By EMMA ROSS, AP Medical Writer
EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) - Modern Europeans, and maybe
populations in other parts of the world, are descended from no more than a few hundred Africans who left their homeland as recently as 25,000 years ago, new research suggests.
The findings, reported at the start of a conference of the Human Genome Organization, the international collaboration researching the genetic makeup of the human race, provide the first estimate of how many people founded Europe.
They are also a blow to the theory that modern humans evolved simultaneously in Africa, Europe and Asia from multiple early humans.
"I think this certainly rules that out, at least in respect to Europe,'' said study leader Eric Lander, director of the Whitehead institute/Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Genome Research. "We're not sure whether this was just the founding of Europe or whether, in fact, this small bottleneck represents all the people leaving Africa.''
Lander's study involved comparing about 300 chromosomes from people in Sweden, central Europe and Nigeria. The differences in the genetic pattern between the European and African chromosomes revealed how long ago Europeans left Africa and about how many there must have been.
The pattern showed that the Europeans were descended from fewer ancestors than the Africans - an evolutionary bottleneck, Lander said.
"It's hundreds, not thousands,'' Lander said. The Nigerian chromosomes had been well shuffled around, which indicates a wide gene pool and a long breeding history, while the European chromosomes had long stretches of unshuffled genetic material, indicating a much smaller number of chromosome types entering the mix.
Eddy Rubin, a scientist who was not involved in the
study, said he thinks the findings are accurate. 'The evidence is overwhelming that present-day Europeans come from a
very small group that stayed small for a while, then expanded,'' said Rubin, head of the human genome center at the Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.
Lander said the findings had much broader applications. "We are going to be able to do this throughout much of the rest of the world. The data will be able to rule it in or out for the other populations very quickly,'' Lander said. "We're still in the early days for this, but it is remarkable how much the human chromosomes can be read as a history book,'' he continued. "We are going to be able to say how populations are related to each other, when people arrived there and how many people likely arrived
in different places.''
The human race numbers 6 billion people today, but it largely has the genetic variation of a population of a few tens of thousands, Lander said. "We really are a tiny species grown large in the blink of an eye,'' he said.
> > Copyright 2001 Yahoo! Inc., and The Associated Press
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USA: Potential health threat in drug resistant bacteria in
24 May 2001
Source: just-food.com editorial team
Beef and poultry products sold to US consumers contain relatively high levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to a preliminary survey conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Scientists believe that the spread of such drug-resistant bacteria could pose a major health threat both with the US and across the globe by breeding resistance to a wide range of helpful drugs.
The study, which analysed samples of meat from several supermarkets in the Washington DC area, found that strains of the Enterococcus family of bacteria in the meat showed "fairly substantial amounts of resistance to a number of drugs."
These types of bacteria are usually harmless in humans, but for scientists they act as a useful indicator of drug resistance. Twenty-nine drugs were tested in all.
While 67% of the chicken samples and 66% of the beef samples gathered showed up the Enterococci bacteria, it was only found in 34% of the turkey samples. The researchers found however that the bacterial strains in the poultry products tended to be "much more resistant to the antibiotics," than those in red meat.
Presenting the report to the annual meeting for the American Society for Microbiology on Tuesday, FDA microbiologist Dr David Wagner stressed that while the results needed further investigation, because the tests only used a relatively small sample, they could form a "background" to help the FDA decide "whether or not [...] to take an intervention strategy" with reference to the amount or types of drugs used in meat production in the US.
"There is a movement afoot to try and develop a national program to try and control antimicrobial resistance and I think this could very well be put in as part of that," he added.
Antibiotics are routinely added to livestock feed because they boost animals' growth rates.
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USA: 'Gene Giants' criticized at world ag forum
23 May 2001
By Carey Gillam
ST. LOUIS, Mo., May 22 (Reuters) - Too much power in the hands of just a few biotech giants is undermining the ability of farmers to fight hunger and poverty in developing countries, an agricultural research expert said on Tuesday.
"A steadily shrinking number of companies are gaining unprecedented control over all aspects of commercial food, farming and health," said Rural Advancement Foundation International research director Hope Shand, referring to companies including St. Louis, Missouri-based Monsanto Co. , which she said dominated the genetically modified (GM) seed market.
Monsanto GM seeds account for 94 percent of the total area planted in commercial transgenic crops, or crops that have been genetically modified, worldwide, she said.
Rounding out Shand's list of so-called gene giants are DuPont Co. , Syngenta Crop Protection Inc. , Aventis CropScience and Dow AgroSciences LLC .
Shand spoke to agricultural leaders on the third day of the World Agricultural Forum's World Congress in St. Louis.
She said a push by the big biotech agricultural firms for greater control of their GM seed creations must be combated if world hunger and poverty problems are to be addressed.
Many of the companies have argued they are reluctant to share their crop-enhancing technologies with poor countries because lax enforcement of patents can lead to exploitation of the companies' intellectual property.
Shand, however, disputed that notion.
"There is little or no empirical evidence to support these claims," she said.
Shand said the companies' control of patented genes, traits and research tools was creating significant legal barriers that hurt public-sector and small-company efforts to advance accessible and affordable technologies to the countries that most need them.
In her presentation Tuesday, Shand called on biotech companies to become more "people-centered," and less "profit-centered."
"Neglect of the public good is inevitable if the research agenda is based on pursuit of corporate profits instead of meeting human needs."
Monsanto said last August it would provide royalty-free licenses for all of its gene technologies to help further develop "golden rice," genetically engineered to provide nutritional benefits to those suffering from vitamin A deficiency-related diseases, including irreversible blindness in children.
Shand took issue with programs in which biotech firms require farmers using GM seeds to buy new seed every year, prohibiting them from saving seed from the crops they harvest, a traditional practice in world farming communities.
"Over 1.4 billion people, primarily poor farmers, depend on farm-saved seed as their primary seed source," she said. "Farmers have been selecting seeds and adapting them for local use for over 200 generations. It is the key to maintaining and improving the world's food supply."
"The issue is control," she said. "The gene giants are using patented GM seeds to dictate how farmers will farm and under what conditions."
Many developing nations are under pressure to adopt intellectual property rights. Indeed, the U.S. government proposed stronger patent protection in the proposed Free Trade Agreement of the Americas.
The issue will take center stage next month when the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations holds a negotiating session on plant genetic resources in Rome, to try to insure that genetic crop resources are accessible
through a benefit-sharing plan.
(C) Reuters Limited 2001.
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Ghana Ratifies African Union
May 21, 2001
Ghana on Monday deposited its instrument of ratification of the
constitutive act of the African Union, becoming the 37th OAU member
state to do so.
The act enters into force Saturday, 30 days after Nigeria deposited
its own documents with the OAU secretary general Salim Ahmed Salim on
26 April in Abuja.
Two thirds of the 53 OAU member states were required to deposit these
documents for the act to enter into force.
Ghana's instrument of ratification was deposited with OAU assistant
secretary general responsible for policy and programme co-ordination
department, Mahamat Habib Doutoum.
Speaking during the occasion, the Ghanaian Charge d'affaires in Addis
Ababa, Kwame Asamoah Tenkorang stated that as founding member of the
continental organisation, his country could not but embark "on this
quest of Africa for great unity and solidarity."
He recalled his country's commitment to the ideal of African Unity
since Kwame Nkrumah "made it possible today for Ghana to surrender
part of its sovereignty in the pursuit of continental unity."
On his part, Doutoum said that Ghana's deposition of the ratification
instrument was another testimony of its commitment to the ultimate
objective of the continental organisation.
"Ghana had always played a critical role in the affairs of our
continent," an OAU statement quoted him as saying.
PanAfrican News Agency
May 21, 2001
Addis Ababa / ETHIOPIA
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The Black World Today
May 2, 2001
The Need For Unity In The Reparations Movement
By Ron Daniels
As the National Coalition for Reparations for Blacks in
America (N'COBRA) approaches its 12th Annual Convention in
Baton Rouge, Louisiana in mid-June, the movement to secure
restitution for government sanctioned enslavement of
Africans in the United States has never been more vibrant.
No organization has been more persistent than N'COBRA in
steadfastly articulating the case for reparations and
educating and organizing to build a massive base for the
cause. N'COBRA has a formidable ally in the Congress in the
person of John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member of the House
Each year Congressman Conyers introduces HR-40, a bill that
would create a presidential commission to study the impact
of slavery on Africans in America and recommend remedies.
Over the past decade a number of civil rights/human rights
organizations and city councils in several cities have
adopted resolutions supporting the Conyers' "reparations"
bill and/or have endorsed reparations outright, thereby
adding legitimacy to and building momentum for the cause.
In the most recent period, Randall Robinson's remarkable
book, The Debt, has been extremely influential in gaining
greater exposure for the idea of reparations and widening
the base of support for the issue. Adding his voice to a
growing list of scholars, activists and political leaders
who have embraced reparations, Robinson's powerful book has
catapulted him into the forefront of the leadership of the
movement for reparations.
And, to reiterate, the movement is steadily growing.
Minister Silas Muhammad, leader of a Black Muslim
organization has presented thousands of petitions to the
United Nations demanding that the U.S. government pay
reparations. Alder Woman Dorothy Tillman of Chicago recently
held a reparations convention that was attended by scores of
elected officials, religious leaders, scholars and
activists. As an outgrowth of the convention, former talk
show host Bob Law is making reparations a major part of his
work. Dr. Claud Anderson, President of the Harvest
Institute, has a popular educational video entitled,
"Reparations Now or Never."
Veteran political activist and city council candidate
Charles Barron is pressing the New York City Council to pass
a Queen Mother Moore Reparations Bill that would provide
restitution to the Black community for that city's past
sanction and exploitation of slavery. The Black Radical
Congress has adopted reparations as a priority and is
currently planning a national conference this summer in New
I recently met with Regent Adelaide Sanford, Betty Dopson
and Gil Noble to discuss what role the New York based Board
of Education for People of African Ancestry might play in
expanding and the strengthening the movement for
reparations. Minister Louis Farrakhan has been a consistent
voice advocating reparations. And, in the past year, a group
of prominent attorneys, including Charles Ogeltree, Johnnie
Cochran and Willie Gary, obstensibly inspired by Randall
Robinson's book, have joined the fray and pledged to work on
the legal front to win reparations.
I cannot recall a period in my lifetime where there have
been so many powerful voices advocating for reparations.
Never in recent history have Africans in America had such an
opportunity to make enormous strides towards achieving the
long sought goal of winning restitution for the holocaust of
enslavement. Now that the struggle for reparation is gaining
ground, however, there is also a danger that the movement
could be undermined by a lack of coordination and disunity
among the myriad of activists, organizations and prominent
leaders now engaged in the struggle.
For example, N'COBRA has been working on a reparations
lawsuit for nearly three years, painstakingly gathering
evidence and seeking input from a broad range of lawyers,
scholars and activists about how best to craft litigation.
Working closely with Randall Robinson, the group of
prominent lawyers mentioned above has also formed a legal
task force with the objective of filing a lawsuit. There is
some concern among longtime proponents of reparations that
two groups filing two different lawsuits may be confusing
and counter-productive. In addition, there is concern that
this group of "prominent" leaders may be moving to co-opt
the movement by marginalizing and circumventing N'COBRA.
As a stanch proponent of reparations, it is my hope that
everyone engaged in this critical work will agree to forge a
united front for reparations. There is an urgent need to
devise a comprehensive plan and strategy to decisively move
forward in this period. Heroic figures like Queen Mother
Moore labored too long and too hard, when many who now
embrace reparations were on the sidelines, to have the
movement's momentum muted by internal tensions, conflicts
and disunity. There is no doubt that the work Randall
Robinson is doing as a consequence of the popularity of his
book is dramatically expanding the constituency for
reparations. However, the work of N'COBRA in plowing up the
soil and creating a potentially receptive audience for
reparations must not be denied or overlooked now that
reparations is increasingly en vogue. We need a united front
for reparations, a national campaign to promote the cause
and operational unity around an agreed upon division of
labor and responsibility.
Key organizations and leaders in the movement for
reparations must come together as mature Africans to foster
greater unity, cooperation and action towards the
achievement of a common goal for the common good. We dare
not lose the potential of the moment. For the sake of our
ancestors, this and future generations, I hope this appeal
does not fall on deaf ears.
Ron Daniels can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Copyright (c) 2001 The Black World Today. All Rights Reserved.
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