-84.
A paper looking at the genetic diversity of European agricultural land crops is Ecologist 23: 64-9. A book including topics of agricultural policy and using GMOs is O.T. Sandlund et al., ed., Conservation of Biodiversity for Sustainable Development (Scandanavian University Press, 1992). On cleaning up Antarctica, see Science 261: 676. The rise in the use of the word "biodiversity" is exponential in the literature, since 1987, Nature 364: 664.

Several discussion documents and papers on the issues of biodiversity and germplasm (also related to biotechnology ) have been prepared by the International Academy of the Environment (Chemin De Conches 4, CH 1231 Conches, Geneve, Switzerland. They include W. Lesser & A.F. Krattiger, "Negotiating terms for germplasm collection", 16pp., "Facilitating new South-North and South-South technology flow processes for "genetic technology"", 21pp, and A.F. Krattiger et al., "Implementation of Biosafety Regulatory mechanisms under the Biodiversity Convention", 31pp.
MIT has agreed to provide technical assistance for a US$5 million project to test the extraction of materials for biotechnology from the Brazilian Amazon region; Nature 365: 101. A book review of Biodiversity Prospecting is in Biotechnology 11: 1173; and on bioprospecting, EST 27: 1730-2; Science 261: 976-8, 1379; BMJ 307: 943.
The biological consequences of climate change are discussed in Nature 364: 24; 365: 699; and on UV damage, Science 261: 1571-4.
Development of maps to examine biodiversity is reported in Nature 365: 292-3, 335-7, 609-10, 636-9. Conservation is discussed in Nature 364: 14; 365: 16-7; Newsweek (20 Sept 1993), 52. The debate over the significance of the large asteriod impact in Chicxulub, Mexico 65 million years ago in the disappearance of the dinosaurs and other extinctions is discussed in Nature 365: 115; Science 261: 1518-9.

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