CCNet TERRA 9/2002 - 1 November 2002

"When India's prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, finished
speaking at the international conference on climate here on Wednesday, the
fissure between richer and poorer countries over how best to tackle
global warming could no longer be papered over. It highlighted a
divide between north and south, between the industrialized and developing
worlds, over who should bear the obligations and burdens of trying to
reduce the emissions that cause global warming."
--Amy Waldman, The New York Times, 1 November 2002

    The New York Times, 1 November 2002

    CO2 Science Magazine, 30 October 2002

    CO2 Science Magazine, 30 October 2002

    Andrew Yee <>

    Tech Central Station, 30 October 2002

    Eurekalert, 1 November 2002

    The Daily Telegraph, 30 October 2002


>From The New York Times, 1 November 2002


NEW DELHI, Friday, Nov. 1 - When India's prime minister, Atal Bihari
Vajpayee, finished speaking at the international conference on climate here
on Wednesday, the fissure between richer and poorer countries over how best
to tackle global warming could no longer be papered over.

In his speech, he argued that poorer countries could not be expected to
invest money in tackling the causes of global warming. They bear little
responsibility, he said, producing fewer greenhouse gases than
industrialized countries, and yet have been hit harder by the natural
calamities, from drought to floods, caused by climate changes. They have
weaker economies, and with pressing needs in everything from health to
education, can little afford to invest in clean-air technologies.

His speech articulated sentiments - resentments, in some cases - widely
shared among developing nations. So while it produced little new of
substance, the conference, the eighth since the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change was adopted in 1992, illuminated the challenges
in crafting a global response to global warming.

It highlighted a divide between north and south, between the industrialized
and developing worlds, over who should bear the obligations and burdens of
trying to reduce the emissions that cause global warming.

But on several points, the south found itself with an unlikely ally: the
United States, which under the Bush administration has also blanched at
joining efforts to reduce emissions.

Instead, the United States joined India and other developing countries in
encouraging a focus on developing the technology and finding the resources
to adapt to climate change.

India and others argued that developed countries should offer technical and
financial assistance to help developing countries adapt.

It was not clear whether the conference's final declaration, which was still
being negotiated this morning, would contain a reference to the Kyoto
Protocol, the 1997 climate pact completed last year and endorsed by most of
the world's countries.

The Bush administration had rejected the pact, saying that fulfilling its
requirements to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases could hurt America's
economy. The United States is the largest producer of greenhouse gases, and
many believe its rejection of the pact has undercut its potential

A draft declaration drawn up earlier this week did not mention Kyoto at all.
But the latest version included an innocuous reference that said that
parties that have ratified the protocol should encourage those that have not
to do so "in a timely manner."

The pact must be ratified by at least 55 countries and by the industrialized
nations that emitted at least 55 percent of the industrialized world's
carbon dioxide in 1990. With the United States out, that number can only be
reached if Russia ratifies the treaty. At the conference, the Russian
delegation indicated that ratification was eventually likely, but only after
Parliament passed a law in favor of ratification.

If Russia has been hesitant about ratifying the Kyoto pact because of the
withdrawal of the United States, India may have been emboldened by America's
rejection of formal commitments to reduce emissions of warming gases.

"We do not see targets and timetables as realistic for developing
countries," the head of the American delegation, Paula Dobriansky, the under
secretary of state for global affairs, said in an interview today.

Instead, the American delegation here repeatedly sounded two themes: that
adapting to climate change is as essential as preventing it, and that
economic growth is the key to environmental progress.

The European Union and Japan, accordingly, have been pressing developing
nations to commit to reducing the emission of warming gases.

But it was exactly such pressures that seem to have contributed to the
estrangement between north and south. A member of the Indian delegation said
that the pressure from the European Union and Japan had crossed the line
from "persuasion" to "aggression." Mr. Vajpayee's speech was partly in

Copyright 2002, The New York Times


>From CO2 Science Magazine, 30 October 2002

In a recent Opinion piece published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution,
Loladze (2002) conducts what he calls a "thought experiment," wherein he
concludes that the dilution effect of the extra plant biomass produced by
the aerial fertilization effect of atmospheric CO2 enrichment tends to
reduce the concentrations of a number of micronutrients found in plant
tissues, many of which are important to human health and are currently
present in common food plants in what are believed - by some - to be
insufficient quantities. Being one of that believing cadre, Loladze suggests
that the increase in the atmosphere's CO2 concentration since preindustrial
times may have caused an elemental imbalance in earth's plants, contributing
to the problem of micronutrient malnutrition, which he says is harming the
health and economy of over half of the world's population.

Loladze's thesis is based on the assumption that certain essential
micronutrients should be present in plants at concentrations that are
greater than, or at least equal to, their current concentrations. By this
thinking, any concentration reductions from those of the present are deemed
to be bad. This premise, however, is far too simplistic; for it is not the
amount of those elements, but how they are used, that defines their utility
or value to the plant and/or human body.

A case in point from the plant world is the commonly - but not universally -
observed decrease in foliage nitrogen concentration that occurs in
vegetation growing in air enriched with CO2.  Originally thought to be a
negative response, this acclimation phenomenon has gradually come to be
realized to be a positive reaction to atmospheric CO2 enrichment.  Not
requiring as much nitrogen to maintain their photosynthetic machinery in top
working condition when growing in air enriched with CO2, plants need not
acquire as much nitrogen as they do in CO2-deficient air (such as that of
the present) and, therefore, they need not expend the extra energy required
to do so, growing bigger and better all the while.  And that is why it is
openly acknowledged that atmospheric CO2 enrichment greatly enhances plant
nitrogen use efficiency.

Another example of the importance of the "how elements are used" concept,
which also applies to animals, is actually embodied in a complaint of
Loladze.  He says that much of the experimental CO2 enrichment work in this
area "has ignored chemical elements and has instead focused on complex
compounds."  Does Loladze not realize that it is not the elements that do
the life-sustaining work of plants and animals, but rather the complex
compounds that are constructed from them and avidly sought by modern
botanical explorers searching for previously-unrecognized plant substances
possessed of health-promoting and medicinal qualities?  If he did appreciate
this fact, he would probably not be so quick to report that many of those
compounds "show little consistency in their response to high [CO2]," for
that observation clearly contradicts his thesis of globally decreased
food-derived health benefits associated with higher levels of atmospheric

The proof of the pudding, however, is clearly in the eating, as it is with
all foods; and with respect to that eating, Loladze rightly notes that
"plants are the basis of human nutrition, providing a staggering 84% of
calorie intake worldwide."  Hence, as good nutrition is so important to good
health, we ought rightly ask: How has human health varied over the course of
the Industrial Revolution and up to the present day, during which time the
air's CO2 content has risen by a full 35%, from approximately 275 to 375

One good measure that can be employed to investigate this question is
average life span, or its correlate, life expectancy, which has been growing
ever larger with the passage of time within the industrial era.  This
life-span extension is truly huge.  In fact, Oeppen and Vaupel (2002) have
recently reported that "world life expectancy more than doubled over the
past two centuries, from roughly 25 years to about 65 for men and 70 for
women."  What is more, they note that "for 160 years, best-performance life
expectancy has steadily increased by a quarter of a year per year," and they
emphasize that this phenomenal trend "is so extraordinarily linear that it
may be the most remarkable regularity of mass endeavor ever observed."

Oeppen and Vaupel also report there are no indications of the worldwide
life-extension trend leveling off anytime soon.  Indeed, the most up-to-date
data suggest that life expectancy extensions appear to be accelerating with
time.  Tuljapurkar and Boe (2000), for example, report that in every one of
the G7 countries - which would be expected to exhibit what Oeppen and Vaupel
refer to as "best-performance life expectancy" - mortality over the period
1950-1994 "declined exponentially at a roughly constant rate."  As to the
reason for this dramatic development, Horiuchi (2000) has noted that "the
health of the elderly greatly improved in the 1980s and 1990s, suggesting
that the extended length of life in old age is mainly due to better health
rather than prolonged survival in sickness."

More support for this suggestion comes from Manton and Gu (2001), who
studied U.S. citizens over 65 years of age and found that disabilities in
this age group decreased over the entire period of their study (1982-1999).
Even more importantly, perhaps, they found that disabilities decreased at a
rate that grew ever larger with the passing of time.  For the periods
1982-1989, 1989-1994 and 1994-1999, for example, the percentage disability
decline rates were 0.26, 0.38 and 0.56% per year, respectively.

Clearly, the increase in the air's CO2 content of the past two centuries, as
devastatingly hurtful to humanity as Loladze makes it out to be, has had not
the slightest impact on perhaps the most significant of all aspects of human
health, i.e., longevity.  Hence, Loladze becomes but the latest fatality in
a long line of Cassandras who have "envisioned various biological barriers
and practical impediments" to better health and longer life, as Oeppen and
Vaupel put it, but who consistently have been proven wrong by real-world
data. Furthermore, they rightly note that this "ignominious saga," of crying
wolf when none is present, "is distorting public and private
decision-making" in a number of important areas, not the least of which is
the ongoing debate over the significance of anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

Let it finally be noted, therefore, that human life, in terms of both its
length and quality, in all societies on earth, has been nothing but
enhanced, and dramatically so, over the entire period of humanity's massive
burning of fossil fuels ... which leads us to seriously consider the very
real possibility that instead of reducing the quality of the food we eat -
as suggested by Loladze - the historical and ongoing rise in the air's CO2
content has actually been improving it.

Sherwood, Keith and Craig Idso  

Horiuchi, S. 2000. Greater lifetime expectations.  Nature 405: 744-745.

Loladze, I. 2002. Rising atmospheric CO2 and human nutrition: toward
globally imbalanced plant stoichiometry? Trends in Ecology & Evolution 17:

Manton, K.G. and Gu, XL. 2001. Changes in the prevalence of chronic
disability in the United States black and nonblack population above age 65
from 1982 to 1999.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA 98:

Oeppen, J. and Vaupel, J.W. 2002. Broken limits to life expectancy.  Science
296: 1029-1030.

Tuljapurkar, S., Li, N. and Boe, C. 2000. A universal pattern of mortality
decline in the G7 countries. Nature 405: 789-792.
Copyright 2002. Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change 


>From CO2 Science Magazine, 30 October 2002

Chou, M.-D., Lindzen, R.S. and Hou, A.Y. 2002.  Reply to: "Tropical cirrus
and water vapor: an effective Earth infrared iris feedback?" Atmospheric
Chemistry and Physics 2: 99-101.
Fu, Q., Baker, M. and Hartmann, D.L. 2002. Tropical cirrus and water vapor:
an effective Earth infrared iris feedback? Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics
2: 31-37.

Lindzen et al. (2001) used upper-level cloudiness and sea-surface
temperature (SST) data from the eastern part of the western Pacific to
develop a negative feedback concept which suggests that "the cloudy-moist
region appears to act as an infrared adaptive iris that opens up and closes
down the regions free of upper-level clouds, which more effectively permit
infrared cooling, in such a manner as to resist changes in tropical surface
temperature."  However, Hartmann and Michelsen (2002), in an analysis of
spatial patterns of anomalous cloudiness and winds associated with the
negative correlation between cloud-weighted SST and high-cloud fraction,
claim that the correlation noted by Lindzen et al. results from variations
in subtropical clouds that are not physically connected to deep convection
near the equator, and that it is thus "unreasonable to interpret these
changes as evidence that deep tropical convective anvils contract in
response to SST increases."

What was done
Fu et al. (2002) continue to chip away at the adaptive infrared iris concept
of Lindzen et al., arguing that "the contribution of tropical high clouds to
the feedback process would be small since the radiative forcing over the
tropical high cloud region is near zero and not strongly positive."  They
also claim to show that "the water vapor and low cloud effects are
overestimated [by Lindzen et al.] by at least 60% and 33%, respectively."
As a result, they obtain a feedback factor "in the range of -0.15 to -0.51,
compared to [Lindzen et al.'s] larger negative feedback factor of -0.45 to

Chou et al. (2002) reply that Fu et al.'s approach of specifying longwave
emission and cloud albedos "appears to be inappropriate for studying the
iris effect."  Also, they say that from the point of view that "thin cirrus
are widespread in the tropics and that low boundary clouds are optically
thick, the cloud albedo calculated by [Fu et al.] is too large for cirrus
clouds and too small for boundary layer clouds," so that "the near-zero
contrast in cloud albedos derived by [Fu et al.] has the effect of
underestimating the iris effect."  They ultimately agree that Lindzen et al.
"may indeed have overestimated the iris effect somewhat, though hardly by as
much as that suggested by [Fu et al.]."

What was learned
The debate over the reality and/or magnitude of the adaptive infrared iris
effect proposed by Lindzen et al. as a powerful means for thwarting
CO2-induced increases in the atmosphere's greenhouse effect continues apace.
There has been some convergence in the two extreme views; but the
controversy appears likely to continue for yet some time.

What it means
When some of the meteorological community's best minds continue to clash
over the nature of a potentially important negative feedback phenomenon that
could have far-reaching consequences for the CO2-climate debate, politicians
clamoring for actions to reduce anthropogenic CO2 emissions should perhaps
cool their heels until the relevant science becomes more settled.

Hartmann, D.L. and Michelsen, M.L.  2002.  No evidence for IRIS.  Bulletin
of the American Meteorological Society 83: 249-254.

Lindzen, R.S., Chou, M.-D. and Hou, A.Y.  2001.  Does the earth have an
adaptive infrared iris?  Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 82:
Copyright 2002.  Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change


>From Andrew Yee <>

ESA News

30 October 2002
Three ESA satellites reveal Etna's complexity

As detected by ESA satellite sensors, the recent eruptions of the Mount Etna
volcano in Sicily are throwing huge amounts of ash and trace gases into the
atmosphere. Instruments on three different ESA spacecraft have acquired
imagery of the eruptions that shed new light on the event and its impact on
the Earth's environment.
Working with data from the Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment (GOME) sensor
onboard ESA's ERS-2 spacecraft, scientists at the German aerospace centre
(DLR) report that levels of sulphur dioxide from the eruptions on Sunday and
Monday are at least 20 times higher than normal.

This latest activity from Etna, the second in a little over a year, marks
the beginning of another period of activity of Europe's largest volcano,
says Werner Thomas, an atmospheric scientist with DLR's Remote Sensing
Technology Institute.

"As in July and August 2001 eruptions of Etna, dense ash clouds and gaseous
emissions were again detected by several space-borne sensors," he said.

The normal background level of sulphur dioxide is typically below 0.5 Dobson
Units (DU), a measure of atmospheric gas concentrations from ground level to
the top of the atmosphere, about 70 km in altitude.

"In the plume, we measured atmospheric content of sulphur dioxide of about
10 DU, at least 20 times higher than normal," Thomas said.

Sulphur dioxide in the troposphere, the lowest part of the atmosphere where
most weather changes occur, is known to be responsible for the so-called
"acid rain" phenomenon. Stratospheric sulphur dioxide, from about 11 km to
50 km above the Earth's surface, causes the formation of sulphate aerosol
particles that may have a serious impact on the global climate. Etna is one
of the most prominent sources of natural sulphur dioxide worldwide.

The ERS' GOME instrument is dedicated for remote sensing of the atmosphere
and can detect a variety of atmospheric trace gases, including sulphur
dioxide. The first GOME data after the beginning of the eruptions was
recorded and analysed on 29 October around 10:15 UTC. As seen in the
accompanying chart, enhanced levels of sulphur dioxide are evident in the
southeast of Sicily, indicating that the tropospheric sulphur dioxide was
carried away from the volcano by the winds in that direction.

The Italian government declared a state of emergency yesterday in Sicily in
the wake a series of earthquakes, measuring between 3.6 and 4.3 on the
Richter scale, that forced the evacuation of approximately 1000 homes,
according to reports from BBC and Italian newspapers. Meanwhile, three
streams of lava from the eruption flowed down the south, northeast and
northwest slopes of the mountains, the media reports stated.

Ash to affect global environment
Europe's highest and most active volcano (3370 m) hurled lava and ash from
several craters into the sky with a speed between 350 and 450 metres per
second, exceeding the speed of sound. According to data from volcanologists,
the lava and ash were ejected from the main crater and from at least nine
new craters that developed in the mountain between 2300 to 2700 metres in

As seen in the image acquired Monday by the Medium Resolution Imaging
Spectrometer (MERIS) onboard ESA's Envisat satellite, the eruptions spewed
significant amounts of ash, along with sulphur dioxide, into the atmosphere
The plume from the volcano can be seen in the image stretching south and
west from Sicily to the north African coast. The larger volcanic ash
particles are expected to settle out in a short period of time, but the
sulphuric acid aerosols produced by the sulphur dioxide will persist for
several years.

These aerosols will impact the Earth's energy budget, both regionally and on
a global scale. Aerosols containing black graphite and carbon particles are
dark, thus absorbing sunlight. As these atmospheric particles reduce the
amount of sunlight reaching the planet's surface, they increase the amount
of solar energy absorbed in the atmosphere, thus simultaneously cooling the
surface and warming the atmosphere.

The capability of the MERIS instrument to observe the spatial distribution
of these aerosol plumes can be exploited to measure the amounts of airborne
particles and to examine the role of these aerosols as cloud condensation
nuclei and their impact on the hydrologic cycle through changes in cloud
cover, cloud properties and precipitation.

Today's images from Proba
Just 60 x 60 x 80 cm and weighing only 94 kg, ESA's Project for On-Board
Autonomy satellite, better known as Proba, is one of the most advanced small
satellites ever flown in space.

Since its launch last year, Proba's high-performing computer system and
technologically advanced instruments have enabled it to demonstrate and
evaluate onboard operational autonomy, new spacecraft technology both
hardware and software, and to test Earth observation and space environment
instruments in space.

The imagery captured today by Proba demonstrate the capabilities of CHRIS,
the Compact High Resolution Imaging Spectrometer, which is providing
important information on the Earth and its environment, and will be a
valuable tool in remote sensing during the extended mission.

The instrument acquired the accompanying Etna images in four standard bands,
although the instrument is capable of image acquisition in up to 19
different bands.

Related articles

* Volcanoes
* Etna volcano history
* GOME, ATSR and SAR keep watch over Etna

Related links

* GOME homepage
* MERIS -- The story in pictures
* Envisat results
* Proba


[Image 1:]
A plume of smoke and ash from Sicily's Mount Etna is seen
in this image acquired 28 October 2002 by the Medium
Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) instrument onboard
ESA's Envisat Satellite. Credits: ESA

[Image 2:]
GOME-based sulphur dioxide analysis on October 29th 2002
over the Mediterranean Sea. The maximum content close to
the volcano is around 10 Dobson Units which is 20 times
higher than normal. Credits: DLR/ESA

[Image 3:]
Image acquired of the Mount Etna eruption on 28 October
2002 by the Along-Track Scanning Radiometer 2 (ATSR-2) on
ESA's ERS-2 spacecraft. Credits: ESA

[Image 4:]
Mount Etna Volcano spews lava and ash, in Linguaglossa, near
Catania, Sicily, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2002. Mount Etna, Europe's
biggest and most active volcano, came to life again on
Sunday, with a river of lava coming out of its mouth and a
series of small quakes damaging buildings on its slopes,
officials said. Credits: AP Photo-Fabrizio Villa

[Image 5:]
Proba image, acquired 30 October 2002, shows the volcano's
plume of smoke and ash. Credits: ESA

[Image 6:]
Proba image, acquired 30 October 2002, shows the volcano's
plume of smoke and ash. Credits: ESA


>From Tech Central Station, 30 October 2002

By James K. Glassman 10/30/2002 
DES MOINES -The chairman of Syngenta, the Swiss-based agricultural firm,
said last week that the way to reduce world hunger and preserve the
environment is to produce much more food on roughly the same amount of land
- and the way to do that is through technology.

The chairman, Heinz Imhof, who is a trained agronomist, spoke here in the
middle of Iowa on Friday at a symposium honoring the 2002 winner of the
World Food Prize. The $250,000 award goes each year to men and women -
mainly agricultural scientists, often from developing countries - who have
done the most to reduce hunger and boost the global supply of food.

Imhof praised this year's winner, Pedro Sanchez - who was born in Cuba,
emigrated to the U.S. in the 1950s and just joined Columbia University's
Earth Institute - for finding "ways of vastly improving yields on lands that
had suffered dramatic losses of soil nutrients" and for bringing "into
cultivation lands considered barren and unsuitable." Sanchez vastly improved
rice yields in Peru, increased production in areas thought unusable in
Brazil, and developed methods that enhanced crops for small African farmers.

Imhof's presence was a sign that the prize is at last gaining the global
attention it deserves. The chairman of the world's largest agrochemical
company flew to the United States Thursday after a board meeting in time to
make the Friday luncheon speech, then immediately flew back again to Europe.

Syngenta was created after European drug giants Novartis and AstraZeneca
spun off their agrochemical and seed businesses. It produces crop-protection
products (herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides) as well as seeds and
flowers. Syngenta mapped the rice genome, a feat that will eventually lead
to rice crops more resistant to disease.

The World Food Prize, funded by Iowa businessman and philanthropist John
Ruan, was launched in 1987 with an award to M.S. Swaminathan, who introduced
high-yielding wheat and rice to Indian farmers. Ruan shares the same birth
year, 1914, as Norman Borlaug, the legendary winner of the Nobel Peace Prize
in 1970 for his leadership of the "green revolution" that saved hundreds of
millions of people in developing countries from starvation. Borlaug, spry
and quick at 88, was present for the prize festivities.

In his speech, Imhof picked up on a theme advanced both by Sanchez and by
Borlaug: While food production needs to increase (both because the world's
population is rising and because the poor, as they become better off, will
be improving their diets), the land available for agriculture will grow only

As a result, said Imhof, "The best option will be to increase productivity
on existing land. This will allow us to avoid the destruction of existing
natural habitats and of complex natural ecosystems. It will enable us to
help prevent further deforestation and corresponding loss of biodiversity."
How? Through "seed and crop protection activities" in which companies like
Syngenta are now engaged.

In his own speech on Oct. 15, Borlaug, who received his Ph.D. in 1942 and
began helping farmers in Mexico in a Rockefeller Foundation program in 1944,
noted that 60 years ago, U.S. farmers produced 56 million metric tons of
corn on 31 million hectares (about 77 million acres). In 2000, they produced
252 million metric tons of corn on just 29 million hectares. Yields
increased over that period from 1.8 tons per hectare to 8.6 tons per
hectare. Incredible.

Now, we are in the midst of what could become a major acceleration of
agricultural progress, thanks mainly to biotechnology. "Despite the
formidable opposition in certain circles to transgenic crops," said Borlaug,
"commercial adoption by farmers of the new varieties has been one of the
most rapid cases of technology diffusion in the history of agriculture."
Between 1996 and 2001, the area planted commercially to transgenic crops has
increased from 1.7 to 52.4 million hectares. Half of U.S. corn and 70
percent of U.S. soybeans come from genetically modified seeds.

Said Imhof in his speech: "Increased yield and productivity can only be the
result of a concerted effort by many different actors, including the private
sector. Through our seed and crop protection activities, our industry has
long been making a significant contribution to increased crop yields and to
developing products available for hitherto inhospitable conditions."

He also cited programs that were highlighted at the recent World Summit on
Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, which is where I met him two months
ago. "Technology transfer and public-private partnerships," said Imhof, "can
make a real difference in the promotion of sustainable agriculture adapted
to local requirements."

He noted that the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture is
working, for example, in Mali "to improve the yields of millet, sorghum and
cowpeas" and in Kenya "producing insect-resistant maize for small-holder

"Access - access to knowledge, to products, to information and technology -
is key," Imhof said in his speech. "Knowledge provided by science and
technology, including biotechnology and chemistry, but also knowledge
provided by land management practices and the expertise of farmers."

Imhof concluded, "The gigantic strides made in agriculture over the past
four decades must rank as one of the most striking accomplishments in human

Absolutely. But, while Imhof, in his appropriately upbeat speech, did not
mention the fact, such accomplishments are now in jeopardy from
environmental extremists - "driven," as Borlaug said earlier, "more by a
hate of capitalism and globalization than by the actual safety of transgenic

What the world beyond Iowa needs to recognize is that scientists like
Sanchez and corporate leaders like Imhof, using both biotech and
conventional means, are saving lives and lifting people out of poverty. The
World Food Prize advances that recognition, but there's still a long way to

Copyright 2002, Tech Central Station


>From Eurekalert, 1 November 2002

Contact: Kathryn Duda
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

No significant rise in cancer deaths in 3-Mile Island residents over 20
years, says Pitt

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 1 - In a 20-year follow-up study of mortality data on
residents living within a five-mile radius of Three Mile Island (TMI),
researchers at the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public
Health (GSPH) found no significant increase overall in deaths from cancer.
The findings were published Friday, Nov. 1, on the Web site of Environmental
Health Perspectives,, a journal of the National
Institutes of Health's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
The paper will appear in the March 2003 issue of the journal.

"This survey of data, which covers the normal latency period for most
cancers, confirms our earlier analysis that radioactivity released during
the nuclear accident at TMI does not appear to have caused an overall
increase in cancer deaths among residents of that area over the follow-up
period, l979 to l998," said Evelyn Talbott, Dr.P.H., professor of
epidemiology at GSPH and principal investigator on the study. Dr. Talbott's
previous study, published in the June 2000 issue of Environmental Health
Perspectives, analyzed 13 years of mortality data.

The TMI incident occurred at a nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pa., on
March 29, 1979, when a reactor leaked small amounts of radioactive gases.
Scientists have calculated that the average person present in the area
during the 10 days following the incident was exposed to considerably less
radiation than the annual dose an individual receives from the everyday
environment in the United States. However, little is known about the
long-term health effects of low-level radiation.

The current University of Pittsburgh study examined causes of death that
included heart disease and malignancies as well as specific cancers known to
be sensitive to radioactivity: bronchus, trachea and lung; breast (women
only); lymphatic and hematopoietic tissue (blood-forming organs), excluding
chronic lymphocytic leukemia and Hodgkin's disease; and the central nervous
system. Thyroid cancer was considered, but only one death was reported
during the study period.

Researchers used information collected by the Pennsylvania Department of
Health in interviews conducted with 32,135 TMI residents within two months
of the accident. Information included education, occupation, smoking status,
residential history, medical history, previous radiation exposure and daily
travel into and out of the area during the 10 days following the accident.
This exposure data was combined with mortality data from the Pennsylvania
Department of Health.

The ratio of the number of observed deaths in the TMI "exposed" population
was compared with the expected number of deaths in the general population.
The overall number of cancer deaths among men and women in the TMI
population was not significantly different from the general population, but
there was a slight increase in the number of deaths from lymphatic and
hematopoietic cancers in women in the TMI population.

Comparisons of mortality risks also were performed to assess the impact of
the radiation related exposures on the cancer rates in the cohort. After
adjusting for background radiation, educational level and smoking, no
significant differences were noted. There was however, a slight increase in
the risk of lymphatic and hematopoietic cancers among males, which was
related to radiation exposure from the accident, and an increased risk of
mortality from lymphatic and hematopoietic cancers in women, which was
related to everyday background radiation exposure.

"While these findings overall convey good news for TMI residents, the slight
increased risk of death from lymphatic and hematopoietic cancers may warrant
further investigation. Also, while our 13-year follow-up indicated a
significant upward trend in breast cancer risk related to radiation exposure
the day of the accident, this relationship was no longer significant in our
current study."

This research was supported by a grant from the Three Mile Island Public
Health Fund.


Clare Collins
PHONE: 412-624-2607
FAX: 412-624-3184


>From The Daily Telegraph, 30 October 2002

By Margaret Wilson in Lusaka and Roger Highfield, Science Editor

Zambia, where three million people are facing food shortages, has rejected
thousands of tons of free maize from America because some of it is
genetically modified.

The decision is a blow against the use of GM technology in southern Africa
and came despite lobbying by the World Health Organisation for African
nations to embrace genetic engineering to increase crop yields.

Zambia had already frozen the distribution of GM maize. It announced its
final decision yesterday, after a delegation of its scientists visited
Britain and America to investigate the safety of genetically modified
organisms (GMOs).

Zambia's agriculture minister, Mundia Sikatana, said they had recommended
rejection of GM foods.

Zambia is worried that accepting GM products might harm budding European
demand for its produce, in particular organic vegetables, and Mr Sikatana
said Zambia had no way to detect or manage GMOs.

"In the face of scientific uncertainty the country should thus refrain from
action that might adversely affect human and animal health as well as harm
the environment," he said.

America had offered to provide 50 per cent of southern Africa's emergency
food needs, mostly by supplying maize containing GM elements, and
international agencies are pessimistic about reaching millions of hungry

Last month, Judith Lewis, the World Food Programme's regional director, said
the acceptance of GM food could make "the difference between life and

Yesterday the WFP said: "We do not have enough non-GM maize to feed all the
beneficiaries we are targeting. In October, we were only able to feed 50 per
cent of the 2.5 million we were hoping to help."

The next maize harvest will be in April, and the WFP, international
non-governmental organisations and the government are desperately trying to
obtain non-GM food to supply Zambia until then.

WFP has located sources of maize from South Africa and Tanzania but is still
unsure whether it will be able to meet its needs next month.

It will have to remove 15,000 tons of GM maize from storehouses across
Zambia. Some of it has already been looted by hungry villagers, and the WFP
fears riots if it tries to remove the food with no alternative to offer.

The decision makes Zambia the most radical of the six southern African
countries facing starvation. Four - Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and Lesotho
- have accepted GM maize provided it is milled before distribution.

This is so that it cannot be planted, eliminating any risk of contaminating
a country's natural flora. Swaziland has accepted unmilled GM maize.

The Zambian government acknowledges that there is a widespread hunger crisis
but maintains that no one has yet died directly of starvation.

But in rural areas there are regular pleas from chiefs who say their people
are starving, and one opposition MP claims there have been deaths in his
constituency. Surveys are uncovering evidence of malnutritionand there are
regular reports of people surviving on wild fruit and roots.

According to the WHO the consumption of GM food aid in southern Africa is
not likely to present a health risk.

But Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, the WHO director-general, did not sound
entirely convinced when she told a meeting of health ministers from 10
southern African countries that GM foods are "not likely" to present a risk.

Kainyua M'bijjewe, Monsanto's spokesman in Africa, has accused groups such
as Greenpeace of perpetuating starvation by helping to persuade African
governments to reject GM foods.

Copyright 2002, The Daily Telegraph

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