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NEWS RELEASE

July 2002


AGRICULTURE, VETERINARY MEDICINE AND NATURAL RESOURCES NEWS

SCIENTISTS MONITOR IOWA MOSQUITOES AS WEST NILE VIRUS ADVANCES
The West Nile virus first appeared in Iowa about a year ago. Wayne Rowley, Iowa State University entomologist, said there's a small army of people in the state monitoring the virus' invasion. In serious cases, the virus infections can cause fatal encephalitis in humans and horses, as well as mortality in certain domestic and wild birds. The virus is carried by mosquitoes and has been found in dead crows and blue jays most recently in Black Hawk and Story counties in addition to Scott, Clinton, Jones, Johnson and Lynn counties. Rowley, who is monitoring the state's mosquito population, said birds get the virus from the Northern House mosquito that thrives in standing water. That mosquito doesn't transmit the disease to people, but other species do. The best defense against the virus is to avoid getting bit. Rowley advises people to cover up or stay inside when mosquitoes are out. A repellent that contains at least 15 to 30 percent DEET is enough to keep mosquitoes away. It shouldn't be used on children under two years of age, however. Contact Rowley, (515) 294-1573; or Barb McManus, Ag Communications, (515) 294-0707.

ISU CHEMIST SEEKS NEW WAYS TO PRODUCE MATERIALS FROM CORN
Starch is a widely used carbohydrate product that has an assortment of applications, ranging from paper and textile production to the production of food gelation agents. More than 20 million tons of starch are isolated from corn and other plants each year for industrial and commercial uses, says Nicola Pohl, an Iowa State University assistant professor of chemistry and a researcher with the Center for Crops Utilization. Pohl recently received a $200,000, five-year grant to discover new ways to produce biomedical materials and pharmaceutical products based on the chemical structure of starch. "Ultimately, our goal is to produce these [new starch] materials from corn syrup or other cheap, biorenewable feedstocks, or perhaps directly in corn plants themselves," Pohl said. She and graduate students, Kwang-Seuk Ko and Corbin Zea, will be designing currently inaccessible starch variants that do not require time-consuming chemical modifications after harvesting and isolation. Pohl expects the new, modified starches and their derivatives could be used as components in drugs or perhaps in pill coatings in the pharmaceutical field. The research grant is from the Herman Frasch Foundation, a fund administered by the American Chemical Society. The Center for Crops Utilization is a center of ISU's Plant Sciences Institute, College of Agriculture and College of Family and Consumer Sciences. Contact Pohl, (515) 294-2339; or Bridget Bailey, News Service, (515) 294-6881.

HOW RICH-COUNTRY AG POLICIES AFFECT POOR-COUNTRY INCOMES
If the wealthiest nations abolished their trade-distorting agricultural policies, they would do far more to alleviate global poverty than the most ambitious direct aid programs could accomplish. This is the finding of a recent study by economists at the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD). CARD initiated a study to better understand the link between rich-country agricultural support and poor-country incomes. The analysis considered the removal of all agricultural protections in high-income countries, including export subsidies, tariffs and tariff rate quotas, as well as input and output subsidies. The results show that developing countries would gain about $26 billion per year at 1997 prices with the removal of these subsidies. Rising global prices would improve the incomes of farmers who have had no prior income support. In addition, rich country taxpayers would benefit, with lower taxpayer burden and lower consumer food costs. For more information, see the article, "Rich Countries, Poor Countries, and the Doha Round Trade Negotiations," in the Summer 2002 issue of the Iowa Ag Review, available on the Web at http://www.card.iastate.edu. Contact Sandy Clarke, CARD Communications, (515) 294-6257.

TWO REVOLUTIONS ARE UNDER WAY IN AGRICULTURE, LEOPOLD CENTER DIRECTOR SAYS
"It turns out there are two revolutions in agriculture currently taking place. The kind of food system we have in the future will depend on which revolution we choose." That's the scenario posed by Fred Kirschenmann, director of Iowa State University's Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, during a recent leadership conference in New York. The conference at the Gynwood Center, Cold Spring, N.Y., was part of the nonprofit group's new Smart Agriculture initiative, Connecting Communities, Farmers and Food. Kirschenmann's presentation, "A Revolution in Agriculture," describes a global retail food system in the hands of five or six firms, compared to a system in which the source of the food products can be traced to local farmers and processors. Kirschenmann's presentation is posted on the Glynwood Web site, http://www.glynwood.org (see Resource Center/articles). Contact Kirschenmann, leopold1@iastate.edu; or Laura Miller, Leopold Center Communications, (515) 294-5272.

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