Financial Express

  • Banned in US, ek chutki sindoor still going strong in India

    The bindi, the ubiquitous mark on the forehead of Indian women is facing a problem in the distant United States where a manufacturer has been forced to withdraw a batch along with other cosmetics products from the market owing to its high lead content. In the land of its birth, the bindi, however, continues to be manufactured unchecked as there is no agency to monitor the usage and harmful effects of spurious products. "The cosmetics industry is not at all regulated in India. There's no apex body to control this in India', said Deepak Vohra, a cosmetologist. "What's worse is the fact that most of the branded products in the market do not carry the mandatory label of ingredients, colouring agent (chemicals used) and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) mark and no declaration whatsoever that that the products are manufactured from any carcinogenic or any harmful ingredients', Vohra added. According to experts, sindoor or kumkum readily available in market often contains high amount of lead, which heightens the risk of poisoning. Lead exposure can result in a wide range of biological effects, depending upon the level and duration of exposure. Synthetic sindoor can cause serious dermatological disorders like irritation, skin toxicity, eczema, leucoderma. Long-term exposure to even low levels of lead can cause irreversible learning difficulties, mental retardation, and delayed neurological and physical development, doctors say. "It has been proved repeatedly that the metals like lead and mercury, used in such cosmetics, can be absorbed through skin and permeate into internal organs causing irreparable damages,' says Rishi Parashar, a doctor of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. "These toxic elements after entering human body can harmevery organ in the human body, especially the brain, kidney and reproductive system, ' he adds.

  • Plans to convert C02 into gasoline

    If two scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory are correct, people will still be driving gasoline-powered cars 50 years from now, churning out heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere

  • A frog of dino era

    A frog the size of a bowling ball, with heavy armour and teeth, lived among dinosaurs millions of years ago. It was intimidating enough for the scientists who unearthed its fossils, to name the beast Beelzebufo, or Devil Toad. But its size, 4.54 kilograms and 40.64 centimetres long, is not the only curiosity. Researchers discovered the creature's bones in Madagascar. Yet it seems to be a close relative of normal-sized frogs who today live half a world away in South America, challenging assumptions about ancient geography. The discovery, led by paleontologist David Krause at New York's Stony Brook University, was published on Monday by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "This frog, if it has the same habits as its living relatives in South America, was quite voracious,' Krause said. "It's even conceivable that it could have taken down some hatchling dinosaurs.' Krause began finding fragments of abnormally large frog bones in Madagascar, off the coast of Africa, in 1993. They dated back to the late Cretaceous period, roughly 70 million years ago, in an area where Krause also was finding dinosaur and crocodile fossils. But only recently did Krause's team assemble enough frog bones to piece together what the creature would have looked like, and weighed. The largest living frog, the Goliath frog of West Africa, can reach 3.18 kilograms. But Krause teamed with fossil frog experts from University College London to determine that Beelzebufo is not related to other African frogs.

  • India second in cotton production

    India has overtaken the US to become the second largest cotton producing country in the world, after China, a study by International Service For the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Application(ISAAA) said. India, which was having one of the lowest cotton yields in the world, has become a net cotton exporter, potentially five million bales in 2007-08, the study said. Bt cton was a major factor contributing to higher rate of production from 15.8 million bales in 2001-02 to31millionbalesin2007-08,itsaid.

  • PM-FM Budget meeting to focus on farm, rural sectors

    Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister P Chidambaram are expected to hold a meeting just before the Union Budget to discuss key issues. Budget 2008-08 is set to spell out various schemes and plans to boost agriculture and rural sectors. In a recent meeting with the finance minister, the Congress party members pointed out that the government should increase focus on the rural development as well as schemes for the common man. Another issue that is expected to figure prominently would be agriculture sector and its deceleration.

  • New pepper hybrid developed

    In a major breakthrough, scientists of the Pepper Research Station, Panniyur, have developed a new hybrid pepper variety that can resist the infamous foot-rot disease. Into the fourth year of its trial, the variety has also shown resistance to drought and erratic climate, KP Mammooty, head, Pepper Research Station said. Foot-rot disease is estimated to eat into 20-25% of the annual pepper production of the country and in some cases, farmers have stopped cultivating pepper after suffering economically from it, he said. The disease spreads rapidly and the damage is extensive. At present, no remedy exists for foot-rot disease in pepper, other than cutting and removing affected plants completely, he added. The new hybrid is developed by crossing the indigenous

  • Development of transgenic food staples slow: World Bank

    The World Bank has expressed concerns over the slow progress in the development of transgenic food staples and called for the removal of related constraints. It said that the transgenics or the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have considerable potential for improving the productivity of smallholder farming systems and providing more nutritious foods to poor consumers in developing countries. "The environmental, food safety, and social risks of transgenics are controversial and therefore transparent and cost-effective regulatory systems that inspire public confidence are needed to evaluate risks and benefits case by case,' it admitted. In its World Development Report-2008, it noted, "While Bt cotton has been rapidly and successfully adopted in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu, farmers in Andhra Pradesh initially experienced a loss, largely because of the use of poorly adapted varieties (hybrids).' In general, the report said that Indian farmers growing Bt cotton used less insecticides and gained significant yield increases. The report, with its theme - Agriculture for Development - made a strong plea for commercial cultivation of Golden Rice. It said that in India alone, 0.2 to 1.4 million life-years could be saved annually through widespread consumption of Golden Rice and this would be more cost-effective than the current supplementary programme for vitamin A. The World Bank said that while developing transgenics pro-poor traits and orphan crops have been neglected. Investments in R&D on transgenics are concentrated largely in the private sector, driven by commercial interests in industrial countries. The public sector spending on R&D is much lower than the $1.5 billion spent each year by the four largest private Companies. The report also noted the complexities of trade in transgenics. Exporters fear the loss of overseas Markets and of a "GMO-free' brand. It called for competence in managing and release and use of transgenics with open information disclosures, labelling (wherever feasible), and a consultative process, critical for harnessing public support.

  • South Korea's Lee aims to lift GDP by switching to green energy

    South Korean president-elect Lee Myung Bakandhis administration will increase the country's share in the global renewable energy market in an effort to help boost economic growth. The new government aims to increase the share to 5% by 2012from 0.8% now, according to a statement from the climate change and energy taskforce of Lee's presidential transition committee. South Korea, which imports 97%of its energy and mineral needs, will join Japan in encouraging factories and power stations to use cleaner fuels to reduce greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. Lee will seek to export nuclear reactors for commercial use the taskforce said in the statement.

  • Germany to issue 451.9 mn CO, permits annually from 2008

    Germany said it would issue 451.9 million tonne say ear of carbon-dioxide pollution certificates from 2008 to 2 012, 0.3%fewer than allowed by the European Commission. Germany cut its planned emission cap because new power plants will need fewer free C02 permits than previously expected, the DEHST emissions trading unit of the environment ministry said on its website. Germany earlier set aside 11 million tonnes of C02 a year for new power plants and factories, yet permits foronly9.79milliontonnesareneeded. German utilities and energy-intensive industries want installation-level allocations of permits as they prepare for the second phase of the EU's climate control programmed. Some 1,625power plants and factories, new and in operation, will get388.86 million tones of free permitseveryyearthrough2012 according to the plan.

  • E-recycling likely to gain momentum

    New York is a step closer to adopting one of the toughest electronics recycling laws in the nation, despite strong objections from manufacturers and mayor Michael R Bloomberg. The city council approved a Bill last week that would impose a $100 fine on anyone who throws an old computer, printer or other electronic gadget into the trashbin. Recycling the electronic waste will become mandatory and manufacturers will be required to take back their own products as well as those made by Companies that have gone out of business. The council estimated that New Yorkers purchase more than 90,000 tonnes of electronic products every year. The gadgets contain hazards like lead and mercury, and most end up in the trash. If the new measure becomes law, the city's voluntary electronics collection and recycling programmes would be replaced by a variety of programmes designed and run by Sony, Dell and other electronics manufacturers. Those efforts could include curbside pickups, returns by mail and neighbourhood collections. Manufacturers could pick the type of recycling programme they preferred, said councilman Bill de Blasio who, with councilman Michael E McMahon, was a prime sponsor of the bill. The Companies would have to take back enough pieces of equipment to meet mandatory tonnage standards set in the bill or face stiff fines. Bloomberg has made it clear that he will not support mandatory thresholds. "The administration supports

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