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BRAZIL: Studying Banana DNA

RIO DE JANEIRO - Genome research has now reached the banana, the most popular tropical fruit and a key export for many Latin American countries.

Representatives from banana-growing countries around the world, such as Brazil, India, Mexico and Nigeria, and from importing nations, like Britain, Germany and the United States, have joined forces to decipher the banana's DNA within the next three years.

The coordination of the project, which involves 11 countries, is in the hands of Emile Frison, of France, head of the International Network for Improvement of Banana and Plantain.

Because banana varieties vary only slightly, options for improving the crop through conventional crossing methods is limited. Information provided by the genome study is expected to open the way for more resistant and productive varieties. The banana, or plantain, is a basic food for some 500 million people, particularly in Africa.


COSTA RICA: Water Supply Crisis

SAN JOSE - Costa Rica's potable water system could collapse within five years as a result of unregulated urbanization and the expansion of precarious settlements along the country's rivers, say experts and public officials.

The warning was announced in late July, 15 days after a crisis in the capital in which the contamination of two water sources sent more than 1,000 people to the hospital with diarrhea. The foul water endangered the health of a half million people.

Water sources are threatened by deforestation and by waste from industry and livestock, says Darner Mora, of Aqueducts and Sewers, the state enterprise in charge of water supplies.


CHILE: Gabriela Mistral in Environmental Education

SANTIAGO - The environment as a theme in the poetry and prose of Chilean writer Gabriela Mistral is the subject of one of the 11 courses being offered during the southern hemisphere winter by the National Committee Pro Defense of Fauna and Flora, Chile's oldest environmental organization.

Mistral, whose true name was Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, was born in 1889 and died in 1956. In 1945 she became the first Latin American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Committee's course ''seeks to recognize nature in the poetic philosophy of the poet and to understand its presence in the present environmental context,'' Andrea Munizaga, the organization's communications director, told Tierramérica.


VENEZUELA: A Unique Aquarium

CARACAS - A marine museum on Margarita Island, east of the Venezuelan capital, has inaugurated an aquarium where mangroves and coral reefs are the main attractions, but soon there will also be sharks and sea turtles.

The native species of the Caribbean Sea are collected by the local fishing community's experts in the marine ecosystem.

The aquarium will continue to expand, adding new species, including those considered most exotic and in danger of extinction.

* Source: Inter Press Service.

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