Tag Archives: Agriculture

BAN ON HARVESTING OF ROSEWOOD STILL IN FORCE― OWUSU-BIO

The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has not granted permit to any company to harvest rosewood in any part of the country, a Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Benito Owusu-Bio, yesterday, disclosed on the floor of Parliament.

Mr Owusu-Bio explained that there were companies whose permits were supposed to have expired by 31st December 2016, but were still operating after that date.

He was answering a question posed by Dr Clement Apaak, Member of Parliament for Builsa South, on the grant of approvals and permits to companies to salvage rosewood in any part of the country.

According to Mr Owusu-Bio, the Ministry had constituted a taskforce to assess the situation and provide recommendations on how to enforce the ban on further harvesting of rosewood.

Subsequently, he said, the Forestry Commission had also been directed to sanitise operations in the sector.

He disclosed that a large number of rosewood logs had been lying in various locations across the savannah and transitional zones, and that as a short term measure to prevent the logs from losing their economic value through bushfires and harsh environmental conditions, some companies were granted approval to salvage the lying logs.

Mr Owusu-Bio said a total volume of 54,183 cubic meters had been salvaged and corresponding revenue of Gh¢ 6,502,027 had accrued.

He said as a medium-term measure to control further harvesting of rosewood, arrangements were being made in collaboration with Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES) and Civil Society Organizations to introduce a quota system that will regulate how much rosewood was exploited at a given period.

He disclosed that a policy on Tree Tenure and Benefit Sharing for trees outside the forest was being discussed to motivate farmers to resist the illegal exploitation of rosewood and other tree resources on their farms and stop speculative felling by illegal operators.

Going forward, he said, the Forestry Commission would collaborate with the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to effectively implement the measures.

Source: ISD (Eva Frempon-Ntiamoah)

General Assembly Takes Action on Second Committee Reports by Adopting 41 Texts, also Passes Overhaul of United Nations Peace, Security Pillar

Increasing Official Development Assistance, Updating Bank Policies to Support 2030 Agenda among Resolutions Approved

Gearing up to implement the international community’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the General Assembly today adopted 41 resolutions and two related decisions aimed at strengthening nations’ efforts to reach agreed goals.

At the meeting’s outset, the Assembly also adopted, without a vote, a resolution on restructuring the United Nations peace and security pillar, presenting what several delegates described as “sweeping” proposals to overhaul it.

By the resolution’s terms, the Assembly took note of a Secretary‑General’s report containing five proposals, including the creation of a single political‑operational structure under Assistant Secretaries‑General with regional responsibilities, and establishment of a “Standing Principals’ Group” of the Under‑Secretaries‑General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and for Peace Operations.

Focusing then on the Second Committee, the Assembly turned to macroeconomic policy questions, adopting a resolution on international financial system and development in a recorded vote of 180 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly stressed that development banks should make optimal use of their resources and balance sheets, updating their policies to support of the 2030 Agenda.

By further terms, the Assembly committed to substantially curb illicit financial flows by 2030 by combating tax evasion, transnational organized crime and corruption through strengthened national regulation and increased international cooperation and reducing opportunities for tax avoidance.

Adopting another resolution on external debt sustainability and development, the Assembly stressed creditor and debtor responsibility in avoiding build‑up of unsustainable debt to diminish the risk of crisis.  By further terms, it urged countries to direct resources freed by debt relief to sustained economic growth and internationally agreed development goals.

By a resolution on commodities, adopted in a recorded vote of 182 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions, the Assembly directed the international community to address factors creating structural barriers to international trade, impeding diversification and limiting access to financial services.  By other terms, it called on relevant stakeholders to address low industrialization and diversification of economies of some commodity‑dependent developing countries.

Other resolutions on macroeconomic policy questions concerned unilateral economic measures, international trade, financial inclusion, illicit financial flows and financing for development.

Focusing on special groups of countries, the Assembly adopted a draft on Follow‑up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries.  By that text, the Assembly underlined the urgent need to reverse the decline in official development assistance (ODA) to least developed countries, urging nations that had not met commitments to increase their contribution and make concrete efforts towards ODA targets.

By another resolution on Development cooperation with middle‑income countries, it encouraged shareholders in multilateral development banks to develop a graduation process (from a nation’s lesser developed status) that was sequenced, phased and gradual.

Addressing sustainable development, the Assembly adopted several resolutions, including one on disaster risk reduction, emphasizing that preventing and reducing such risk would provide exponential returns and significantly curtail response costs.  It also emphasized the importance of increasing the availability of multi‑hazard early warning mechanisms in ensuring early action.

According to another draft, the Assembly called for ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, adopting it in a recorded vote of 183 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 1 abstention (Venezuela).  It also called on Governments to expand the use of renewable energy beyond the power sector to industry, heating and cooling, infrastructure and the transport sector.

Adopting a further draft on combating sand and dust storms, it recognized that such weather had inflicted substantial economic, social and environmental damage on the inhabitants of the world’s arid, semi‑arid and dry subhumid areas, underscoring the need to treat and promptly take measures to address them.

Other sustainable development resolutions spotlighted development of the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan, sustainable tourism development in Central America, agricultural technology, desertification, biological diversity, education, camelids and World Bee Day.

Turning to a related item, the Assembly adopted a resolution on agriculture development, food security and nutrition in a recorded vote of 185 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions. By that text, the Assembly stressed the need to increase sustainable agricultural production globally by improving markets and trading systems as well as increasing responsible public and private investment in agriculture, land management and rural development.

By further terms, it stressed that a universal, rules‑based, open, non‑discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system promoted rural development and contributed to world food security and nutrition.  It urged national, regional and international strategies to promote the participation of farmers, fishers and fish workers in their various markets.

The Assembly also adopted a resolution concerning natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Syrian Golan in a recorded vote of 163 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, United States) with 11 abstentions, which called for Israel to cease exploitation of natural resources in those territories.

Further to the text, the Assembly called on Israel to comply with international law and cease all policies and measures to alter the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It also called on Israel to stop harming the environment, cease destruction of vital infrastructure, remove obstacles to the implementation of critical environmental projects, and cease efforts impeding Palestinian development.

Resolutions were also adopted on transport links, agricultural technology, small islands, global climate, harmony with nature, oil slick on Lebanese shores, human settlements, globalization, science and technology, culture, landlocked developing countries, poverty eradication, women, human resources, operational activities, South‑South cooperation and family farming.

Committee Rapporteur Theresah Chipulu Luswili Chanda introduced its reports.

Also adopted, without a vote, was a plenary resolution on a world against violence and violent extremism.  Introducing that text, Iran’s representative urged Member States to avoid associating violent extremism with any single religion or nationality, adding that the Assembly could provide a platform to address the roots of that phenomenon.

The resolution spotlighted international efforts to combat violent extremism and reaffirmed the importance of the Secretary‑General’s Plan of Action on the matter.

In other business, the Assembly took note of a report of its General Committee and several appointments to the Committee on Conferences.  Botswana, France and the Russian Federation were appointed to serve three‑year terms on the Committee beginning on 1 January 2018.  The Assembly also noted that the Asia‑Pacific Group had recommended China’s appointment to fill a vacancy on the Committee for a term of office beginning on the date of appointment and ending on 31 December 2019.

Introduction of Draft Resolution and Reports

MIROSLAV LAJČÁK (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, introducing a draft resolution titled “Restructuring of the United Nations peace and security pillar” (document A/72/L.33), said the Organization must be able to respond to today’s challenges “in the best way it can”.  However, there were new conflicts today that were harder to identify, as in the case of online recruitment of terrorist groups.  “Different threats require different responses,” he said, calling for adjustments to the Organization’s seventy‑year‑old mechanisms.  “We must evolve,” he stressed, noting that the resolution before the Assembly today would assist in that process, as it called for a second comprehensive report on the United Nations peace and security pillar.  Thanking the facilitators, he urged Member States to adopt the text by consensus.

The representative of Colombia, speaking in explanation of position on that item, said the resolution was critical to help make the United Nations more modern and transparent.  It contained a “visionary proposal” by the Secretary‑General, who had been chosen specifically “for this important task”.  Today’s peace and security challenges required bold measures to save lives, he said, adding that the resolution marked an important step forward in transparency.  It would also provide more feedback on “what is working and what is not working on the ground” in the United Nations efforts to enhance sustainable international peace.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution without a vote.

The representative of the United States said the United Nations would be better able to address the needs of those on the ground with more focused, effective and efficient operations.  Any reform that was implemented must advance political solutions and enable the Organization to tailor its responses to the needs of countries in conflict or transition.  The resolution demonstrated that the Secretary‑General had wide‑reaching endorsement from Member States for his vision to make the United Nations a stronger and more relevant institution that could prevent and respond to conflicts and atrocities.

The representative of Mexico said his country had joined consensus on the resolution, as it supported the Secretary‑General in his vision to make the United Nations a stronger organization.  It was critical to have the full backing of the Assembly so that the proposal could be implemented as soon as possible.  However, it seemed contradictory that the resolution on the reform of peace and security did not include references to sustainable development or the 2015 review process.  He expressed hope that the Secretary‑General’s report would be substantive in helping the Organization move towards greater understanding and the paradigm shift that peace required.

The representative of Argentina, welcoming the Secretary‑General’s initiative to reform the United Nations peace and security pillar, said the Organization should adopt a holistic and comprehensive approach to conflict prevention, building sustainable peace and development.  The text would help decrease the fragmentation in the Organization’s work, she said, adding that the “sweeping” proposal would help the United Nations focus more closely on the root causes of conflict, ensure national ownership, enhance conflict prevention and implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Voicing support for efforts to make the Peacebuilding Office a “liaison” between the various relevant organs of the United Nations, she stressed that “we must move forward”, and expressed hope that the upcoming work would reflect an active exchange of ideas between all Member States.

The representative of China voiced support for the United Nations efforts to better implement the responsibilities entrusted in it by its Charter, as well as to enhance multilateralism.  Also welcoming efforts aimed at integrating the Organization’s resources and improving its efficiency, thereby allowing it to better respond to today’s peace and security challenges, he said the restructuring of the United Nations peace and security architecture would also require greater consultation between Member States.

The representative of the Russian Federation, noting that his delegation had joined in the consensus, said the changes proposed would also impact the Organization’s political dimensions.  Voicing his delegation’s commitment to engage in all discussions going forward, he expressed full respect for the points of view of various Member States, and said the final analysis must help them reach a “mutual understanding”.  While the interlinked relationship between the United Nations three pillars underpinned the Organization’s work, that did not mean that they must be carried out in the same way.  In that regard, he expressed support for the Secretary‑General’s efforts to avoid duplication of labour as well as ensure geographical representation.

The representative of Egypt agreed that the non‑traditional challenges emerging in global peace and security issues required new ideas and a more efficient use of the United Nations toolkit.  Stressing that the Assembly and its organs were the only entities that could adopt any of the restructuring proposals — and that such an adoption must be undertaken with full respect for the mandates of all the United Nations organs without any amendments to those mandates — he warned against including controversial elements which had not been fully agreed by Member States.  In addition, he said, Egypt considered sustainable development to be a right and a standalone objective in itself, which must be achieved without any preconditions.

The representative of Brazil said the United Nations needed to be nimbler if it was to implement all initiatives under the pillars of peace and security, development and human rights.  His country supported reform of the peace and security pillar and welcomed efforts to overcome fragmentation in focusing on restructuring peacebuilding.  However, he said reform would not be complete without reference to the work methods of the Security Council.

The representative of Estonia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Assembly had expressed strong support for the Secretary‑General and reform of the Secretariat’s peace and security pillar.  He looked forward to a detailed report of all aspects of the new pillar.  The Secretariat must act as one while taking into account specificities of all facets on the ground, as through such efforts it could improve on efforts to maintain peace.  The Secretary‑General had the authority and now full political endorsement in proceeding with the first steps of implementing his vision.  With adoption of the resolution, the Assembly had set in motion not only reform but also a good precedent for other reforms.

THERESAH CHIPULU LUSWILI CHANDA (Zambia), Rapporteur of the Second Committee, introduced that body’s reports and the draft resolutions or decisions within, noting oral revisions for some.  She began with Strengthening of the United Nations system; United Nations reform: measures and proposals (document A/72/L.33); Information and communications technologies for development (document A/72/417); Macroeconomic policy questions (document A/72/418); International trade and development (document A/72/418/Add.1); International financial system and development (document A/72/418/Add.2); External debt sustainability and development (document A/72/418/Add.3); Commodities (document A/72/418/Add.4); Financial inclusion for sustainable development (document A/72/418/Add.5); Promotion of international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows in order to foster sustainable development (document A/72/418/Add.6); and Follow-up to and implementation of the outcomes of the International Conferences on Financing for Development (document A/72/419).

Turning then to reports focusing on sustainable development, she introduced Sustainable development (document A/72/420); Implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (document A/72/420/Add.1); Follow‑up to and implementation of the SIDS [small islands developing States] Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (document A/72/420/Add.2); Disaster risk reduction (document A/72/420/Add.3); Protection of global climate for present and future generations of humankind (document A/72/420/Add.4); Implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (document A/72/420/Add.5); Sustainable development: Convention on Biological Diversity (document A/72/420/Add.6); Education for sustainable development (document A/72/420/Add.7); Harmony with Nature (document A/72/420/Add.8); Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (document A/72/420/Add.9); and Combating sand and dust storms (document A/72/420/Add.10).

Next, she introduced reports on Implementation of the outcomes of the United Nations Conferences on Human Settlements and on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‑Habitat) (document A/72/421); Globalization and interdependence (document A/72/422); Role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence (document A/72/422/Add.1); Science, technology and innovation for development (document A/72/422/Add.2); and Culture and sustainable development (document A/72/422/Add.3).

Next, she introduced reports on Development cooperation with middle‑income countries (document A/72/422/Add.4); Groups of countries in special situations (document A/72/423); Follow‑up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (document A/72/423/Add.1); Follow‑up to the second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries (document A/72/423/Add.2); Eradication of poverty and other development issues: report of the Second Committee (document A/72/424); Implementation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008‑2017) (document A/72/424/Add.1); Women in development (document A/72/424/Add.2); and Human resources development (document A/72/424/Add.3).

Finally, she introduced reports on Operational activities for development (document A/72/425); Operational activities for development of the United Nations system (document A/72/425/Add.1); South‑South cooperation for development (document A/72/425/Add.2); Agriculture development, food security and nutrition (document A/72/426); Towards global partnerships (document A/72/427); Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources (document A/72/428); Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly (document A/72/479); and Programme planning (document A/72/484).

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Assembly then turned to draft resolutions in the reports, beginning with a text on information and communications technologies for development (document A/72/417), which it adopted without a vote.

By that text, the Assembly called on all stakeholders to make bridging digital divides a priority, put into effect sound strategies contributing to the development of e‑government and continue to focus on pro‑poor information and communications technology policies and applications.

Next, it took up Macroeconomic policy questions, taking note of the report and adopting a resolution on Unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries (document A/72/418/Add.1) in a recorded vote of 130 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States) with 48 abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly would call for the elimination of such measures against those States.

It then adopted a resolution on International trade and development (document A/72/418/Add.1) in a recorded vote of 182 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly promoted a universal, rules‑based, open, transparent, predictable, inclusive, non‑discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system under the World Trade Organization (WTO) as well as meaningful trade liberalization.

Following that, the Assembly adopted a text on International financial system and development (document A/72/418/Add.2) in a recorded vote of 180 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly resolved to strengthen the coherence and consistency of multilateral financial, investment, trade and development policy and environment institutions and platforms.

Next, it adopted, without a vote, a resolution on External debt sustainability and development (document A/72/418/Add.3), by which it stressed the responsibilities of creditor and debtor nations in avoiding the build‑up of unsustainable debt to diminish the risk of crisis.  By further terms, it urged countries to direct resources freed by debt relief to sustained economic growth and internationally agreed development goals.

The Assembly then adopted a draft on Commodities (document A/72/418/Add.4) in a recorded vote of 182 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.  By that draft, the Assembly would have the international community address factors that created structural barriers to international trade, impeded diversification and limited access to financial services, particularly for developing countries.

By other terms, it called on relevant stakeholders to address the issue of the low industrialization and diversification of the economies of some commodity‑dependent developing countries.

Next, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a text on Financial inclusion for sustainable development (document A/72/418/Add.5), by which it encouraged Member States to adopt and pursue national financial inclusion and gender‑responsive strategies to end structural barriers to women’s equal access to economic resources.

It then adopted, without a vote, a resolution on Promotion of international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows in order to foster sustainable development (document A/72/418/Add.6).  By that draft, the Assembly expressed concern that cryptocurrencies were increasingly being used for illicit activities.  It called for greater international cooperation and sustained dialogue to combat illicit financial flows and strengthen good practices on assets return.

The representative of Nigeria said efforts by his country and Norway had led to the establishment of the interlink between achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and combating illicit financial flows, which had been endorsed in numerous fora including the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.  While his delegation had expected a more robust outcome, the adopted resolution was sufficient, he said, and appealed to Member States to further request a report by the Secretary‑General on how the issue was central to achieving the 2030 Agenda.  The Assembly setting up an intergovernmental body would be key to coordinating relevant mandates, he said, adding that most developing countries supported that idea.  The African Union’s annual theme would in 2018 be “Winning the fight against corruption:  A sustainable path to Africa’s Transformation”.  Nigeria stood ready to contribute toward holding the high‑level conference on illicit financial flows and asset recovery which would be convened by the President of the seventy‑third General Assembly.  Urging Member States to share information to combat illicit financial flows, he underscored that returning stolen assets had a more positive impact than focusing on conditionalities hindering developing countries’ progress.

Following that, the Assembly adopted a draft, without a vote, on Follow‑up to and implementation of the outcomes of the International Conferences on Financing for Development (document A/72/419).

Turning to sustainable development, the Assembly adopted a resolution on Oil slick on Lebanese shores (document A/72/420) in a recorded vote of 163 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 9 abstentions (Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Tonga, Vanuatu).  By that text, it noted that the oil slick damage to Lebanon amounted to $856.4 million in 2014, and the Assembly requested the Government of Israel to provide compensation to Lebanon for the damage and to other countries directly affected by the oil slick, such as Syria.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, a text on International Year of Camelids, 2024 (document A/72/420), by which it encouraged all Member States, the United Nations system and other actors to take advantage of the International Year to promote awareness among the public of the economic and cultural importance of camelids.

Following that, it adopted, without a vote, a resolution on World Bee Day (document A/72/420), by which the Assembly decided to designate 20 May as World Bee Day to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats that they face and their contribution to sustainable development.

Next, the Assembly adopted a draft, without a vote, on strengthening the links between all modes of transport to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (document A/72/420).  By that text, it called for efforts to promote regional and interregional economic cooperation, including by improving the planning of transportation infrastructure and mobility, enhancing connectivity and facilitating trade and investment.

It then adopted, without a vote, a text on international cooperation and coordination for the human and ecological rehabilitation and economic development of the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan (document A/72/420).  By that text, the Assembly urged the international community to assist Kazakhstan in implementing special programmes and projects to treat and care for the affected population, as well as efforts to ensure economic growth and sustainable development in the Semipalatinsk region.

Following that, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a resolution on sustainable tourism and sustainable development in Central America (document A/72/420), by which it stressed the need to promote the further development of sustainable tourism and strengthen the development of ecotourism, maintaining the culture and environmental integrity of indigenous and local communities.

Next, it adopted a draft on Agricultural technology for sustainable development (document A/72/420) in a recorded vote of 152 in favour to 1 against (Syria), with 29 abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly urged stakeholders to strengthen efforts to improve the development of sustainable agricultural technologies and their transfer and dissemination to developing countries.

The representative of Slovenia said that after three years of effort, the resolution on World Bee Day had received its final endorsement.  In the last three years, since the beginning of the initiative of the Slovenian Beekeeper’s Association in 2014, his country had been intensively notifying States around the world on a political as well as an expert level.  In the frame of the official procedures, the initiative had been unanimously adopted by the Conference of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations at its fortieth session in Rome in July.  After that endorsement, it was transmitted to the Assembly, and on 17 November the resolution was adopted by the Second Committee.  Global food security was a key social issue and an important priority in the development of agriculture.  A third of all food produced in the world depends on pollination, and bees had an important role to play in the preservation of ecological balance and biodiversity.  They were also good bioindicators of environmental conditions.

The Assembly then adopted a text, in a recorded vote of 131 in favour to 48 against, with 4 abstentions (Liberia, New Zealand, Norway, Turkey), on Implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (document A/72/420/Add.1).

Next, the Assembly adopted a draft, without a vote, on follow‑up to and implementation of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (document A/72/420/Add.2).

Following that, it adopted, without a vote, a text on Disaster risk reduction (document A/72/420/Add.3), by which the Assembly emphasized that preventing and reducing such risk would provide exponential returns and significantly curtail response costs.  It also emphasized the importance of increasing the availability of and access to multi‑hazard early warning mechanisms in ensuring early action.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, a draft on Protection of global climate for present and future generations of humankind (document A/72/420/Add.4).  By that text, it emphasized that mitigation of and adaptation to climate change represented an immediate and urgent global priority.  It also urged Member States to strengthen mechanisms and provide adequate resources towards achieving the full and equal participation of women in decision‑making at all levels on environmental issues.

Next, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a text on Implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (document A/72/420/Add.5).

Following that, it adopted a draft, without a vote, on implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (document A/72/420/Add.6), by which the Assembly called on Governments and all stakeholders to take appropriate measures to mainstream consideration of socioeconomic impacts and benefits of conserving and sustainably using biodiversity and its components, as well as ecosystems providing essential services, into relevant programmes and policies at all levels.

The Assembly then adopted a text, without a vote, on Education for sustainable development in the framework of the 2030 Agenda (document A/72/420/Add.7).  By that draft, it called on the international community to provide inclusive and equitable quality education at all levels — early childhood, primary, secondary, tertiary and distance education, including technical and vocational training — so that all people had access to lifelong learning opportunities that help them exploit opportunities to participate fully in society and contribute to sustainable development.

Following that, it adopted, without a vote, a text on Harmony with Nature (document A/72/420/Add.8), by which the Assembly decided to continue observing International Mother Earth Day annually.  It also called for holistic and integrated approaches to sustainable development in its three dimensions that guided humanity to live in harmony with nature and led to efforts to restore the health and integrity of the planet’s ecosystems.

Next, it adopted a draft on Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (document A/72/420/Add.9) in a recorded vote of 183 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 1 abstention (Venezuela).  By that text, the Assembly called for ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.  It also called on Governments to expand the use of renewable energy beyond the power sector to industry, heating and cooling, construction and infrastructure, and in particular the transport sector.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, a draft on Combating sand and dust storms (document A/72/420/Add.10), by which it recognized that that meteorological phenomenon had inflicted substantial economic, social and environmental damage on the inhabitants of the world’s arid, semi‑arid and dry subhumid areas, underscoring the need to treat them and take measures to address those challenges.

Next, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a draft on Implementation of the outcomes of the United Nations Conferences on Human Settlements and on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‑Habitat) (document A/72/421).

It then adopted a text on the Role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence (document A/72/422/Add.1) in a recorded vote of 184 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.  By that draft, the Assembly underlined that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and 2030 Agenda depended on means of implementation, particularly finance, international trade, technology and capacity‑building, calling for sincere and effective follow‑up on global commitments.

The Assembly then took note of the Second Committee’s report on “Promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence”.

Following that, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a draft on Science, technology and innovation for development (document A/72/422/Add.2), by which it called for strengthened support to those areas, particularly in developing countries.  It would also proclaim 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements to enhance global awareness of and education in the basic sciences.

Next, it adopted, in a recorded vote of 185 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions, a text on Culture and sustainable development (document A/72/422/Add.3).  By that draft, the Assembly encouraged all relevant stakeholders to cooperate in supporting developing country efforts to develop, strengthen and consolidate cultural industries, tourism and related microenterprises.

It then adopted, without a vote, a text on Development cooperation with middle‑income countries (document A/72/422/Add.4), by which the Assembly encouraged shareholders in multilateral development banks to develop a graduation process (from a nation’s lesser developed status) that was sequenced, phased and gradual.

The Assembly then took note of the Second Committee’s report on “Groups of countries in special situations”.

Following that, it turned to a draft on Follow-up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (document A/72/423/Add.1), adopting it without a vote.  By that text, the Assembly underlined the urgent need to reverse the decline in official development assistance (ODA) to least developed countries, urging nations that had not met commitments to increase their ODA and make concrete efforts towards the ODA targets.

Next, it adopted, without a vote, a draft on Follow-up to the Second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries (document A/72/423/Add.2).  By that text, the Assembly stressed that cooperation on fundamental transit policies, laws and regulations between landlocked developing countries and their neighbours was crucial for the effective and integrated solution of cross‑border trade and transit transport problems.

The Assembly then took note of the Committee’s report on “Eradication of poverty and other development issues”.

It then adopted, without a vote, a draft on Implementation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008‑2017) (document A/72/424/Add.1).  By that text, the Assembly emphasized the importance of structural transformation leading to inclusive and sustainable industrialization for employment creation and poverty reduction.

Following that, it adopted, without a vote, a draft on Women in development (document A/72/424/Add.2), by which the Assembly emphasized the need to link policies on economic, social and environmental development to ensure that all people, in particular women and children living in poverty and in vulnerable situations, benefited from inclusive economic growth and development.

The representative of Sudan, explaining his delegation’s position on the “women and development” resolution, said it had joined the consensus.  However, he expressed concern over the wording of some of the resolution’s paragraphs, including false criticisms of particular national legal systems, and disassociated himself from that text.

Next, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a text on Human resources development (document A/72/424/Add.3), taking note of the report on the same topic.  By that text, it called on the international community to place human resources development at the core of economic and social development as educated, skilled, healthy, capable, productive and adaptable workforces were the foundation for achieving sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth and development.

The Assembly then turned to a draft on Operational activities for development of the United Nations system (document A/72/425/Add.1), adopting it without a vote.  By that text, it took note of the Secretary‑General’s report on “Repositioning the United Nations development system to deliver on the 2030 Agenda: ensuring a better future for all”.

The Assembly then took note of the Second Committee’s report “Operational activities for development”.

Following that, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a text on South‑South cooperation for development (document A/72/425/Add.2), by which it stressed that such assistance was not a substitute for, but rather a complement to, North‑South cooperation.  It also called on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other relevant organizations to assist developing countries in implementing projects of South‑South cooperation.

Next, the Assembly adopted, in a recorded vote of 185 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions, a draft on Agriculture development, food security and nutrition (document A/72/426).  By that text, it stressed the need to increase sustainable agricultural production globally by improving markets and trading systems as well as increasing responsible public and private investment in sustainable agriculture, land management and rural development.

By further terms, the Assembly stressed that a universal, rules‑based, open, non‑discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system promoted agriculture and rural development in developing countries and contributed to world food security and nutrition.  It urged national, regional and international strategies to promote the participation of farmers, fishers and fish workers in community, national, regional and international markets.

It then adopted, without a vote, a draft on the United Nations Decade of Family Farming (document A/72/426), by which the Assembly proclaimed 2019‑2028 the Decade of Family Farming, and called on FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to lead implementation of the initiative.

The Assembly then adopted a draft decision to postpone discussion of the agenda item on “Towards global partnerships” until the General Assembly’s seventy‑third session.

Following that, it adopted, in a recorded vote of 163 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 11 abstentions, a text on Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources (document A/72/428).  By that draft, the Assembly called on Israel to cease exploitation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Syrian Golan.

Further to the text, the Assembly called on Israel to comply with its obligations under international law and cease all policies and measures aimed at the alteration of the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It also called on Israel to halt all actions harming the environment, cease destruction of vital infrastructure, remove obstacles to the implementation of critical environmental projects, cease efforts impeding Palestinian development and export of discovered oil and natural gas reserves.

The Assembly then adopted a draft decision to approve the Second Committee’s programme of work for its seventy‑third session.

Finally, it took note of a report on programme planning.

The Assembly then took up a draft resolution titled “A world against violence and violent extremism” (document A/72/L.32).

The representative of Iran, introducing that text, said it was a follow‑up to Assembly resolutions 68/127 and 70/109, both of which had been adopted by consensus.  That unity demonstrated the pressing need to act to combat violent extremism, especially through the principles of tolerance and moderation.  Calling for collective international action in that regard — especially in the wake of the atrocities committed over the last few years by extremist groups in Iraq and Syria, including by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh) — he stressed that “dialogue, moderation and tolerance are the most effective antidote to violent extremism”.  Urging Member States to avoid associating violent extremism with any particular religion or nationality, he said doing so “played right into the terrorists’ hands” and further spread extremist ideology.  Noting that the Assembly could provide a strong platform to help address the roots of that phenomenon, he said the text also reaffirmed measures taken at the international level such as the Assembly’s high‑level 2016 meeting on the topic, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) 2016 conference on youth and the Internet.  It also spotlighted the Secretary‑General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism and requested him to report on the implementation of the present resolution at the Assembly’s seventy‑fourth session.

The Assembly then adopted that draft resolution without a vote.

Speaking following the adoption, the representative of Canada said her delegation strongly condemned all violent extremism, including violence committed on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  The rights of all people must be respected, she stressed, noting that the Secretary‑General’s Plan of Action recognized the important link between social exclusion and violent extremism.  All States — especially the resolution’s main sponsor — should comply with their international obligations to protect human rights.

The representative of Israel said her delegation had joined in the consensus, but voiced concern not with “the message but the messenger”.  Iran, the text’s main sponsor, was in fact the “nerve‑centre” of violent extremism and terrorist incitement around the globe, as well as its main sponsor.  Iran’s proxies butchered innocent people and violated human rights, she said, adding that members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Iran were hanged from cranes, journalists were arrested, girls as young as 12 were married off and prisoners were tortured.  In Syria, Iran’s continued support for the Assad regime had allowed it to use chemical weapons against its own people, and next door in Lebanon it had helped Hizbullah increase its weapons arsenal.  With the adoption of the present text, it was critical for the international community to focus on Iran’s own actions, she stressed, noting that that country had already violated the very resolution it was sponsoring.

The representative of Saudi Arabia said his country had joined consensus on the resolution based on its belief in a comprehensive effort to combat violence and extremism.  It supported all efforts aimed at fighting violent extremism, but must address contradictions concerning security.  It was clear that Iran, the sponsor of the resolution, was also the main sponsor of violence and violent extremism across the world.  Iran had worked to destroy Yemen and was continuing to do so through violations of international law.  Several of its militias had wreaked havoc in Syria and Lebanon, and it was supporting extremist groups with weapons and other prohibited items.  He condemned Iranian support for those groups, stressing the need to prevent and counter all forms of violent extremism.

The representative of the United States noted that the Assembly had on 19 December adopted a resolution condemning Iran for continuing to violate international law and voicing concern over the targeting of minority religious communities.  Yet, 24 hours later, Iran was sponsoring a resolution against violence and extremism.  It had often acted in clear violation of its international obligations, which ran counter to the spirit of the resolution.  Her country had joined consensus on the resolution, as it believed in a comprehensive effort to counter extremism.  While Iran urged countries to unite against violence, its Government actively fomented violence across the Middle East.  Its support for Hizbullah had expanded the group’s arsenal, directly challenging Lebanese sovereignty and threatening Israel.  Iran abused its own people, supported political opponents of other Member States and imprisoned journalists and tourists on trumped up charges.

The representative of the Russian Federation said her country had joined consensus, as it believed in the resolution’s potential.  It viewed extremism as separate from terrorism, although it was a breeding ground for it.  Efforts to counter violent extremism must be based on international law and the United Nations Charter.  That was important when vague terms were being used to put forth dubious concepts.  She noted that extremist propaganda could, without violence, lead to undermining of the rule of law, destabilization of society and mass violations of human rights.

The representative of the European Union delegation rejected any form of discrimination, including on the grounds of sex, race, colour, language, genetic features, religion, membership in a minority group or sexual orientation or any other.  All nations must respect international human rights, promote good governance and uphold the rule of law.  She therefore urged all States — including the resolution’s main sponsor — to respect the rights of all their people, including ethnic, sexual and religious minorities.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Iran responded to the statement delivered by the delegate of the “Israeli regime”, who had levied baseless allegations and lies against his country.  Israel’s anger over the resolution adopted today was understandable, as it was an occupying entity that had created an apartheid system in the territories it controlled.  The representative of Israel had clearly deemed the resolution to be “against itself”, he said, noting that it pursued one of the most extreme policies in the modern world and denied the people living under its occupation their most basic rights.  In contrast, Iran had done everything in its power to combat violent extremism.

Responding to the representative of the United States, he said that country had for almost a year pursued a new policy which included levying baseless allegations and lies against Iran.  It was also working to advance the interests of the Israeli regime in the Middle East and was taking advantage of some regional countries by creating a “local bogeyman”.  It was not a coincidence that the United States had gone into high gear in its false allegations against Iran following the massive condemnation it received on its decision to recognize Al‑Quds [Jerusalem] as Israel’s capital.  The United States Government’s regime change project inflicted severe suffering across the Middle East, he said, adding that that country supported, armed and trained known terrorist groups in Syria.  The United States’ own past aggressions and interventions in the region had created fertile ground for recruitment by those advocating the violent takfirist ideology.

Turning to the representative of Saudi Arabia, he said that that country was a main sponsor of violent extremism worldwide, having lavishly financed the export of its fanatical ideology to poorer nations over the last three decades.  Saudi Arabia remained a critical support base for Al‑Qaida, the Taliban and other terrorist groups, and it supported any group that would fight the Government in Syria.  Noting that ISIL/Daesh was a product of Saudi support and financing, he said that country’s ideology propagated hatred and sought to spread it abroad.

DHS’ empty positions; agriculture security at risk; positive train control, and more

Our picksDHS’ empty positions; agriculture security at risk; positive train control, and more

Published 20 December 2017

· All the key Department of Homeland Security positions Trump has left unfilled

· The National Security Strategy papers over a crisis

· Is agriculture security at risk? More than you realize

· Reciprocal rage: why Islamist extremists and the far right need each other

· The Internet of Things is going to change everything about cybersecurity

· Cybersecurity in the Trump era

· What Trump’s National Security Strategy says on cyber

· Could positive train control have prevented the Washington wreck?

All the key Department of Homeland Security positions Trump has left unfilled (Heather Timmons, NextGov)
The Department of Homeland Security is tasked with keeping the US safe, from securing the country’s borders to protecting against attacks on its electrical grids and thwarting terrorism attacks. One of its biggest challenges in recent months has come from the White House itself: Since Donald Trump took office in January, dozens of top jobs have been left unassigned, hollowing out the massive agency.

The National Security Strategy papers over a crisis (Thomas Wright, Defense One)
The NSS is a stunning repudiation of Trump, and Trump’s speech was a stunning repudiation of the NSS.

Is agriculture security at risk? More than you realize (Sara Brown, Drovers)
When U.S. Navy Seals entered the hiding place for Osama Bin Laden they found a list of 16 deadly agricultural pathogens that Al Qaeda intended to use as bioweapons, said former Sen. Joe Lieberman during a recent Senate Committee on Agriculture hearing on agro-defense. Six of the bioweapons targeted livestock production. Four targeted crop production. Six more targeted humans.

Reciprocal rage: why Islamist extremists and the far right need each other (Sean Illing, Vox)
How two complementary extremisms are defining global politics.

The Internet of Things is going to change everything about cybersecurity (Yevgeny Dibrov, Harvard Business Review)
Cybersecurity can cause organizational migraines. In 2016, breaches cost businesses nearly $4 billion and exposed an average of 24,000 records per incident. In 2017, the number of breaches is anticipated to rise by 36%. The constant drumbeat of threats and attacks is becoming so mainstream that businesses are expected to invest more than $93 billion in cyber defenses by 2018. Even Congress is acting more quickly to pass laws that will — hopefully — improve the situation.

Cybersecurity in the Trump era (Wall Street Journal)
It isn’t much different than under President Obama, say Gregory Touhill and Christopher Krebs. That says a lot about the issue.

What Trump’s National Security Strategy says on cyber (Mark Pomerleau, Fifth Domain)
Here’s what the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy means for the nation’s cybersecurity strategy.

Could positive train control have prevented the Washington wreck? (David A. Graham, The Atlantic)
The NTSB said the train that derailed south of Seattle on Monday was traveling 80 miles per hour, 50 miles faster than the speed limit on the curve where it crashed.

A hard row to hoe for Nigeria to reach food self-sufficiency

On the outskirts of Nigeria’s northern city of Kano is bustling Dawanau, West Africa’s largest grain market. Fortunes change hands here daily, with sacks of millet, sorghum, and cowpeas loaded onto trucks for delivery to countries as far afield as Chad, Mali, and Senegal.

But away from the hubbub of Dawanau, the smallholder farmers who produce more than 90 percent of Nigeria’s food face an uphill battle to maintain that supply.

Northern Nigeria’s vast plains are ideal for agriculture – and rice is an especially lucrative crop. The staple is a must-have at any social event and a cornerstone of some of the country’s most popular dishes, including the ubiquitous spicy favourite, “Jollof”.

Nigeria is both the largest rice producer in Africa and the continent’s biggest importer. The supply shortfall is made up with imports – mainly from Thailand and India – valued at more than $8 million per day.

As with rice, so with wheat, maize, and other grains: Nigeria, with a population of 190 million, is a significant producer, but also a net importer.

So given its abundant arable land, why can’t Nigeria support its farmers to grow more food and plug the foreign exchange drain?

The answer lies in the dominance of oil. Until the country’s oil boom in the 1970s, agriculture was Nigeria’s economic mainstay, able to meet both local demand as well as generate export earnings.

Crude oil changed that. With staggering amounts of easy money sloshing through the political system, agriculture languished.

Today, Nigeria’s annual food import bill is around $20 billion.

But a combination of dwindling oil revenues and dollar shortages has persuaded the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to make agriculture a priority again.

Grow-your-own

Under the slogan of “We must produce what we eat”, the government is encouraging agribusiness as a way to drive economic growth, and as the path out of poverty and food insecurity for millions of smallholder farmers.

The government has set ambitious targets of becoming self-sufficient in rice production by 2018, and turning a net exporter by 2020.

To create incentives for domestic production, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has restricted the allocation of dollars for the imports of 41 food items, and hiked import duties – from 10 to 60 percent in the case of rice. It has also restricted imports across land borders to crack down on smuggling.

When Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, announced earlier this year that he was making a $1 billion investment in Nigeria’s rice production, it seemed to vindicate the government’s approach.

The Dangote Group plans to produce one million tonnes of parboiled milled rice over the next five years, equivalent to 16 percent of domestic demand.

Other big players have also jumped in, including the Lagos-based conglomerate TGI, which opened a rice mill in August with a capacity of 120,000 tonnes, and Olam Nigeria, part of Singapore-based Olam International, which plans to boost its existing rice output.

A number of government initiatives are in place to promote small-scale agriculture. They include the CBN’s $300 million Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, introduced in 2015 to provide cheap loans and input subsidies for hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers.

The World Bank is also supporting the government’s agricultural transformation strategy with a $200 million loan to support small- to mid-scale rice production.

The government’s grow-your-own push seems to be working. Cereal production has increased, despite the impact on farming of the Boko Haram insurgency in northeastern Nigeria, and rice yields are also up, helped along by higher rice prices.

Hard work with little help

But most Nigerian farmers still struggle, noted Mahmoud Daneji, managing director of the Kano State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority.

He is critical of the government’s top-down approach. “You may have a very laudable programme, but in as much as there is no input from the potential beneficiaries, it will definitely fail,” he told IRIN.

Daneji ticked off a list of problems farmers face that includes the lack of access to quality seeds, fertiliser, effective agricultural extension systems, and access to credit for those who need it.

Despite the raft of initiatives aimed at boosting output, farmers still typically work with their bare hands in fields lacking irrigation, live in areas with poor roads that limit their access to markets, and are facing a growing threat of climate change without advice on how to adapt.

In a survey last year, farmers cited the lack of fertiliser as their biggest problem by far, despite a long-running government input programme. Nearly three quarters of respondents said they were unaware of any government interventions aimed at helping them.

Abdulrashid Magaji, chair of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, told IRIN that’s because the bulk of government programmes rarely reach their intended target. They go instead to “political favourites and close associates of politicians,” he alleged.

For example, the CBN launched the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending in 2013 to increase access to bank credit.

But this year only 3,700 farmers out of 523,000 in Kano are on track to receive the loans. The vast majority are unaware of how to access the much-needed financing through NIRSAL, said Magaji.

Nigeria’s disconnected farmers have to rely on middlemen, reducing their profits, because of a broken value chain, inadequate storage facilities, and a lack of organised market information systems.

“Here, our farmers are left on their own,” said Jibrin Jibrin, director of the Centre for Dryland Agriculture at Kano’s Bayero University. “Economists from the World Bank will tell you not to protect the market, but the system doesn’t work for our farmers.”

Dangote’s rice and tomatoes

Dangote’s rice initiative is taking on some of these issues. Its “outgrower scheme” plans to provide inputs such as seeds and fertiliser, as well as training for nearly 50,000 medium and smallholder farmers who then provide their land and labour.

The company says it will pay the farmers the average market price for their rice at harvest, after recouping the cost of the inputs it provided.

But the majority of the smallholders who spoke to IRIN in Kano were unconvinced by the scheme. They doubted they would really get a fair price, and that they could meet the company’s quality control standards.

Some pointed to the failure of an earlier Dangote project, a $13 million tomato paste factory set up in Kano last year, as reason to be concerned.

The plant is currently lying idle even though it signed deals with some 5,000 farmers to supply the tomatoes that would be turned into an annual production of over 400,000 tonnes of paste. 

On paper it made perfect sense. Nigeria produces some 1.5 million tonnes of tomatoes each year, tomato paste is an ingredient in most Nigerian meals, and, with the government threatening to ban imported paste, a local factory seemed an investment winner.

But farmers were unable to produce the quality and quantity of tomatoes the state-of-the-art plant needed.

Firstly, a pest, the Tuta absoluta moth, wiped out much of the harvest. But then it was the same old underlying problems – a lack of fertiliser, poor irrigation, low quality seed, difficult roads and no cold storage – that really undermined progress.

The poverty of rural infrastructure means Nigeria’s post-harvest losses could be as high as $9 billion annually – much of that burden falling on small-scale producers.

Since the 1970s there have been a raft of high-profile government campaigns to fix agriculture. Incrementally, Nigeria seems to be slotting the pieces into place, but getting to the final stage – a country able to feed itself – still eludes policy-makers.

“I pity myself, I pity farmers, I pity the association, because we have a lot of problems,” said Magaji, chair of the farmers’ union. “Sincerely speaking, we have a long way to go.”

lu/oa/ag

Sweet Success with Nuclear: Malaysian Farmers to Grow Natural Sugar Substitute

Bangi, Malaysia – Farmers in impoverished communities in East Malaysia will be able to grow a cash crop starting next year – thanks to nuclear science.

Stevia, a natural sugar substitute, is native to South America and would not survive in Malaysia’s tropical climate. Researchers at the Malaysian Nuclear Agency have used irradiation to develop a variety suited for humid and damp conditions. The new breed, which will be available to farmers for the next growing season, is not only tolerant to humidity but is also a lot bushier than the traditional variety, bearing more and larger leaves. This is particularly important because the sweetener is extracted from the plant’s leaves.

While it has been used as a sweetener in parts of South America for centuries, Stevia is only now becoming popular in the rest of the world as an alternative to both sugar and artificial sweeteners.

Malaysia’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and other government agencies are now working to propagate the plant to farmers in Sabah, on the northern tip of Borneo Island, as part of a community project set up by the government to improve the livelihood of the rural population in East Malaysia. “There is growing demand for natural sweeteners across Asia, and once the right varieties are available, Sabah and other parts of Malaysia will be well suited for their cultivation,” said Norazlina Noordin, a plant breeder at the Malaysian Nuclear Agency.

The IAEA, in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), supports countries, including Malaysia, in the use of radiation for agricultural research and development, including the development of enhanced varieties of seeds for improved production. This technique, which is harmless to humans or the environment, is responsible for the development of many favorable varieties, including salt tolerant rice in Bangladesh and soybeans with double the yield of traditional varieties in Indonesia.

The gamma greenhouse

Developing new varieties is a trial and error process. Scientists irradiate seeds or seedlings using different doses of ionizing radiation. Radiation induces changes in a plant’s genetic make-up, mimicking the natural process of spontaneous mutation. The mutation process generates random genetic variations and can lead to alterations in different kinds of traits. In many cases mutations are detrimental to the plant, but they can also result in new beneficial traits. From large mutant populations plants that carry the desired trait are selected and subsequently stabilized in the following generations. Once the trait is stable and the superior performance of the mutant proven, a new variety is born. The art of mutation breeding is to select the rare desired mutant from among a mutant population of many thousands of plants.

The irradiation method used at Nuclear Malaysia’s gamma greenhouse facility is called chronic irradiation. In contrast to the more conventional acute irradiation performed at a high dose rate for a few minutes, plants at the gamma greenhouse are irradiated over several months at lower dose rates. One advantage of this method is that it produces a wider mutation spectrum while the general radiation damage to the plant cells is minimized. Furthermore, the chances are lower that plants repair the genetic variations induced by long-term radiation and so “correct” the development of what would otherwise be favourable traits, explained Zaiton Ahmad, a liaison officer for the gamma greenhouse. Chronic irradiation can be applied in a wide range of crops, including flower plants, fruit crops and cereals.