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Fri 04 Feb 2005

5 Feb 2005: "We Are What We Eat"

Category : talks

"We Are What We Eat" - the truths and fallacies of bioengineered foods.

Saturday, 5th Feb 2005, 10.30 am - 12.00 pm.
Lecture Theatre 3A/B, Matrix, Biopolis.

A public forum on genetically modified foods organised by the Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC).

"Bioengineered crops are currently grown by over 8 million farmers in 18 countries. They have made significant impacts on food production worldwide. Still, there continue to be varying levels of receptiveness to the cultivation and consumption of these crops in many countries.

What is meant by bioengineered crops and how is agricultural biotechnology different from the conventional? What are some of the contributing factors causing much societal anxieties towards bioengineered crops?"

The forum is free and open to all. To register, please contact GMAC info@gmac.gov.sg
Biopolis is opposite Buona Vista MRT and accessible by bus service numbers: 74, 91, 92, 95, 191, 196, 189, 200.

Click for larger view

Source: GMAC.

Posted at 4:18AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Fri 04 Feb 2005

"Hantu coral life dying out fast"

Category : marine

"Hantu coral life dying out fast." By Radha Basu, The Straits Times, 04 Feb 2005 [pdf] - Silt churned out by land reclamation and dredging smothering corals, says expert.

Half of the coral life around a stretch of reef off Pulau Hantu has died over an 18-month span, according to a new survey which conservationists cited as another reason for new laws to protect marine life.

Conducted by enthusiasts from a marine conservation group known as Blue Water Volunteers, the survey, done in October last year, found that hard coral cover off the Hantu site, at a depth of about 3m, was down to about 30 per cent of the area surveyed. [See data at the Coral Reefs of Singapore webpage].

When the same team had surveyed the same site in March 2003, the coral cover then was about 60 per cent.

See the 24 Oct 2004 report of the
Blue Water Volunteers Pulau Hantu dive
and the results at The Blue Tempeh.

Marine biologist Jani Thuaibah, 23, one of the two divers who conducted both surveys, said she was shocked at the extensive loss.

'Even if you take into account that observer errors may have crept in, given that these were volunteer surveys, the big loss of coral cover in that area is undeniable,' she told The Straits Times, adding that anyone who has been diving there regularly would have noticed it.

Experts estimate that Singapore has lost more than 65 per cent of its reefs since 1986.

A small island off Singapore's southern shores, Hantu is known to be rich in marine life. [See Pulau Hantu - A Celebration of Marine Life].

The latest volunteer surveys have been backed up by years of more detailed studies by the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore, which have seen hard coral cover drop steadily.

Known as the rainforests of the ocean, corals are fertile spawning grounds for marine life. Like trees, they also absorb noxious carbon dioxide and prevent soil erosion from the shore.

But most importantly, of late, they have been regarded as treasure troves of immense medical potential - scientists suspect they could yield cures to many deadly diseases.

Under the guidance of Professor Chou Loke Ming, an internationally known marine expert, the department has been monitoring six reef sites on Singapore's southern shores through surveys roughly once every two years. The last survey was in 2003. According to Prof Chou, all six sites have seen an erosion of hard coral cover between 1988 and 2003, the most extensive - about 81 per cent - being at a site at Hantu West. Another site, off Pulau Semakau, had seen coral cover shrink by 62 per cent.

The biggest reason for the decline, says Prof Chou, is sedimentation. Blankets of silt churned out by land reclamation and regular dredging of shipping channels in the area are literally smothering the corals to death. Corals found in deeper areas have suffered the biggest casualties, with the silt blocking off both sunlight and food.

Despite the loss, over 200 species of hard corals can still be found in Singapore's waters. But these too may die soon, given the constant sedimentation problem, experts say.

Stopping reclamation or dredging activities, however, is not the only solution to saving Singapore's rich marine life, said Prof Chou.

Simple 'silt screens' - large fabric filters placed near areas under reclamation or where dredging is being done - have been known to be effective in blocking silt from reaching the corals or other marine creatures, said Prof Chou, whose team has also been trying to improve the condition of the reefs over the years, by trying to 'rehabilitate corals' - by helping them grow again - in little patches.

'But there is no point in such rehabilitation projects unless we tackle the root problem - sedimentation.' Careless shipping vessels were also known to damage reefs, he added.

Part of the problem, according to Nominated Member of Parliament Geh Min, is that while the Government has taken steps to protect Singapore's terrestrial biodiversity, not much has yet been done to protect our marine wealth.

She suggested that the National Parks Board, or a central coordinating body set up specially for the purpose of conserving our biodiversity, be informed well in advance of any new reclamation work.

'Then they could quickly arrange for surveys to check if we are in danger of losing any potentially valuable natural resource because of the development work,' she told The Straits Times.

When contacted, an NParks spokesman said the board was continuing to 'monitor' reefs, but hinted that preserving marine diversity was a task that it could not do alone as it did not have the 'jurisdiction' to manage all coral reefs.

'Corals continue to be under the purview of the Singapore Land Authority, and the Urban Redevelopment Authority oversees coastal development and land reclamation,' the spokesman said.

Speaking on the issue in Parliament on Jan 25, Dr Geh Min underscored the need for setting up a central coordinating body to look after Singapore's marine areas, which could one day yield millions of dollars in scientific and economic value.

'Right now, we often do not even know what we are losing,' she told The Straits Times.

What can you do about the situation? See the compilation at WildSingapore's newsletter, 4th February 2005.

See also "Dying Reefs." PBS, Online NewsHour, 01 Feb 2005 for transcript and streaming video and audio. And "Coral Reefs." Online NewsHour Special Report, Dec 2004 Thanks to Jeff Low for the link.

Posted at 3:43AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Fri 04 Feb 2005

Lost city in Johor discovered

Category : malaysia

"Lost city believed found in Johor." By Teoh Teik Hoong & Andrey Edwards, The Star Online, 3rd February 2005 [pdf and graphic]

"Museum hopes Johor will assist in lost city quest." By Teoh Teik Hoong & Andrey Edwards, The Star Online, 3rd February 2005 [pdf]

"Manuscript leads to lost city." The Star Online, 3rd February 2005 [pdf]

"It was an old Malay manuscript once owned by Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, in a London library that led Raimy Che-Ross to the existence of the lost city in Johor.

According to Raimy, the presence of a lost city in the jungles at the southern end of the Malay peninsula had been indicated in Malayan forklore for over four centuries.

His findings on the lost city has been published in the latest issue of Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 2004.

In his paper, he said the place was raided by the Indian-Chola conqueror Raja Rajendra Cholavarman I, of the South Indian Chola Dynasty in 1025A.D.

The ruins could be as old as Borobodur, and could pre-date Angkor Wat, Raimy said, adding that aerial photographs taken over the site and tales from the orang asli had indicated the existence of structures."

Posted at 3:43AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Raffles Museum news