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October 15, 2006
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October 15, 2006

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Home > 2006 Issues > October 15, 2006

News with a view

Going bananas

By Vaidehi Nathan

The humble banana is under threat in Europe. A particular variety of banana called Cavendish that is sold the most in Europe, especially Britain, is facing extinction because of a deadly fungus called Black Sigatoka. It is largely grown in Latin America and Asia. Cavendish is a sexless, seedless and sterile variety, which means that the plant clones itself. The fungus, once it breaks the natural defences of one tree, spreads very fast and finishes entire plantations. The farmers are using more and more pesticides, pushing up the costs of production. According to biologists, the variety of banana eaten by the Britons in the 1950s called Gros Michel was wiped out because of a fungus caused Panama disease. These situations, the scientists say, are the consequence of monoculture.

The unending human misery
The human misery in Central Africa boggles the mind. Nearly a three million population is entirely dependent on the World Food Aid Programme. In Darfur in Sudan, the donor fatigue has set in. The international aid has considerably come down and the rations have been halved. Added to this was the Horn of African drought, which increased the burden of the donors. Since knowing the condition of the food status, the US and the UK have tried to send more food. But the logistics are terrible. The internal security makes the movement of the food a high security exercise in the vast and remote areas. The roads are in such poor conditions that most vehicles cannot take it.

According to the latest figures available, after the US the biggest contributor is the UN?s common humanitarian Fund. The biggest European donor is Norway, with 1.75 million dollars. Britain, the second largest donor has till now given 214 million dollars since September 2003 and contributed 86 million dollars to the UN fund. This year it gave 75 million dollars for the drought relief.

The fighting in Sudan never seems to end. Fresh fights broke out last week, forcing foreign aid workers to flee the scene.

Europe not ready for multi-culturalism
Is Europe a multicultural society? Politicians are evading an answer to this question and the social scientists are pointing out that Europe is not yet ready for multi-culturalism. The latest incident that triggered this debate happened in Belgium a few weeks ago. A teenage boy, a sympathiser of the extremist right killed at least three people before he was caught. The right wing group Vlaams Belang denied any role in the killings. But stood its position on the immigrants. Its spokesman Philppe V. Sande said that people were fed up with growing crimes and ?radical Islamists who don?t accept integration and assimilate and accept our western democratic society.? He said his party wanted to change these things through laws. Social scientists have pointed out that the huge increase in the immigrants from Africa and the Middle East is causing stress and frustration among the majority population as the immigrants are taking up job, because they are willing to work harder and get paid lesser. One senior professor said, ?These are problems the politicians should sort out. If they don?t someone else will? meaning that the extreme right could take this role. The growth of Vlaams Belang has alarmed many. It has steadily gained ground after winning 24 per cent votes in the 2004 elections.

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