This short series of reports includes news on helping the rural disabled, linking obesity and television, and seed control.
Recent studies in Indonesia have added what the World Development Forum calls a "mind boggling" dimension to the use of vitamin A in treating Third World children. Large doses of the vitamin, administered only twice a year — at a cost of 35 cents per dose — to 30,000 children between the ages of one and six, reduced the mortality rate among those youngsters by 35%.
When placed in a solution of sugar, salt, and water, wheat seeds that are high in protein float to the surface. In a new (and simplified) method of protein analysis, the USDA soaks seeds in freezing water for nine to ten days (which allows their protein to absorb five times as much water as their starch does) and then immerses them in a solution of 21% sugar, 24% salt, and 55% water. The seeds highest in protein — those that have absorbed the most water — float to the top. USDA researchers say the technique reveals which seeds genetically favor a higher protein level; such seeds could be chosen for planting by developing countries in order to improve the nutritional value of bread and other foods made from locally grown grains.
For the estimated 8.5 million disabled Americans living in rural areas, everyday facets of country life can be challenging (and lonely) tasks. So Rural Rehabilitation Technologies Database, a project of the University of North Dakota, is putting together a catalog aimed at helping such people. And while the publication will include commercial products designed for handicapped individuals, its compilers, recognizing the resourceful nature of country dwellers, have gotten many of the ideas, techniques, and equipment designs from the rural disabled themselves. Submissions are no longer being accepted for the catalog scheduled to come out later this year, but the folks at Database tell us they're hoping to put out more editions, so your ideas are still welcome. To request a submission form (which includes a section to fill out if you wish to protect your patent rights) or to be put on the project's mailing list, write to Rural Rehabilitation Technologies Database, Medical Center Rehabilitation Hospital, Grand Forks, ND.
Experts are predicting abundant profits for growers smart enough to cash in on the new demand for specialty vegetables. Agricultural economists at Cornell University report a "tremendous upsurge in the demand for fresh vegetables over the past ten years," but note that farmers raising "traditional" crops are being left behind by those marketing such gourmet treats as endive, chicory, leeks, and miniature vegetables. Commercial growers are discovering that herbs, as well as oriental and other "ethnic" vegetables, are especially hot sellers now. Home gardeners, too, may be pleasantly surprised by how easily such exotics can be raised in backyard plots.
Just in case you need one more good reason to cut down on your family's daily intake of television, now there's evidence TV may be fattening. The Harvard Medical School Health Letter reports that national data collected in the 1960s and recently reanalyzed shows that in a sample of more than 11,000 youngsters, the ones who watched the most television were the ones most likely to be obese. And it wasn't that already overweight children were using TV-viewing as an escape from social situations; the newsletter points out that the obese children in the study spent as much time with friends as the non-obese children did. Another extended study showed that the more television normal-weight children watched, the more likely they were to be overweight a few years later. No one knows exactly why TV is fattening, but the most likely explanation is that children plopped in front of television sets are simply not getting enough exercise.
Readers who own mail-order businesses will want to keep an eye on a new piece of mail-order sales tax legislation (H.R. 3549) that at press time (mid-January) was pending before the House Judiciary Committee. There is talk that the bill would require anyone selling merchandise or services by mail to register in, and collect sales tax for, every state they sell to. Sponsors of the regulation claim that state governments miss out on millions of dollars annually from mail-order sales. However, opponents point out that the expense and paperwork would put many small mail-order companies out of business. To find out the current status of the bill, write to Peter Rodino, Chairman, House Judiciary Committee, Washington, DC. Further information may be obtained from Direct Marketing Association, Washington, DC.
The value of all seed planted by farmers worldwide is currently in excess of $50 billion. Some multinational corporations that met in Geneva last year are concerned because they aren't getting a big enough piece of the pie. Since many farmers still grow their own seed, companies and organizations supply only 63% of what is planted. The multinationals are looking ahead to the year 2000 when, according to a report from the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), approximately 12 global companies are expected to dominate the seed market. By then, the value of all seeds incorporating "biotech improvements" is expected to increase from $8 million at present to $6.8 billion.