HAVANA, (Tierramérica).- Cuban scientists announced they are studying the extraction of solanesol from tobacco plants, in a search for additional benefits to the island's famous industry of hand-rolled cigars. The extract is the precursor of an antioxidant with anti-carcinogen properties.
"We are working to achieve a competitive technology for obtaining solanesol, a chemical compound from tobacco that is used as a precursor to coenzyme Q10," Daniel García, with the Havana Center for Chemical Pharmaceuticals, the entity responsible for the study, told Tierramérica.
Coenzyme Q10 is a powerful antioxidant that protects the body from free-radicals, which are seen as responsible for the effects of aging, and is also used in cancer-fighting treatments, among other uses.
According to official sources, a kilogram of solanesol can fetch 500 dollars on the world market, and the price of the coenzyme Q10 can be even higher.
Catholic Cardinal Urges Against Giving In to Gold
TEGUCIGALPA, (Tierramérica).- Catholic Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez has exhorted the executive and legislative branches of the Honduran government not to give in to pressure from the transnational mining corporations that want to expand open pit mining in this Central American country.
Making the best use of natural resources should be done "without putting the interests of enriching a handful of people before fighting the suffering of the majority," Rodríguez told Tierramérica.
"Life is worth more than gold, and nature is the temple in which we all have the chance to encounter God in all that has been created and honored," he said.
In mid-June, numerous civil society organizations launched a five-month campaign against pit mining and the use of cyanide, which threaten the environment and human health.
The mining companies want the government to allow them to pay 25 cents on the dollar per hectare of the concession -- a sum ecologists say is ridiculous and an insult.
The Return of the Water Lentil
CARACAS, (Tierramérica).- The lemna sp, a floating green lentil, has made a forceful reappearance this month in Lake Maracaibo in western Venezuela. It has contaminated the shores of the city of Maracaibo and fishing areas, and triggered protests from fishing communities, who demand that the government clear it away.
Environment Minister Jacqueline Farías said 13 companies have worked to contain the spread of the water lentil in this lake covering 12,000 square kilometers and site of oil-drilling activities for more than a century.
"The lentil will always be present in the lake, and currently covers between 800 and 1,000 square kilometers of its surface," biologist Gonzalo Godoy, with the environmental group Procuencas (Pro-watersheds), explained to Tierramérica.
"From May to September, when the winds from the northeast wane, the winds of the south advance and carry the plant from its reservoir, northwards," he said.
Clearing away the plant should be an ongoing effort, said Godoy, "because the lentil is like a 60-centimeter-thick sponge that dams and expands the contaminating capacity of waste and sewage that end up in the lake."
Ex-Paramilitaries Plant Trees
GUATEMALA CITY, (Tierramérica).- - Guatemala's President Oscar Berger planted the first tree in a two-year program for planting 75 million -- half of which will be done by former paramilitaries.
"The reforestation of the country is a national emergency. We must reverse the loss of our forest resources," said Héctor Centeno, presidential commissioner for science and technology, and one of the promoters of the tree initiative.
Participating in the project are some 35 state and private entities, as well as 544,000 ex-paramilitaries, who will plant trees in exchange for a state compensation for their support of the army during Guatemala's 1960-1996 civil war.
Through the program "Forests and Water for Peace", the former members of the Civil Self-Defense Patrols, PAC, will plant 30 million trees on 250 square kilometers.
According to official figures, each year around 173,000 hectares of forest -- 28,000 in protected areas -- are destroyed in Guatemala.
Promoting Organic Products
RIO DE JANEIRO, (Tierramérica).- A national campaign to promote organic products began June 23 in Brazil, where at least 20,000 farmers, mostly running small operations, are dedicated to growing agrochemical-free crops on a total of 6.5 million hectares.
The initiative, lasting through the end of the month, is headed by four government ministries, the Brazilian supermarket association ABRAS, and farmer and consumer organizations.
"Our objective is to inform the population about the environmental and health advantages of organic products, in order to stimulate production of scale and achieve lower prices," ABRAS president Joao Carlos de Oliveira, told Tierramérica.
Organic farming moves an estimated 100 million dollars a year in this country, and is growing at a pace of about 50 percent annually -- more than twice the world average.
The campaign includes seminars, demonstrations, food fairs and the distribution of information through a wide variety of activities. *Source: Inter Press Service.
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