Helping the Rural Disabled, TV Obesity, and Seed Control

article image
ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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.

A Simple Lifesaver

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%.

High Protein Wheat Rises to the Top

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.

Helping the Rural Disabled

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.

Gourmet Crops Are Where It’s At

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.

TV and Obesity

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.

Mail-Order Tax Alert

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.

Seed Control

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.