Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Two decades ago, the corn plant got a huge boost with the announcement of the National Plant Genome Initiative (NPGI). The historic research effort to map the corn genome has resulted in significant economic and environmental dividends for farmers and society at large.The gene mapping effort, which ran parallel to the mapping of the human genome, opened up a new frontier for corn that is still being explored today, according to Pam Johnson, a Floyd, Iowa farmer who served as the Chairperson of NCGA’s Research and Business Development Action Team and later as NCGA president.“The NPGI didn’t just build a bridge between scientific discovery and real-world solutions for corn, it laid the groundwork for a new interstate highway of discovery,” Johnson said. “Corn continues to be one of the most important crops for our nation and this will likely continue given the vision of early NCGA leaders and the large coalition they helped forge.”NPGI has funded more than $1.5 billion of genomic research to date and the undertaking continues to send ripples through the scientific community and agriculture.“Corn became the primary focus of the broader plant genomics project because of its economic significance and because of its complexity. The theory is if we could crack the secrets of corn, the knowledge gained could be applied to many other plants,” said Rodney Williamson, director of research and development for Iowa Corn Growers Association. “The idea of sequencing the corn genome was considered an immense and daunting task because it has one of the of the most complex genomes of any known organism. But we continue to see the payoff.”At 2.5 billion base pairs covering 10 chromosomes, this genome’s size is comparable to that of the human genome which explains why the data generated from the gene mapping will keep scientists sorting and exploring for decades to come, says Williamson, who was part of the group in 1997 that threw down the gauntlet challenging the scientific community.The new, emerging picture of corn helps researchers better understand its evolution and history. The crop was domesticated from a Central American grass called teosinte some 10,000 years ago. Much of the genetic diversity of maize, however, reaches nearly five million years back.“Today we are still investigating what each of the genes does with a new initiative called Genomes to Fields. It’s a big puzzle that we don’t have a complete map for yet, but the potential benefits and advances are mind-boggling,” Johnson said. “The data we have contains answers like the best way to adapt corn to different climates, develop more efficient corn plants, use less energy growing it, sequester more carbon and increase the supply of food and feed.”Williamson says the people in the nondescript hotel meeting room in 1997 contended the completion of the maize genome sequence would change agriculture and it has. Things such as increased breeding efficiency, streamlined delivery of new traits, discovering enhancements of properties such as drought tolerance, and a better overall understanding of the crop has enhanced corn’s position as the ideal crop for food, feed, fuel and industrial uses.According to the USDA, corn production in the U.S. has grown from roughly 9 billion bushels in 1997 when NPGI began to more than 15 billion bushels today. At the same time, the value of the U.S. crop has grown from $25 billion to more than $51 billion.
At a time when international athletes are worried about their security in India during the Commonwealth Games, the visiting Australian cricket team on Thursday gave thumbs up to the security arrangements for their tour against the hosts.Many star athletes have pulled out and several countries including Australia have issued travel warnings to their citizens, saying there is high risk of a terror strike during the Games.According to media reports, Australia is also sending a team of top cops to New Delhi to provide a high-level security cordon to its athletes for the Games.However, the Australian cricketers have described as “fantastic” the arrangements.”The security so far has been fantastic. We always get looked after very well in this country. All the players and other guys are excited about being here,” Australia’s vice captain Michael Clarke said during an interaction with the journalists.”Ever since we arrived in India, the security has been outstanding. Right now, we feel very comfortable and are looking forward to the two Tests and the ODIs later on,” he added.Australian cricket team arrived here on September 20 and are scheduled a two-Test and three-ODI series.The series opener will begin here on October 1.All-rounder Shane Watson too found no problems with the security ever since the team has landed in Delhi.”Security has very good. We are being looked after extremely well. I also play for (IPL team) Rajasthan Royals and have been coming here regularly. I find the security and other arrangements exceptional,” Watson said.advertisementOff-spinner Nathan Hauritz also echoed the same sentiment.”There are lot of people around for our security. They are trying to look after us really well,” he said.Youngsters Steve Smith and Phillip Hughes said they have no clue why there is so much hue and cry about the security issue.Clarke said he has always loved touring India.”I love touring here. I also love the Indian food. I must say that I have been lucky to play in India and also enjoyed a bit of a success here. We get looked after well and people here are so passionate about this game.”And the people here also know the way Australia plays and we also love to entertain them by playing best cricket,” Clarke said.
War minus the shooting is how author Mike Marqusee painted the complex portrait of a sub-continent in ferment, set against the backdrop of the 1996 cricket World Cup, the most extravagant and controversial event in the history of the game.The title is most apt for India-Pakistan cricket jousts. Agreed that a gladiatorial contest between the two nations on the playing field – irrespective of whether the sport is hockey or cricket, it gives the viewer strange sort of adrenaline rush, pumping up emotions and transporting them into a different zone – it is also a synonym for a proxy war.No sporting rivalry can replace this feeling, this level of intensity, this junoon . I know that every time sporting relations between the two nations are normalised, the fires are stoked in this debate. It gets ugly, people get nasty and words are exchanged. The reality sadly is that while sport transcends political barriers, impediments and imponderables, India and Pakistan are a completely different kettle of fish. So, am I one of the faithful who are going to argue for restoration of sporting ties? Far from it. Bah!This is not akin to anything, anywhere else in the world. The Ashes don’t compare. Germany playing Greece in the recent Euro Cup was a one-off. It had the necessary edge because of the recent politics in the Euro Zone, but it was a one-off. For sheer continuity, sheer magnetism and as a spectator sport, it is singular. The contests have an edge, the players raise the level of their game, the ridiculous and the sublime are all part of the tamasha.advertisementAt the same time, all this hype and hoopla notwithstanding, India should not play Pakistan, certainly not now. This is not the time. India wants the perps of 26/ 11 to be brought to book, we sound as if we have a bellyache, but a recalcitrant Pakistan couldn’t care too hoots for our pain and suffering.India’s history with Pakistan, recent and otherwise, is too violent to be recounted here. They are two conjoined twins, inseparable since birth, their fates and destinies in one way or the other intertwined forever. Pakistan’s bloody and turbulent history doesn’t end within its own boundaries, more often than not it spills over into India. This is the scary part; while wars have been fought repeatedly, Pakistan’s naked obsession with Kashmir pushes the jihadi element to make repeated attempts to destabilise India by using the terror factory.Sunil Gavaskar, a cricketer whom I have great regard for, called it right on the day this decision to host Pakistan was taken. He clearly articulated that as a Mumbaikar he had strong objections to India playing Pakistan. Pakistan is duplicitous, Janus faced, it heaps scorn on us, obfuscates, lies and twists facts to suit its own ends.Pak dodges the bulletThe 26/ 11 terror attack has seen no closure. We have captured one of the gunmen from that fateful night – Ajmal Kasab, we have added one of the architects and planners – Abu Jundal in the bag now, and yet Pakistan continues to dodge the bullet. And it does so with so much ease, it remains blase about its involvement in what would be most significant terror attack in recent memory. Probably as well coordinated as the infamous 9/ 11 attack on New York.Four years have passed and what does India have to show in terms of naming and convicting the perpetrators of that bloody interlude? Nothing very much.Pakistan is like Teflon, nothing sticks to it. They make bloody sure that it doesn’t stick. They are glib talkers. Dossiers, transcripts, tapes, pictures are all meaningless as they laugh off their involvement in the vicious attack. Non-state actors, they say, oblivious and yet impervious to our hurt.The Taj and Oberoi in Mumbai were symbols of a new India, a rising India that Pakistan is extremely unhappy about. Pakistan continues to target Mumbai, in many ways the face of the same emerging India. The March 12, 1993, serial blasts and the 26/ 11 terror attack have assumed iconic proportions in the history of the terror network that targets the megalopolis. Pakistan’s eyes are fixated on India’s financial nerve centre.Fortunately they have failed to cripple it. The travesty is that it is not about India preventing an attack, but the ability of Pakistan and its jihad factory to willfully target India. The scale and magnitude of their attack stratagems are getting bigger, the designs fuelled by their innate hatred for India. Their psyche brutalised by the vivisection in 1971.advertisementDespite all this we want to play Pakistan in India. Why? Yes, it is a marvellous spectacle, crowds gather in the coliseums and decibel levels and passions run high, and jingoism gets a free run on both sides. But nationalism should prevail and India should step forward to take the lead in ostracising Pakistan from international sport. Sporting segregation on the lines of the sporting boycott of South Africa during the apartheid years is the only way forward instead of falling over ourselves to play with them. The rules of engagement should be delineated and strict enforceability should be ensured.Islolating South AfricaThe International Olympic Committee (IOC) withdrew its invitation to South Africa for the 1964 Summer Games because it realised that the team would not be racially integrated. In 1968, there was a move to readmit South Africa, but the threat of a boycott by African nations loomed large and the IOC changed its mind.In 1970, IOC formally expelled SA from the Olympics. Flashpoint was reached in the Montreal Games in 1976, when African nations raised Cain over the repression in South Africa and threatened a boycott if New Zealand was allowed to compete. Mind you, the Kiwi All Blacks rugby team had continued contact with South Africa. IOC didn’t relent, and the African nations pulled out of the Games. This brought matters to a head.Commonwealth nations signed on the dotted line ushering in the Gleneagles Agreement in 1977. The charter held that as part of their support for the international campaign against apartheid, they were uniting to discourage contact and competition between their sportsmen and sporting organisations with teams or individuals from South Africa.The Commonwealth was seen as a relevant body to impose a sporting ban on South Africa because several of the sports most popular among white South Africans were dominated by Commonwealth member-states – for example, cricket and rugby. This was a defining moment in South Africa’s history for it began the process of sporting isolation of the white supremacists in the country. The next big step came when the IOC adopted a declaration against ” apartheid in sport” on June 21, 1988, for the total isolation of apartheid sport. The ICC had imposed a moratorium on cricket tours to South Africa back in 1970.But lure of the krugerrand meant that cricketers trooped into South Africa, ban or no ban. From ‘ private teams’ replete with mercenaries under the banner of Derrick Robbins XI bankrolled by a millionaire of the same name, essentially made up of English cricketers, followed by the International Wanderers led by Greg Chappell, the embargo was breached repeatedly and with disdain. Till the Soweto Uprising and civil strife in South Africa.In the early 1980s, the rand once again became the flavour of the season.South African rebel tours, as many as seven of them, came at a rapid pace between 1982 and 1990. The first tour saw Graham Gooch captain a strong English contingent. In a veritable coup, a Sri Lankan XI was cobbled up under the leadership of Bandula Waranapura only to be summarily thrashed by the South Africans. But to bring a Sri Lankan team to SA in those tumultuous days was a staggering achievement. What followed was mayhem.advertisementLure of the KrugerrandTop-of-the-line West Indian cricketers rebelled and toured South Africa for anything between $ 100,000-120,000 each. Star cricketers such Lawrence Rowe, Collis King, Sylvester Clarke, Colin Croft and Bernard Julien showed SA spectators their prowess, matching their star cricketers punch for punch. The first series, again organised in secret and conducted on the hoof, set up a fierce battle when the West Indians returned for a full tour the following season. Clarke was by now the dominant player on either side, claiming four five-wicket hauls in the 2-1 ‘ Test’ series win. The West Indian XI also won the one- day series 4-2 with the Springboks looking ragged and on the run.Such was the intensity of battle that the South African batsmen had to wear helmets for the first time as the Windies pacers pounded them with shortpitched bowling. This wasn’t all. Two tours by Australian teams followed under the leadership of Kim Hughes. Top Oz cricketers such as Terry Alderman, Rodney Hogg and Carl Rackemaan were present on these tours. England under Mike Gatting became the last team to tour South Africa before their return to international cricket in 1991.One can argue that the power of pelf triumphed over the moratorium. Cricket too triumphed, particularly during the tough, unrelenting series against the West Indian rebels. But the message had gone home loud and clear to sport-loving South Africans. They were dried out, krugerrand or no rand.The BCCI’s love for lucre is well-known. That it is an autonomous body is also known, but to give in to pressure from PCB chief Zaka Ashraf is not the right thing to do. Mumbaikars, nay Indians, cannot remove the embedded images of the 26/ 11 carnage being played out in the corridors of their mind. The masterminds of the attack, the handlers, the assailants are all Pakistani and this is an inescapable fact. Sweat them out, play them only on international platforms. Isolate them, that is the only language they understand.