Where Are We Heading?

After I took an Astronomy subject in high school, I was plagued with terrible questions about the earth, the sun, or any heavenly bodies. I think that’s normal. But I was also preoccupied whether someday in the future all inhabitants in the earth can cruise in the nearby planet (Mars, probably) and stay there for a week or two. I would love that.

I watched an episode in NASA channel entitled Destination Tomorrow. It was interesting because space scientists are working to investigate suitable landing sites in Mars that are scientifically interesting and potential for proofs of interest. NASA developed the MRO, or the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (I dunno if I got the words right but it sounded just like that) to look for potential landing sites in case there would be success of human flights at Mars in the near future.

The MRO has high resolution cameras to produce high profile detailed pictures which will be evaluated to search for potential sites. It has also telescopic cameras to capture the planet’s surface features by photographing the planet. In this way, the scientists can relay and send information by communication platform for robotic missions and about the weather patterns in Mars. In this way the space scientists can also look for water. By its self surface radar, they would know the weather patterns, and any detailed information to expand the knowledge about the planet.

MRO would took seven months to journey to Mars and 27 months to orbit it.


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I’m Out of Food!

I was walking in the street when I noticed a long queue of people waiting to buy at least three kilos of rice from the NFA. This is because the market price of the rice in the country nowadays has skyrocketed from 23Php to a painstaking 33Php. But the rice that is being sold in the NFA-accredited stores only costs 18Php, which is convenient to low-income families. Some people find this alarming, but others remained to be passive about it and say that the people are just in the state of ‘panic-buying’.

Hunger is apparently widespread in the country, and it is not only because we have problems in the supply aspects, but the growing demand for food is rapidly increasing each year because of the growing population. Thus, the problem is relative to other problems as well, which includes the employees demanding for a wage increase, transportation groups calling for fare hikes, and the mounting uneasy of the administration’s performance on alleviating poverty of the people.

But with the advent of the agribiotech research on Golden Rice, chances are big that this would alleviate hunger in the country, researchers said.

Golden Rice is one of the genetically modified crops that are in the research pipelines today, along with virus-resistant papaya, bt eggplant, and many more. It is GM rice engineered to produce pro vitamin A. Because it has a value added pro vitamin A, it is regarded as a cure for the Third World countries’s widespread deficiencies in vitamin A that would decrease the risks of blindness in children and other vitamin A related-deficiencies. When you think about it, it seems to be totally amazing, but some critics say the otherwise.

Issues raised by the GMO critics are mainly centered on safety issues of the said modified rice. And they also insisted that there are absolutely alternative and cheap medicines to combat vitamin A deficiencies. Furthermore, beta-carotene/pro vitamin A is consumed when Golden Rice is eaten, but it is a only a precursor for vitamin A, so therefore, in order to absorb vitamin A, one should also consume food that is rich in protein and fat, with which the low-income families couldn’t afford readily. What’s more, they also said that Golden Rice is like a Trojan horse, that if we learn to accept it, then it would be easy to accept other GM crops as well.

Another issue is also the capitalist control. Will other people tend to become richer than the other people? Is there a uniform sizes in the pie in terms of global distribution?

But the truth is, the technology behind the Golden Rice is given free of charge to subsistent farmers. And the issue of capitalist control is not possible because it would not be developed for and by an industry. But let’s just hope and be wary that the benefits of this would outweigh capitalist control and consumers would also benefit from the GM technology.

This is a great leap to limit the possible numbers of blind children and vitamin-A deficiency-related deaths, however, scientists and researchers should be certain of this technology before releasing it to the market. There is definitely a need to continuous monitoring and proper regulation for the introduction of this GM crop.

Presently, Golden Rice is still under rigorous research. IRRI and PhilRice are the two institutions that investigate this project as of the moment. It is said to be available in 2010.

By then, I hope I won’t see a long queue of people in the street squeezing themselves to buy rice.