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BRAZIL: Cultivating 'Clean' Tomatoes

RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil can already produce tomatoes without agro-chemical residues, through Tomatec, a production technique that was tested in the planting of 12,000 tomato plants in Sao José do Ubá, near Rio de Janeiro.

Analysis concluded in September proved the purity of the tomatoes, a crop that is usually heavily treated with pesticides.

"Tomatec combines integrated management of pests, drip irrigation, and sacks to cover the flowering branches," José Ronaldo Macedo, coordinator of the technique for the government's agricultural research agency EMBRAPA, explained to Tierramérica.

The method does use agro-chemicals, but 60 percent less than conventional cultivation, and only before the plants flower. It reduces the loss of fruit to one percent, conserves water and prevents soil erosion.

Although the cost of production is increased 20 percent, it will tend to decline in the future, assures Macedo.


CHILE: 'No' to Road Through Pumalín Park

SANTIAGO - Ecologists and residents oppose the Chilean government’s decision to build a 60-kilometer road through the center of Pumalín Park nature sanctuary, in the country's 10th region, instead of along its coastal border -- which is the cheaper option and would have lesser environmental impacts.

"At stake is the conservation of Chilean ecosystems versus a development model that has destroyed three-quarters of the national territory," Juan Pablo Orrego, director of the Ecosistemas group, told Tierramérica.

The owner of the park, U.S. multimillionaire Douglas Tompkins, and environmentalists say the decision announced Oct. 4 will only benefit the transnational corporation Endesa and the local firm Colbún.

The government proposed that the route, which would connect the cities of Puerto Montt and Chaitén, would also include the transmission lines of four hydroelectric dams that the two companies hope to build.


VENEZUELA: Veto Continues Against DDT

CARACAS - Venezuela rejects use of the insecticide DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) that was used to fight malaria-carrying mosquitoes a half-century ago, "adopting the criteria that it is toxic, non-biodegradable and accumulates in animal tissue," said Jesús Toro, director of environmental health at the Ministry of Health.

"It's a good decision and we hope that elimination continues of the DDT inventories still held by 24 regional health delegations," María Eugenia Gil Beroes, spokeswoman for the environmental group Aguaclara, said in a Tierramérica interview.

According to the ecologist, the components of DDT are very harmful because the affect the chemical functions of the cell, causing cancer and fetal malformations. For this reason her group has joined the demands that the World Health Organization desist from recommending even the limited use of DDT in fighting malaria.


URUGUAY: A Push for Biotech

MONTEVIDEO - The Pasteur Institute of Montevideo, which will officially open its doors Dec. 8, is trying to give a boost to biotechnology in the countries of Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela) and Chile, says executive director Guillermo Dighiero.

Beginning Nov. 13, proposals will be accepted for the pharmaceutical area, "both medical and veterinary, to develop new diagnostic procedures and new medicines based on recombinant technology," in this case using the study of the human genome as the starting point, Dighiero told Tierramérica.

This non-profit foundation, which has already invested 6.4 million dollars, was created by law in 2004, through an agreement amongst the French and Uruguayan governments and the Paris-based institute, and built with funds reconverted from Uruguay's debt to France.


CARIBBEAN: Fewer Hurricanes Predicted, But Risk Persists

HAVANA - The influence of the climate phenomenon known as El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) makes it less likely that tropical cyclones will form in the North Atlantic, but the risk is not eliminated, warn Cuban meteorologists.

Maritza Ballester, who created the Cuban model for predicting hurricanes, explained to Tierramérica that the development of ENOS was very abrupt and fundamentally affected the warming of the Pacific Ocean currents along the coasts of Peru and Ecuador.

El Niño began to manifest in July, and Cuba maintained its prediction of around 15 tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Basin, nine of which could reach hurricane category, with winds of 118 km/hour or more.

October is traditionally one of the most active months of the hurricane season, which lasts from June to November.

* Source: Inter Press Service.

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