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North Koreans in rice belt starve to death: report
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) May 21, 2012

NGOs take issue with UN take on sustainable development
Rio De Janeiro (AFP) May 21, 2012 - A month before a UN meeting on sustainable development, civil society is taking issue with the gathering's approach.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, known as Rio+20, takes place in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro June 20-22. In parallel, NGOs will gather for the People's Summit for Social and Environmental Justice.

"The discussions focus on a set of fake proposals called 'Green economy,'" organizers of the alternate event said on their website. "The 'Green economy,' contrary to what its name suggests, is one more stage of capitalistic accumulation."

The document -- titled "What is at stake at Rio+20" -- also alleges that the negotiation strategy at the upcoming conference favors rich governments and threatens the rights of indigenous people.

At least 116 government officials and 50,000 participants are expected to take part in Rio+20, including heads of companies and representatives of social movements.

The People's Summit will take place June 15-23.

Food shortages have worsened in North Korea, even in the southwestern rice belt where some residents have starved to death, a Seoul-based online newspaper said Monday.

"Because of worsening food shortages this year there were reports of people starving to death even in South and North Hwanghae provinces," a Daily NK reporter told AFP, referring to the country's agricultural heartland.

Six people -- children or the elderly -- died in just one village in Shingye county after the authorities released an emergency supply of only one or two kilograms (2.2-4.4 pounds) of corn to each household, the paper said.

It quoted another source as saying that about 10 people had died of starvation on each collective farm in and around the coastal city of Haeju by April, following shortages in late winter.

Good Friends, a Seoul-based aid group, also said on its website that starvation continued to claim victims throughout South Hwanghae. At Hwanghae Steelworks some workers had died because food rations stopped, it said.

The South's unification ministry, which handles cross-border affairs, said it had no information.

Daily NK said North and South Hwanghae saw rice production fall last year due to flooding, and most of the autumn harvest was diverted to military stores or for citizens of Pyongyang.

In South Hwanghae shortages were aggravated by restrictions on market trading and travel during the 100-day mourning period for leader Kim Jong-Il, who died on December 17, it said.

Near the border with the South soldiers were mobilised for farming because many farm workers left to seek help from relatives in other areas, it said.

The North's official food distribution system, part of its state-directed economy, largely collapsed during the famine years of the mid to-late 1990s.

Severe food shortages have persisted. But donations to UN programmes have dwindled due to international irritation at the North's missile and nuclear programmes.

The United States suspended a plan to deliver 240,000 tonnes of food after the North's latest rocket launch on April 13.

On Monday the North's official Korean Central News Agency expressed concern about drought in western areas, which it said had received little rainfall in the past few weeks.

Water levels in the country's major irrigation reservoirs stood at just over 55 percent of normal because of unusually high temperatures, which were expected to last until early June, it said.

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Philippines goes after sea turtle restaurants
Cebu, Philippines (AFP) May 21, 2012 - The Philippines on Monday said it would form a special task force to go after restaurants selling the meat of protected sea turtles.

The eight-member team was created after news reports revealed the proliferation of roadside restaurants in the central island of Cebu serving dishes made from the government-protected marine animals.

"The task force is created to pursue and initiate an aggressive protection and conservation movement of the endangered marine turtles which are now on the verge of total depletion," regional environment chief Maximo Dichoso said.

The team was instructed to investigate the trading, hunting, sale, and killing of marine turtles in the area, the environment department said.

News reports said numerous small eateries in a coastal district of Cebu City were serving dishes made from sea turtle.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama conceded that the practice had been going on for a long time but there had been no concerted effort to stop it.

Those caught trading, hunting, collecting or killing sea turtles, which are considered an endangered species, face a fine of 100,000 pesos ($2,350) and one year in jail.

The discovery of Chinese fishermen catching sea turtles and other protected marine species in the South China Sea last month triggered a high-profile maritime standoff between Philippine and Chinese ships.


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Genes underlying the key domestication process in sorghum and other cereals
Manhatten KS (SPX) May 21, 2012
A study by a team of university and government scientists led by a Kansas State University researcher, indicates that genes responsible for seed shattering - the process by which grasses disseminate their seeds - were under parallel selection during sorghum, rice and maize domestication. The study, "Parallel domestication of the Shattering1 genes in cereals," was published May 13 in the on ... read more

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