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(506) 2223-1327         Published Friday, Feb. 25, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 40          E-mail us
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Determining value becomes up close and personal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

How much is a house worth?

The quick answer is whatever someone is willing to pay. The longer answer is whatever similar homes in the same area have sold for recently.

For Costa Rica, that second definition presents a problem because there is no public list of real estate sales. In fact, there is a strong tradition of faking the sales price to dodge the government transfer tax.

One fact is for sure. The value of a property is not the sum of its parts.

Expats faced the problem of property evaluation when the Costa Rican government instituted a luxury home tax. Dwellings worth over about $180,000 are taxed on a progressive scale. But to get the value, the government chose exactly the wrong method.

According to the new tax law, properties were evaluated by their area with certain adjustments for depreciation. The land figure was based on a square-meter value reported by the municipality with adjustments for the slope of the land.

The problem with this method is that a  400-square-meter (about 4,300-square-foot) home on a hill above the Pacific Ocean in Dominical would command the same value as the same building nestled in some slum, except for the land value.

But no one was really going to purchase or sell these homes for these estimated values, so, as they say, the amount was close enough for government work.

A formal appraisal is just an estimate of value. Professional appraisers are fond of calling their profession an art form.

But Costa Ricans prefer solid numbers, square meters of area and mathematical formulas.

The appraisal situation is much more than academic these days for former investors with Savings Unlimited.

This is the high-interest company operated by Luis Milanes Tamayo that vanished one weekend in November 2002. So did Milanes, but he is back now and has a deal for his estimated 500-plus remaining investors who are the civil part of a criminal action for fraud.

These former investors and others had $200 million in the Milanes firm when he pulled the plug and fled. Those who exercised their rights and filed with the courts have a date March 1 where they will begin to discuss the latest settlement offer from Milanes.

He has offered to turn over property to Banco de Costa Rica. The property would be sold and what remained after commissions, fees and lawyer compensation would be divided among those still active in the case.
decision time

If the former investors take the deal, Milanes will not have to go to trial.

The investors are now studying an appraisal presented to the court that says the property Milanes offered is worth about 5.2 billion colons, about $10.5 million at the current exchange rate. The major property in the package is the Hotel Europa in downtown San José, which the appraisal by Jaime Esteban Mayorga Marín says is worth about 2.8 billion colons or about $5.7 million.

Milanes has not offered to include any of his lucrative casinos or the many other holdings he has in Latin America.

This is a hard call for the former investors. If they decline the offer and Milanes goes to trial and is acquitted, they get nothing. If he is convicted, the judicial panel might award former investors much more money and assets. If they take the current deal, each could get up to $16,000 after lawyers and fees, depending on the amount of their lost investment.

However, that amount depends almost entirely on how close the appraiser has come to estimating the value of the Hotel Europa and 10 other properties that Milanes has offered. By using an estimate based on replacement cost new less depreciation, the appraiser did not determine the profitability of the hotel where Milanes occupies the penthouse suite.

Profitability or at least gross income would be critical when and if Banco de Costa Rica seeks to sell Hotel Europa. They would also have to explain away the lack of parking and the unsavory location.

Potential purchasers certainly would use another appraisal technique, that is the income approach that says something is worth a multiple of what it can net. That is why McDonald's hamburger franchises do not sell cheaply.

Some investors want Milanes to sell the properties and put cash into his proposed trust account at the bank. That way they would have an idea of what the true value of the properties are.

The criminal court has blocked out the whole month of March for investors, Milanes and an army of lawyers to argue their points of view.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 25, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 40

Costa Rica Expertise
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Weekend will see repeat
of celebration in parks


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The culture ministry has a full weekend lined up with a replay Saturday of  Enamorate de tu ciudad in the vicinity off Parque España.

Saturday there also is the Festival de Tradiciones Populares in Parque La Libertad in Barrio Fátima in Desamparados. The cultural ministry promises typical foods, story telling, folklore groups and other activities starting at 10 a.m.  The groups  Perfusión, Son de Tikizia and La Malacrianza will perform.

In Heredia Orquesta Sinfónica Municipal will perform Sunday at 11 a.m. in the Auditorial Nacional. General admission is 3,000 colons, about $6.

The Banda Nacional Sacramento Villegas, made up of bands from Limón, Guanacaste and Puntarenas, perform Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Templo Colonia de Nicoya and Sunday on the esplanade of the Parque de Liberia, also 7 p.m.

Enamorate de tu Ciudad had an initial run last week in Parque España, Parque Morazán, the Centro Nacional de la Cultura and Casa Amarilla. There was live music, individuals playing pick-up chess matches and sales by book stores and some health and food products. The same is promised for this Saturday, beginning at 11 a.m.

Drugs in Cartago
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo
Kilos of cocaine are stacked against a trailer wall

319 kilos of Sinaloa drugs
confiscated in Cartago raid

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents confiscated 319 kilos of cocaine and detained three Mexican nationals Thursday. They said the drugs were property of the Sinaloa Cartel and that made strong inroads into Costa Rica.

Agents have been on the trail of cartel members since 2009 when a 2,000-kilo shipment of cocaine fell into their hands.

The key point this week was the arrival of a highly placed lieutenant in the Sinaloa cartel. He was detained in Alajuela and agents searched his hotel room in downtown San José. Two other persons were detained in El Tejar de Cartago near a private home where they lived.

In the same general area agents located a storage building and a truck trailer containing the drugs. They were ready to be transported and were to be hidden beneath produce, said agents.


Police report on successes
in Limón show of force

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The 320-officer detachment of police sent to Limón last week conducted 85 road check points and stopped 1,700 vehicles.

As a result of the massive police presence, some 95 persons were detained and 14 were found to be suspects in crimes serious enough to warrant preventative detention, said the Fuerza Pública. Other kinds of restrictions are sought for six persons.

Police said they confiscated 12 firearms and drugs, ranging from marijuana to crack to cocaine. The arrests were mainly for crimes against property, such as theft. There were 36 such arrests, officers said. There also were nine arrests for domestic violence violations, they said.

Included in the statistics was an arrest officers made Sunday morning after a shootout in the area known as Los Cocos. Police also said that Thursday they raided homes in Cieneguita and detained two men believed to be leaders of a criminal gang.

Seven of the persons detained were held on earlier warrants.


 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary





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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 25, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 40
Latigo K-9

Small firms, some with a green touch, honored by bank
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Representative small business operators were honored Thursday night. The program was sponsored by the Citi Foundation and was held at the Hotel Real Intercontinental.

The winners of the awards in many cases were persons who had an environmental dimension to their operation.

Recognized by the Banco Nacional's Banca de Desarrollo were:

Marlene Contreras Medoza, who is keeping folklore alive in Guanacaste. She operates Turicultura Flor de Caña S.A., which provides Costa Rican dancers and music to hotels, tour agencies and other firms.

Rosa Mayorga Mora, who runs Confecciones Rosy in Los Guidos, Desamparados. Her firm designs and makes clothing for children such as pajamas and blouses.

José Rojas Camacho, who operates an organic farm in La Legua de Aserrí. The family has seven hectares, about 18
 acres, in which they grow coffee, fruits and trout.

Ericka Hidalgo Jiménez, who operates Mariposario Sueka in La Rita de Pococí. She sells butterflies and their pupas in Costa Rica and for export. She also sells her butterflies to tourists who come on cruise ships to Limón from October to March each year.

Elizabeth Chaves Saborío has eight acres in Zapotal de San Ramón where she produces milk and raises pigs, chickens and tilapia. She also uses a biodigester to produce fertilizer and engages in agrotourism.

Juan Bosco Leiva Ureña of Copey de Santa Marta de Dota, where in his farm La Florida he produces raspberries and avocados. He also has goats and sheep and a laboratory for the production of fungus and microorganisms to control plant diseases and for creating fertilizer.

Roger Ulate Araya, whose family for more than 20 years has operated a retail outlet known as Los Colochos in Los Guidos. He has installed a computer program that can keep track of his inventory with bar codes.


Richard Nixon lives again at the Centro Cultural and Met
It seems my nubilous siesta has come to an end.  The sun has made itself at home in Costa Rica, tourist buses are filling up and happenings are happening.  With the change, my two favorite ways to enjoy life are back in action.

There always seems to be something musical or theatrical to enjoy on weekends and last Saturday two other opera buffs and I began with the opera, “Nixon in China” at the Centro Cultural.  It was shown at the Met earlier this month, and usually we can watch it “live” via satellite, but due to transmission problems, we watched a delayed video.

With “Nixon in China,” John Adams, has created a modern opera unlike any opera I have ever seen or heard before.  After I became accustomed to the staccato pattern of the music, I was enthralled, captivated and blown away.  It was very long – three acts – and nearly four hours including intermissions and I would have been happy with just the second act, which includes a ballet, based upon the revolution in China, but the entire opera was an experience to remember.

Sunday, a visiting friend, Sherry, and I attended the matinee performance of “Steel Magnolias,” at the Teatro Laurence Olivier. Young new talents are joining The Little Theatre Group, and they certainly added to this play.  Judy Ford, who played Clairee, the buoyant widow of the former mayor, was right on point with her quips and light heartedness.  But it was two long timers who, for me, gave stellar performances.  Susan Liang, as M’Lynn, Shelby’s mother, brought me to tears, and Lisa DeFuso reflected perfectly my grumpy— but loveable — side.  I have worked with them both and enjoy everything they have done. They just get better.  I also must mention the direction of Caroline Kennedy, who skillfully moved and paced her actresses.

It always amazes me what the designers do with such a small stage.  This set was especially impressive.

You still have time to see the play as it runs this weekend. For Little Theatre reservations, call: 8858-1446. “Nixon in China,” is over, but the opera season has begun, so you can call the Centro Cultural at 2207-7554 for more information.
Butterfly in the City
 
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

Jo Stuart

Just as good as enjoying fine performances and experiencing something new is getting together with old friends and making new ones. Good food, good friends and good conversation, to my mind, are hard to beat.  Costa Rica is an ideal place to find all of these for an expat.  We are self-selecting in that we chose to live in Costa Rica in the first place. The expats make up a number of very different interest communities, of course, and perhaps it is just the ambiance of Costa Rica, but it is easy to keep meeting new people who are interested and working for the things I favor, like peace, recycling, conservation, a frugal healthy life, peace (oh, did I say peace already?), less a consumer, more a doer, and trying hard to reduce our footprints on this planet.  But sometimes, friends move on, and dear friend Nicole is leaving, so there was a party for her and that’s where I once again enjoyed good food, good conversation and met some new friends, both Tico and expat, most of whom are actively doing something for Costa Rica and the planet.

Some time ago I wrote about two chemicals the body secretes under different circumstances.  Phenylethylamine (PEA) makes us feel euphoric, positive and energized. A form of it is used in antidepressants. It is also present in chocolate.  When we have new experiences, new thrills, or fall in love, we produce this chemical in the brain and nerve cells.
 
Another group of chemicals, the endorphins, take over under very different circumstances.  Endorphins are powerful pain relievers and are responsible for the good feelings and sense of calm that come from oft-shared experiences with friends, feelings of empathy, and the comfort of familiarity. Both chemicals are addicting, but we don’t have to buy them. We can produce them ourselves just by doing things that we enjoy.  How non- consuming, peaceful and healthy is that!


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 25, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 40


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More opinions from our readers: Warming, plates, DVDs

Scientific case for warming
is not a popularity contest

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

To me, many of the recent letters to A.M. Costa Rica are indicative of:

[a] right wing political and/or religious conviction rather than thoughtful analysis of valid science;

[b] incognizant, or ignorant, or just resistant to the hundreds of verifiable indicators of global climate change;

[c] wishful thinking of the world as it SHOULD be.

If my opinion is offensive to you, re-read "The Emperor's New Clothes."

There is absolutely no question of global warming currently taking place. It began coincident with the advent of high-carbon coal and petroleum in the period called the Industrial Revolution around 1800.  Because coal and oil represent billions of tons of fossilized plant and animal life, it is not surprising that all that carbon, released into the atmosphere by burning, is raising carbon dioxide levels.

The CO2 levels are 390+ ppm now, as opposed to 270 ppm in 1800.  In the 1,000 years before that, the amount varied ONLY from 270 to 290 ppm. This is indisputable, based on analysis of air bubbles in Greenland ice cores. The best scenarios suggest that in the lifetime of our grandchildren, the CO2 level will rise to 500 ppm [if we're lucky, that is - could go higher if our heads remain in the sand]. There is only minor disagreement as to whether humans are the cause of this 40+ percent increase in 2+ centuries. 

Sure, the earth has been much warmer in the past — the "Great Eocene Warming" for example.  But it took several million years to get there.   What are the planetary consequences when a comparable warming takes place in 1/10,000th of that time?  The kind and impact of those consequences are where much of the controversy comes in.  In the global carbon cycle, the rising level of atmospheric CO2 and its human origins are about the only two things that are known with a high degree of certainty. 

And the rate of injection of CO2 into the atmosphere is increasing - it was increasing at ~1 percent per year in 1970-90. In recent years it is increasing at ~2.5 percent per year. The total CO2 increase in just the last 11 years is MORE THAN double that for the entire century of 1800 to 1900.  Indisputable.
 
"97 percent of climatologists say global warming is occurring and caused by humans" The reality of global change is not related to voting, nor is it a popularity contest.  Climatologists and earth and ocean scientists are following this planetary change [I am one] and [though scientists, as a whole, are doing poorly at communicating their science to the general pubic] we follow with considerable alarm.  The climate change deniers talk of scientific conspiracies to promote warming fear to increase research, but this is paranoid nonsense.

To me, there are greater problems than CO2, though CO2 plays a role.  The present increase in temperature is causing increased thawing of millions of square miles of frozen tundra and permafrost areas across the high latitudes, especially Canada and Siberia.  This is allowing microbial metabolism to degrade thousands of years of frozen vegetation, resulting in the release of methane. Why important? Methane is 26 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than CO2.  Figure it out.  Also, we see some cognoscenti saying "not to worry, the oceans will take up excess CO2."

Well, here's the problem: [1] as the oceans warm (currently in progress), CO2 is less soluble, so less will be taken up as things warm up further; [2] CO2 in water forms carbonic acid, lowering the pH so that things like corals, shellfish and many other critters will struggle to survive or die off altogether.  Not to mention that sea levels will surely rise higher [as they are now unequivocally doing] simply because warmer water is less dense and will expand. To where will it expand? Why, over the shore of course! The only places where this will not happen is due to something called isostatic rebound [can't go into it here].

Water vapor? Sure it's a greenhouse gas — and far exceeds CO2 in amount and impact.  But the additional warming due to our CO2 input will increase global evaporation from the oceans (71 percent of the earth's surface), thus increasing water vapor, thus leading to.....more warming — in a situation of positive feedback loops. Some modelers tell us we are closely approaching a tipping point: things will get much worse no matter what we choose to do, if a critical threshold is reached. I don't always trust modelers, but it's a scenario worth examining closely.

Finally in my rant, people in the northern U.S. say that this past winter is proof that global warming is a hoax. Politicians are particularly susceptible to this absurdity. Somehow, people have trouble distinguishing between weather and climate, and in distinguishing between their hometown [or country] and the rest of the world.  Most climate models [some are better than others] predict that changes in temperature and precipitation will be highly uneven around the planet.

Recent events suggest there really is something to this: the crippling drought in Russia resulting in wheat crop failure; the droughts and fires in Australia, followed by the worst floods in centuries — there are dozens of other examples, many more than just coincidence or weather variations  would allow.  As these events increase in frequency in Third World countries, you can bet that political and social unrest will follow — one reason why the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon have task forces trying to figure out what will happen in a warmer world. Poorer countries in Africa and south Asia are particularly vulnerable.

No one will change their mind about climate change after reading anything in A.M. Costa Rica — this is not a discussion  group for the details of the topic.  But it makes my head hurt to read letters by people who clearly have no familiarity with the possible consequences to our planet of changes in ENSO, NAO, ITCZ, PDO, and other global phenomena defined by their acronyms, as a result of climate modification.  As I tell my students in my Global Change in the Marine Environment class, in Pogo's words, "We have met the enemy and he is us".

(I see Instituto Meteorológico Nacional is predicting a much hotter March and April for Costa Rica.  Hmmmm.  I'm thinking northward shift of Intertropical Convergence Zone, especially. if the green season comes early.)

Paul E. Hargraves
Emeritus professor of oceanography, University of Rhode Island,
Affiliate professor, Harbor Branch Ocean Institute, Florida Atlantic University
and research associate, Smithsonian Marine Station.
There is a cheaper way
to fix faded license plates

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I can relate to the poor woman who was out around $600 because her license plates were faded. I had the same problem with my plates, however my cost was considerably less. Here is how she could have saved her money:

She should have taken her car in early in the month. My car is due for inspections in May. Last year, I brought it in during the first week and failed to pass because my plates were badly faded. I took my car to the Registro and removed the plates in the parking lot. The clerk put in an order for new plates, and I returned the faded ones to my car.

My new plates arrived in less than a week and because I still had most of May left, I was able to drive with the faded ones. I took my car back to Riteve and it passed; no need to rent a car. I advise everyone to take their vehicle in for inspection early in their inspection month. That way you can address any problems and keep driving your own vehicle.

Frank Muschal
San Isidro del General


Intellectual property actions
are not very impressive

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thursday you had an article titled "Recording industry wants to shame Costa Rica."

This is a joke, enforcement wise.  I am deeply into computer security.  I wanted to test a method of copying DVDs, something that irritates the Motion Picture Association of America, but is quite legal for backing up your DVD, for having a DVD in a beach home and a copy at your city home, etc.  Just so long as you can only see ONE at a time.  You may NOT loan, or sell a copy — if you can also view the original.

Long long ago the U.S.A. courts said you CAN LEGALLY copy, say, an album you listen to at home, to cassette so you can hear YOUR ALBUM in your car - it is somewhat illegal for somebody in your house to play the album at the same time!  This didn't upset the Recording Industry Association of America too much because each analog copy is worse than where it came from, digital copies are perfect.  But the courts said nothing about "It's OK if it sounds bad."

Back to my test - I COULD NOT CRACK the copy protection code from a rented movie.  I am very good at cracking low level codes like the "CSS" code that protects DVDs.  Why couldn't I crack it?  Because someone had already done it!  Each and every DVD I rented was pre-cracked, therefore proving that ALL for-rent DVDs are illegal copies — every one I could find.  Enforcement would be easy, no undercover work needed.  It is politics — DVD rental stores do not want to pay for legit copies — and there are a lot of them.  Plus the dumb MPAA puts in "region codes" so they can decide when and where to release their movies — contrary to the TLC.

So region codes are removed (Yea!) along with copy protection (Yea!) so that commercial copies can be made (Boo!). I never did test my "cracking" code till Mom-in-law sent us a present, that happened to be a legit DVD purchased in the USA.

[I know that they passed the Digital Millennium Act, a ball of stupidity that contradicts logic and past laws.]
This one kinda says it is illegal if it sounds TOO good.

There is a well known corner in Alajuela where you have "Pelicolas, Musica, DVDs" shoved in you face.  The only police activity I see is that the police don't let vendors completely block the sidewalk with their "portable stores."

So, the "International Intellectual Property Alliance" is just making a show for their members (MPAA. RIAA, BMC etc) whining about some mystery sales (and rentals) going on in Costa Rica.  They also seem to think that the way to control this is to limit blank DVDs, or DVD burners.  That is just like outlawing cars to stop bank robberies.  We have a (U.S.A.) right to copy our own DVDs - so long as only one copy at a time is viewed.  These lazy "Suits and Ties" should stop with the press releases and walk into a few rental outlets.  But I don't think they will, they prefer to walk the carpeted halls of Congress getting a tax on blanks, a large portion of which would go into their pockets — as "compensation".  Boo!  Note I said U.S.A. right. I know very little Costa Rican law.

*
This "letter to the editor" remains the property of the author.  Author licenses editor to print in one issue of A.M. COSTARICA and further licenses readers of said "paper" to read ONE TIME, and not make any copies, whether for forwarding, archival purposes, or just to be mean.  By clicking your browser to this page of today's issue you have entered into a legally binding agreement with author.
(That's a joke folks)

Charlie Merritt
San Isidro de Alajuela

News note
Climategate affected belief
of weathercasters, study says


By the George Mason University news staff

A new paper by George Mason University researchers shows that "Climategate" —the unauthorized release in late 2009 of stolen e-mails between climate scientists in the U.S. and United Kingdom — undermined belief in global warming and possibly also trust in climate scientists among TV meteorologists in the United States, at least temporarily.

In the largest and most representative survey of television weathercasters to date, George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication and Center for Social Science Research asked these meteorologists early in 2010, when news stories about the climate e-mails were breaking, several questions about their awareness of the issue, attention to the story and impact of the story on their beliefs about climate change.

Among the respondents who indicated that they had followed the story, 42 percent indicated the story made them somewhat or much more skeptical that global warming is occurring.  These results stand in stark contrast to the findings of several independent investigations of the e-mails, conducted later, that concluded no scientific misconduct had occurred and nothing in the e-mails should cause doubts about the fact which show that global warming is occurring. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 25, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 40

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Genetically modified corn
worries snack food firms


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire servcies

A new type of genetically-modified maize intended for ethanol biofuel production has won approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The biofuels industry welcomes this new genetically modified maize, created by the agriculture giant Syngenta. But opposition is coming from an unusual source — snack food makers.

Maize-based snacks are a $6 billion business in the U.S. And the snack industry says the crunch of their chips is threatened by an enzyme genetically engineered into Syngenta's new maize.

The enzyme, known as alpha amylase, breaks down starch into sugar, which is then fermented into ethanol.

According to Syngenta, having the enzyme built into the maize will help produce more ethanol while consuming less water and energy.

A 2007 U.S. law requiring gasoline to be blended with renewable fuels has driven up demand for ethanol. This year, 40 percent of the U.S. maize crop went to ethanol production.

But what is good for producing ethanol is not good for everyone.

"We don't produce ethanol. We produce food products," says Mary Waters, president of the North American Millers Association, one of five major food industry groups that are, in their words, deeply disappointed with Agriculture Department's decision to approve the crop without restrictions.

They are not worried about food safety. In a joint statement, they noted they have supported other genetically-engineered crops.

The worry, Waters says, is that Syngenta's starch-busting maize could turn cereal soggy, snack chips crumbly or hurt other processed foods if even a tiny amount ends up in the human food chain.

"It would only take one kernel in 10,000 to affect food processing," she said.

And it would not be the first time a genetically-modified product wound up where it did not belong. Unapproved genteically modified maize turned up in the food supply in 2001, as did unapproved rice in 2006. Estimates vary widely, but the financial losses from these contamination cases ran into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The contaminated maize did not cause health problems. "But it did cause major disruptions in the availability of food grade," says Jim McCarthy, president of the Snack Food Association. "So, we do think this will have a major impact and we're urging Syngenta to rethink this."

"I don't really believe that there's much probability that there's going to be any kind of major issue with misdirection of the grain," Syngenta's Jack Bernens says.

Bernens says the company will only sell the seeds to farmers who will deliver the crop to nearby ethanol plants. And they will not sell seed near where food facilities get their maize.

Besides, Bernens says, the chance that a few stray kernels would create big problems is overblown. He says the enzyme is most active at specific conditions of temperature, moisture and alkalinity that are different from most food processing.

"We've done a lot of work in that area," he says, "and for the most part, the processes don't come together under those conditions that would equal the most activity."

The Snack Food Association's Jim McCarthy would like to see that research, but he says Syngenta won't share the data without strict conditions.

"There have been some very restrictive allocations of data to this point," he says. "And that's one of the major concerns we have."

Syngenta originally offered the trade groups access to their evidence, but only if they backed the company's application to the Agriculture Department for approval. The trade groups rejected that offer. Then Syngenta said they could have the data and samples to test, but only if they signed a confidentiality agreement.

The company says that's standard business practice to protect trade secrets.

Syngenta notes that it has provided access to information to some in the industry who did sign confidentiality agreements. And the company is setting up an advisory council with members across the industry to resolve any contentious issues.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 25, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 40

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U.N. report warns of threats
to world's coral reefs


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

An estimated 75 per cent of the world’s coral reefs are threatened by local human activity, including over-fishing, coastal development and pollution, and global pressures such as climate change, warming seas and rising ocean acidification, according to a United Nations-backed report unveiled Thursday

“Reefs at Risk Revisited,” says that if the threats to the reefs are not dealt with, more than 90 per cent of them will be threatened by 2030 and nearly all reefs will be at risk by 2050.

Global pressures are leading to coral bleaching from rising sea temperatures and increasing ocean acidification from carbon dioxide pollution, according to the assessment of threat to coral reefs by the World Resources Institute, the Nature Conservancy, the WorldFish Center, the International Coral Reef Action Network, the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre of the U.N. Environment Programme,  along with a network of more than 25 organizations.

“This report serves as a wake-up call for policy-makers, business leaders, ocean managers and others about the urgent need for greater protection for coral reefs,” said Jane Lubchenco, undersecretary of Commerce for oceans and atmosphere and administrator of the U.S. National Oceans and Atmospheric Administration.

“As the report makes clear, local and global threats, including climate change, are already having significant impacts on coral reefs, putting the future of these beautiful and valuable ecosystems at risk,” she added.

According to Lauretta Burke, senior associate at the World Resources Institute and a lead author of the report, coral reefs are valuable resources for millions of people worldwide.

“Despite the dire situation for many reefs, there is reason for hope,” she said. “Reefs are resilient, and by reducing the local pressures we can buy time as we find global solutions to preserve reefs for future generations.”

The report includes multiple recommendations to better protect and manage reefs, including through marine protected areas.  The analysis shows that more than one-quarter of reefs are already encompassed in a range of parks and reserves, more than any other marine habitat.  However, only 6 per cent of reefs are in protected areas that are effectively managed.

“Well-managed marine protected areas are one of the best tools to safeguard reefs,” said Mark Spalding, senior marine scientist at the Nature Conservancy and one of the authors.

“At their core, reefs are about people as well as nature: ensuring stable food supplies, promoting recovery from coral bleaching, and acting as a magnet for tourist dollars. We need to apply the knowledge we have to shore up existing protected areas, as well as to designate new sites where threats are highest, such as the populous hearts of the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, East Africa and the Middle East,” he added.

According to the report, more than 275 million people live in the direct vicinity of coral reefs. In more than 100 countries and territories, coral reefs protect 150,000 kilometres of shorelines, helping defend coastal communities and infrastructure against storms and erosion.

The report identifies the 27 nations most socially and economically vulnerable to coral reef degradation and loss. Among these, the nine most vulnerable countries are Haiti, Grenada, Philippines, Comoros, Vanuatu, Tanzania, Kiribati, Fiji and Indonesia.





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