11 October, 2020
- Essay Test Series & QIP
- Leading the global fight against hunger (Social Issues)
- Genetic Scissors and rewriting the code of life (Science & Technology)
- Navy to hold PASSEX with US carrier (International Relations)
- Shrinking spaces for winged visitors a cause for concern (International Relations)
- Question for the Day
UPSC Current Affairs: Leading the global fight against hunger Page 14
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Mains – GS Paper II – Issues related to poverty and hunger
Sub Theme: WFP | World Food Program |Nobel Prize | UPSC |
Context: The UN humanitarian organisation World Food Programme (WFP), which won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, says there won’t be a peaceful world as long as there is hunger. In 1961, the Kennedy administration of the U.S. led the efforts at the UN to establish the World Food Programme. By 1965, the agency, with an initial mandate of three years, had proved its worth to the world after responding to multiple crises and was enshrined as a fully fledged UN programme.
Efforts of WFP
- Within months of its creation, in September 1962, the WFP faced its first test. A deadly earthquake in northern Iran had claimed the lives of more than 12,000 people and rendered tens of thousands homeless and desperate for succour. The UN’s infant agency flew in 1,500 tonnes of wheat, 270 tonnes of sugar and 27 tonnes of tea, marking its baptism.
- By 1965, the experimental agency with an initial mandate of three years had proved its worth to the world after responding to multiple crises and was enshrined as a fully fledged UN programme: it is to last for “as long as multilateral food aid is found feasible and desirable”.
- The next two decades saw the organisation facing some of its sternest tests in terms of the scale of humanitarian crises it had to address. From the famines in the Sahel in northern Africa in the 1970s to the famine in Ethiopia in 1984 and the conflict in southern Sudan in the late 1980s, the WFP learnt to marshal resources as varied as camel caravans and flotilla of cargo planes provided by national air forces.
- In 1989, Operation Lifeline Sudan is launched: leading a consortium of UN agencies and charities alongside UNICEF, WFP releases 1.5 million tonnes of food into the skies above what has since become South Sudan. The dawn-to-dusk, 20-aircraft, three-sorties-a-day airdrop remains, to this day, the largest in history. It saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” the WFP says on its website.
Expanding Role of WFP
- In the six decades since its founding, the WFP has now grown to become the world’s largest humanitarian agency, providing aid to almost 100 million people in more than 80 countries. Commanding one of the biggest non-military and non-commercial logistics operations worldwide, the Rome-headquartered agency on any given day has up to 5,600 trucks, 30 ships and almost 100 aircraft engaged in delivering food and other assistance to those needing aid as well as developmental support, including in some of remotest and often conflict-stricken parts of the globe.
- The organisation has widened its operational remit and is now a leading provider of not just emergency food aid but also an agency engaged in supporting the nutritional requirements of communities through food assistance programmes. These vary from supporting school meals projects in different countries, including India, to the provision of cash and vouchers as a complement to in-kind food distributions.
- While theatres of conflict remain the largest areas of widespread deprivation and hunger, the WFP’s interventions have been witnessed in the wake of multiple natural disasters: the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and closer home Nepal’s devastating temblor five years ago.
- The organisation has also honed its response capabilities to the point where it is able to serve as the frontline telecommunications and logistical support provider to all UN agencies and NGOs in any crisis situation — from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to the Nepali earthquake of 2015.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee on World Food Programme
- The need for international solidarity and multilateral cooperation is more conspicuous than ever. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2020 to the World Food Programme (WFP) for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.
- The World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organisation addressing hunger and promoting food security. In 2019, the WFP provided assistance to close to 100 million people in 88 countries who are victims of acute food insecurity and hunger. In 2015, eradicating hunger was adopted as one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The WFP is the UN’s primary instrument for realising this goal.
- In recent years, the situation has taken a negative turn. In 2019, 135 million people suffered from acute hunger, the highest number in many years. Most of the increase was caused by war and armed conflict.
- The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to a strong upsurge in the number of victims of hunger in the world. In countries such as Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burkina Faso, the combination of violent conflict and the pandemic has led to a dramatic rise in the number of people living on the brink of starvation. In the face of the pandemic, the World Food Programme has demonstrated an impressive ability to intensify its efforts. As the organisation itself has stated, “Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos.”
- The world is in danger of experiencing a hunger crisis of inconceivable proportions if the World Food Programme and other food assistance organisations do not receive the financial support they have requested.
- The link between hunger and armed conflict is a vicious circle: war and conflict can cause food insecurity and hunger, just as hunger and food insecurity can cause latent conflicts to flare up and trigger the use of violence. We will never achieve the goal of zero hunger unless we also put an end to war and armed conflict.
- The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to emphasise that providing assistance to increase food security not only prevents hunger, but can also help to improve prospects for stability and peace. The World Food Programme has taken the lead in combining humanitarian work with peace efforts through pioneering projects in South America, Africa and Asia.
- The World Food Programme was an active participant in the diplomatic process that culminated in May 2018 in the UN Security Council’s unanimous adoption of Resolution 2417, which for the first time explicitly addressed the link between conflict and hunger. The Security Council also underscored UN Member States’ obligation to help ensure that food assistance reaches those in need, and condemned the use of starvation as a method of warfare.
- With this year’s award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to turn the eyes of the world towards the millions of people who suffer from or face the threat of hunger. The World Food Programme plays a key role in multilateral cooperation on making food security an instrument of peace, and has made a strong contribution towards mobilising UN Member States to combat the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict. The organisation contributes daily to advancing the fraternity of nations referred to in Alfred Nobel’s will. As the UN’s largest specialised agency, the World Food Programme is a modern version of the peace congresses that the Nobel Peace Prize is intended to promote.
- The work of the World Food Programme to the benefit of humankind is an endeavour that all the nations of the world should be able to endorse and support.
UNSC Resolution 2417 – Security Council Strongly Condemns Starving of Civilians, Unlawfully Denying Humanitarian Access as Warfare Tactics
- The Security Council has adopted a resolution condemning the starving of civilians as a method of warfare — as well as the unlawful denial of humanitarian access to civilian populations — with members welcoming it as a landmark expression of unity on those critical issues.
- Unanimously adopting Resolution 2417 (2018), the Council drew attention to the link between armed conflict and conflict induced food insecurity and the threat of famine.
- It called on all parties to armed conflict to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law regarding the protection of civilians and on taking care to spare civilian objects, stressing that armed conflicts, violations of international law and related food insecurity could be drivers of forced displacement.
- Underlining the importance of safe and unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel to civilians in armed conflicts, it also strongly condemned the unlawful denial of such access and depriving civilians of objects indispensable to their survival — including wilfully impeding relief supply and access for responses to conflict‑induced food insecurity.
- The Council also recalled that it could consider adopting sanctions, where appropriate and in line with existing practices, that would apply to individuals or entities obstructing the delivery or distribution of humanitarian assistance to civilians in need.
UPSC Current Affairs: ‘Genetic scissors’ and rewriting the code of life - Pg 13
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Mains – GS Paper II – Issues related to poverty and hunger
Sub Theme: WFP | World Food Program |Nobel Prize | UPSC |
Context: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020 to Emmanuelle Charpentier (Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens, Berlin, Germany) and Jennifer A. Doudna (University of California, Berkeley, USA)“for the development of a method for genome editing”.
- Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna have discovered one of gene technology’s sharpest tools: the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors.
- Using these, researchers can change the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with extremely high precision.
- This technology has had a revolutionary impact on the life sciences, is contributing to new cancer therapies and may make the dream of curing inherited diseases come true.
- Researchers need to modify genes in cells if they are to find out about life’s inner workings. Earlier, gene editing used to be time-consuming, difficult and sometimes impossible work. Using the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors, it is now possible to change the code of life over the course of a few weeks.
- There is enormous power in this genetic tool as it has not only revolutionized basic science but has also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to ground-breaking new medical treatments.
- Nucleus contains thread-like structures called chromosomes. These carry genes and help in inheritance or transfer of characters from the parents to the offspring. Gene is a unit of inheritance in living organisms. It controls the transfer of a hereditary characteristic from parents to offspring. Genes are made up of DNA. DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms.
- The information in DNA is stored as a code made up of four chemical bases: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). Human DNA consists of about 3 billion bases. DNA bases pair up with each other, A with T and C with G, to form units called base pairs.
- Each base is also attached to a sugar molecule and a phosphate molecule. Together, a base, sugar, and phosphate are called a nucleotide. Nucleotides are arranged in two long strands that form a spiral called a double helix.
- The structure of the double helix is somewhat like a ladder, with the base pairs forming the ladder’s rungs and the sugar and phosphate molecules forming the vertical sidepieces of the ladder.
What role do CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors play?
- CRISPR/Cas9 system or technology which allows for adding, altering and deleting the genomic code in living beings.
- The essence of CRISPR is simple: it’s a way of finding a specific bit of DNA inside a cell. After that, the next step in CRISPR gene editing is usually to alter that piece of DNA. However, CRISPR has also been adapted to do other things too, such as turning genes on or off without altering their sequence.
- When these components are transferred into other, more complex, organisms, it allows for the manipulation of genes, or "editing."
- Its many potential applications include correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases and improving crops.
How does CRISPR-Cas9 Works?
- CRISPRs are specialized stretches of DNA. The protein Cas9 (or "CRISPR-associated") is an enzyme found in bacteria that acts like a pair of molecular scissors, capable of cutting strands of DNA.
- CRISPR-Cas9 was adapted from a naturally occurring genome editing system in bacteria. The bacteria capture snippets of DNA from invading viruses and use them to create DNA segments known as CRISPR arrays. The CRISPR arrays allow the bacteria to "remember" the viruses (or closely related ones). If the viruses attack again, the bacteria produce RNA segments from the CRISPR arrays to target the viruses' DNA. The bacteria then use Cas9 or a similar enzyme to cut the DNA apart, which disables the virus.
Research based on tracrRNA
- Emmanuelle Charpentier, who is now director, Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin, had studied Streptococcus pyogenes, a species of bacteria known to be associated with a range of illnesses such as pharyngitis, tonsillitis and scarlet fever.
- While studying this, she discovered a previously unknown molecule, tracrRNA. Her work showed that tracrRNA is part of bacteria’s ancient immune system, CRISPR/Cas, that disarms viruses by cleaving their DNA, the Nobel release explains.
- Charpentier published her discovery in 2011. The same year, she initiated a collaboration with biochemist Jennifer Doudna, now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
- Together, they succeeded in recreating the bacteria’s genetic scissors in a test tube and simplifying the scissors’ molecular components so they were easier to use.
The game changing effort
- In a significant experiment, they reprogrammed the genetic scissors. “In their natural form, the scissors recognise DNA from viruses, but Charpentier and Doudna proved that they could be controlled so that they can cut any DNA molecule at a predetermined site. Where the DNA is cut it is then easy to rewrite the code of life.
- Other genome editing systems like TALENs and Zinc-Finger Nucleases can do similar jobs, but several users consider the Charpentier-Doudna tool more adaptable and easier to use.
- the technology allows researchers to find out what genes do, move mutations that are identified and associated with disease into systems where they can be studied and tested for treatment, or where they can be tested in combinations with other mutations.
Applications of CRISPR-Cas9
- Earlier this year, a person with hereditary blindness became the first to have a CRISPR/Cas-9-based therapy directly injected into her body.
- Gene-editing company CRISPR Therapeutics announced in June that two patients with beta thalassemia and one with sickle cell disease would no longer require blood transfusions after their bone marrow stem cells were edited using CRISPR techniques.
- Beta thalassemiais a blood disorder that reduces the production of hemoglobin . Hemoglobin is the iron-containing protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to cells throughout the body. In people with beta thalassemia, low levels of hemoglobin lead to a lack of oxygen in many parts of the body.
- Sickle cell disease is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders that affects hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen through the body. Normally, red blood cells are disc shaped and flexible to move easily through the blood vessels. If you have sickle cell disease, your red blood cells are crescent or “sickle” shaped. These cells do not bend and move easily and can block blood flow to the rest of your body.
- Doudna launched a new company, Scribe Therapeutics, to begin work on treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Reuters reported that Dr. Doudna is already employing CRISPR in the battle against the COVID-19 as a co-founder of biotech startup Mammoth, which has tied up with GlaxoSmithKline to develop a test to detect infections.
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis(ALS) is a group of rare neurological diseases that mainly involve the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement. Voluntary muscles produce movements like chewing, walking, and talking. The disease is progressive, meaning the symptoms get worse over time.
- This year, the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB) in Delhi developed a COVID-19 testing kit, nicknamed ‘Feluda’, after the fictional Bengali detective, based on the CRISPR/Cas9 system.
- There are commercial CRISPR-based home kits that allow amateur researchers to develop their own biotechnology applications, triggering a sub-culture called ‘bio-hacking’ – hacking one’s gene for further evolution – trans-human.
UPSC Current Affairs: Navy to hold PASSEX with U.S. carrier Page 08
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Prelims: Military Exercises
Sub Theme: Birds | Flamingos |Migratory Birds | UPSC |
Navy ships will hold a PASSEX with USS Ronald Reagan on October 12 as it transits through the Indian Ocean
- A passing exercise (a PASSEX in U.S. Navy terminology) is an exercise done between two navies to ensure that the navies are able to communicate and cooperate in times of war or humanitarian relief.
- While the official reason of a PASSEX is to practice cooperation, various unofficial reasons might be to "show the flag" (show the power of a nation through a public display of naval power) or other political or diplomatic reasons.
UPSC Current Affairs: Shrinking spaces for winged visitors a cause for concern Page 05
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Prelims: Environment
Sub Theme: UPSC | Greater Flamingo
On World Migratory Bird Day experts from Mumbai came together to discuss ways to protect lesser flamingos.
Presently they are being forced to feed within a tiny piece of land owing to the continuous destruction of wetlands and development activities across many areas.
In India two species of flamingoes are found
Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus rosues):
- Greater flamingos inhabits shallow eutrophic waterbodies such as saline lagoons, saltpans and large saline or alkaline lakes, apart from frequenting sewage treatment pans, inland dams, estuaries and coastal waters.
- They are present in East Africa, West Africa, Southern Europe, coastal regions of India, and in general have wide presence across the globe.
- They are widespread in India, and they migrate to South India during winter and spend their time in large reservoirs and mud flats.
- It is currently marked ‘Least Concern’ in the IUCN Red List category.
- Flamingoes are protected under Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Lesser Flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor): They mainly breed at the Rann of Kutch/North-western India .
IUCN status: Not threatened.
Thane Creek Flamingo sanctuary has been created near Mumbai for the protection of flamingos