Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Global Report on the Food Crises (GRFC) 2023
- Benefits and Risks of AI
- Vultures in India
- Global South
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Global Report on the Food Crises( GRFC)
Context: The Global Report on the Food Crises (GRFC) 2023 released recently estimated that between 691 million and 783 million people in the world suffered from hunger in 2022.
About the Global Report on the Food Crises( GRFC)
- The GRFC is produced by the Food Security Information Network in support of the Global Network against Food Crises, and involves 16 partners to achieve a joint consensus-based assessment of acute food insecurity in countries.
- This year’s report records the historic moments that had an impact on the assessment — a pandemic and ensuing economic crisis, a war (in Ukraine), soaring prices of food, and agricultural inputs. While the two pandemic years did not record a growth in food insecurity, the data for 2022 shows levels far higher than pre-pandemic 2019.
What is food security?
- Food security is defined (from the World Food Summit of 1996) thus: “When all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active, and healthy life”. The prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity in the population is based on the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES).
What are the key findings of the report?
- The Global Report starts with a qualified assertion that hunger is no longer on an alarming path upwards at the global level, but still far above pre-COVID pandemic levels, and that the world is far off track towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 — Zero Hunger.
- It sets the global contexts preceding and during the year under assessment, particularly paying attention to the increasing phenomenon of urbanisation, and its effects on food security.
- In 2022, an estimated 2.4 billion people did not have access to adequate food. This is still 391 million more people than in 2019.
- Global hunger, measured by yet another metric — the prevalence of undernourishment — remained relatively unchanged from 2021 to 2022 but is, again, far above pre-COVID-19-pandemic levels, affecting around 9.2% of the world population in 2022 compared with 7.9% in 2019, according to the report.
- Stunting among children under five years of age has declined steadily, from 204.2 million in 2000 to 148.1 million in 2022. Simultaneously, child wasting, caused by insufficient nutrient intake or absorption, declined from 54.1 million in 2000 to 45 million in 2022.
- In terms of children who are overweight or obese, the study indicated a non-significant increase from 5.3% (33 million) in 2000 to 5.6 % (37 million) in 2022.
- The revised analysis presented in this year’s report shows that almost 3.2 billion people worldwide could not afford a healthy diet in 2020, with a slight improvement in 2021. The cost of a healthy diet increased globally by 6.7% between 2019 and 2021. It also projects that almost 600 million people will be chronically undernourished in 2030.
What are the key drivers of food insecurity?
- The report notes the following reasons as being responsible: slowing down, thanks to lockdowns, economic downturns, and other pandemic-related disruptions in 2020 that led to job losses and reduced incomes for many people; the Ukraine war; governmental policies that may not be entirely favorable; and increasing urbanization that drives changes through the agrifood systems. The report’s comparison of food insecurity among rural, peri-urban and urban populations reveals that global food insecurity is lower in urban areas.
What are the solutions ahead?
- The report helps “identify vulnerable population groups, contributing to evidence to inform decision-making and effective action through the appropriate targeting and design of policies and programmes.”
- Sound nutrition is fundamental to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and must be central in government policy and supported by civil society and the private sector.
- Some of its recommendations include supporting healthier food outlets as key for enabling access to healthy diets.
- Policy incentives are necessary to encourage shops to sell greater amounts of fresh and minimally processed foods.
- Another key input is on street foods, which an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide consume every day. The report calls for addressing multiple infrastructure and regulatory gaps to improve nutritional safety and quality of street food.
- The GRFC also suggests building rural infrastructure, including quality rural and feeder roads to connect remote farms and enterprises to main road networks.
- Other public investments to support linkages between (mainly small) farms and small and medium enterprises could include warehousing, cold storage, dependable electrification, access to digital tools and water supply.
- It underlines several times the role of local governments as fundamental actors in leveraging multilevel and multi-stakeholder mechanisms that have proved effective in implementing essential policies for making healthy diets available and affordable for all.
2 . Benefits and Risk of AI
Context: Google’s DeepMind released the structure of 200 million proteins, literally everything that exists. This is said to be the most important achievement of AI ever, namely a ‘solution’ to the protein-folding problem.
What is Artificial Intelligence?
- Artificial intelligence is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems
Benefits of Artificial Intelligence
- Identifying Protein Structure– DeepMind’s Alpha Fold accurately predicted the structures of about 100 proteins to atomic resolution. Proteins are composed of a linear chain of amino acids and their 3D structures determine their functions. Structure determination is laborious. One way to know the optimal folded structure of the protein computationally is to sample all its possible configurations, composed of specific angles between peptide bonds. However, this is an impossible task as a typical protein may have about 10,300 configurations and even if a million of them were examined per second, the overall time needed will be unimaginable. That helped save about 1,000 million man-years.
- Discovery of new drugs– DeepMind decided to place the research outcomes — easily accessible so more discoveries can happen. Since drug discovery has become faster due to AlphaFold, new drugs for rare diseases, which are of little commercial interest to pharma companies, have become possible.
- With giant advances in computational science and 3D protein structures, discovery labs will shrink to ‘AI synthesizers’.
- Thousands of molecules or processes may be screened for specific functions rapidly. Robots will characterise them to ‘discover’ an optimised strategy, directed by non-human ‘agents. This could change chemistry.
- The UNEP’s World Environment Situation Room (WESR) collects and analyses, using AI, real-time sensor data from thousands of sensors spread over 140 countries to predict carbon dioxide concentration, glacier mass, sea level rise, biodiversity loss, etc.
- It will help tounderstand the health of the planet from a holistic perspective.
- Large Language Models that built the likes of ChatGPT can create excellent text, music, and art.
- AI can be an excellent aid in helping authors in better visualisation, effective communication and compiling known facts, if used judiciously.
What are the risk associated with the Artificial Intelligence?
- For the scientific enterprise, in the era of ‘discoveries’ by ‘agents’ made of silicon, authorship may become meaningless. Those owning ‘agents’ may own knowledge.
- Scientists warn that AI products must be used with caution. Tools such as ChatGPT can assist in literature search but cannot provide deep analysis and may miss profound insights central to articles.
- Intrinsic biases of scientific enterprise can under-represent minority views and could lose original thoughts, due to poor citations.
- As compiling information and presenting them coherently by AI is easy, new paper factories may proliferate.
- AI helps in the democratisation of knowledge. But ‘knowledge-to-things’ transformation will need infrastructure and resources. Advanced medicine and cutting-edge science are unlikely to develop in resource-limited settings. This is known historically, but there is a significant difference now.
- Infrastructure enabling advanced science is increasingly sophisticated and the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening dramatically. The proliferation of AI could concentrate wealth, breeding inequality.
- The ‘AI being’ can write music, poems, and manuscripts faster, and possibly, even better. This could create polymath ‘beings’. It could radically transform workplaces and institutions. The AI-divide will be far deeper than the digital-divide.
- Way forward- Governments at all levels must urgently assess the impact of AI on societies. They must form advisory groups and come up with AI and data-governance policy guidelines to direct institutions, industry, and society. Similar efforts must happen in each institution. An interdisciplinary environment is needed for responsible AI development. Surely, early movers will have a greater advantage.
3 . Vultures in India
Context: In 2020, eight critically endangered oriental white-backed captive-bred vultures were released into the wild for the first time in India from the Jatayu Conservation Breeding Centre in Pinjore, Haryana.
Background of the Issue
- Vulture numbers saw a steep slide — as much as 90 per cent in some species — in India since the 1990s in one of the most drastic declines in bird populations in the world.
- While the ministry has been carrying out a conservation project for vultures since 2006, the plan is to now extend the project to 2025 to not just halt the decline but to actively increase the vulture numbers in India.
- Between the 1990s and 2007, numbers of three presently critically-endangered species – the Oriental white-backed, long-billed and slender-billed vultures — crashed massively with 99 per cent of the species having been wiped out. The number of red-headed vultures, also critically-endangered now, declined by 91% while the Egyptian vultures by 80%.
- The Egyptian vulture is listed as ‘endangered’ while the Himalayan, bearded and cinereous vultures are ‘near threatened’.
Types of Vultures found in India
- A total of nine species of vultures are found in India. Out of these six species are resident (white–rumped vulture, Indian vulture, slender-billed vulture, red-headed vulture, bearded vulture and Egyptian vulture) and three species are migratory (cinereous vulture, griffon vulture and Himalayan vulture).
Reasons for declining Population
- The crash in vulture populations came into limelight in the mid-90s, and in 2004 the cause of the crash was established as diclofenac — a veterinary nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat pain and inflammatory diseases such as gout — in carcasses that vultures would feed off.
- “Just 0.4-0.7 per cent of animal carcasses contaminated with diclofenac was sufficient to decimate 99 per cent of vulture populations.
Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2006
- The MoEFCC released the Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2006 with the DCGI banning the veterinary use of diclofenac in the same year and the decline of the vulture population being arrested by 2011.
Vulture Conservation and Breeding Programme
- The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) and Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) also established the Vulture Conservation Breeding Programme, which has been successful and had three critically-endangered species bred in captivity for the first time. Eight centres have been established and, so far, 396 vultures of the three species have successfully fledged.
Initiatives under Vulture Action Plan 2020-25
- The ministry has now also launched conservation plans for the red-headed and Egyptian vultures, with breeding programmes for both.
- The Vulture Safe Zone programme is being implemented at eight different places in the country where there were extant populations of vultures, including two in Uttar Pradesh.
- Attempts are made to secure the population of vulture by ensuring the minimum use of Diclofenac and an area is declared a Vulture Safe Zone only when no toxic drugs are found in undercover pharmacy and cattle carcass surveys, for two consecutive years, and the vulture populations are stable and not declining. Diclofenac was banned for veterinary use in India and Nepal in 2006 and in Bangladesh in 2010. Despite this ban, human-use diclofenac was being use in veterinary treatments.
- The action plan aims to carry forth what has already been set in motion by ensuring that sale of veterinary NSAIDs is regulated and livestock are treated only by qualified veterinarians.
- The Ministry also plans on carrying out safety testing of available NSAIDs on vultures and to develop new ones which do not affect vultures.
- Additional Conservation Breeding Centres are also being planned across the country, along with Vulture Conservation Centres with samples and information collected from the wild analysed and stored at these centres — one each in Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
- Four rescue centres have been proposed for different geographical areas like Pinjore in the north, Bhopal in ventral India, Guwahati in Northeast and Hyderabad in South India.
About Jatayu Conservation Breeding Centre
- The Jatayu Conservation Breeding Centre (JCBC) is a joint project of the Haryana Forest Department and the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).It is a collaborative initiative to save the three species of vultures, the White-backed, Long-billed and Slender-billed, from looming extinction. The centre is located at village Jodhpur on the edge of the Bir Shikargaha Wildlife Sanctuary
- The JCBC, earlier known as Vulture Care Centre (VCC), was established in September 2001 with the UK Government Darwin Initiative for the Survival of Species’ fund, to investigate the dramatic declines in the resident Gyps species of vultures.
4 . Global South
Context: Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi will visit India later this week as part of a six-nation tour in Asia and Africa, where he plans to focus on Japan’s cooperation with the Global South and the Indo-Pacific policy unveiled by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Delhi in March this year.
What is Global South?
- The Global South refers to various countries around the world that are sometimes described as “developing,” “less developed” or “underdeveloped.” Many of these countries – although by no means all – are in the Southern Hemisphere, largely in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
- They are poorer, have higher levels of income inequality and suffer lower life expectancy and harsher living conditions than countries in the “Global North” — that is, richer nations that are located mostly in North America and Europe, with some additions in Oceania and elsewhere.
- The term Global South appears to have been first used in 1969 by political activist Carl Oglesby. But it was only after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union – which marked the end of the so-called “Second World” – that the term gained momentum.
- Countries in the Global South were mostly at the receiving end of imperialism and colonial rule, with African countries as perhaps the most visible example of this.
India’s approach to Global South
- Being the leader of the Global South, India provides a voice to the Global South Movement. Whether on the question of climate change, energy transition, taking a stand on normative issues or protecting the Global South’s interest, India played a proactive role in international forums over the years.
- The rise of India, as both scholars and policymakers argue, “disrupted” the status-quo nature of international relations, especially in the aftermath of the post-1991. By giving voice to the Global South countries, India helped in bringing out an alternative narrative to global geopolitics.
- India is the forerunner in global and sustainable energy transitions. At various climate Summits, India resisted the onslaught from the Global North and protected the interest of the Global South be it on the question of climate financing, limiting the emission norms, or highlighting the Global North’s responsibility as the historical polluter.
- India’s approach to democratising international relations and reforming the United Nations has been consistent with the demand of the Global South over the years. Reforming the United Nations and broadening the UN Security Council’s permanent membership are some of the constant demands India has raised over the years.
What are the challenges faced by the Global South?
- Global South is currently facing a major identity crisis. The crisis mainly emanates from historical experiences, Cold War legacies, and issues relating to supply chain securitisation. The post-Covid world order and the Ukraine war further aggravated the problem for Global South.
- The Global South is facing issues like energy and food crises and the impact of the recession on the global economy.
5 . Facts for Prelims
- Donanemab, also known as N3pG, is an antibody produced in mice that targets an abnormal protein, amyloid beta (Aβ).
- Donanemab is a biological drug in Phase III clinical trials to determine whether it slows the progression of early Alzheimer’s disease.
- There is currently no cure or disease-modifying treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
- Donanemab has shown positive results in its first trials.
- Donanemab was developed by the Eli Lilly and Co. and is under clinical development as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
- The Government of India (GoI) in its Union Budget 2022, announced the National Tele Mental Health Programme of India, Tele Mental Health Assistance and Networking Across States (Tele MANAS) and entrusted the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) to guide its overall implementation.
- Consequently, the MoHFW formed a National Technical Advisory Group (NTAG) and three technical advisory sub-committees (Mental Health Service Delivery, Information Technology Architecture and Health Systems) to achieve specific goals and objectives of Tele MANAS.
- Tele MANAS will be organized as a two-tier system. Tier 1 will comprise the State Tele MANAS cells, which includes trained counsellors and mental health specialists. Tier 2 will comprise specialists at District Mental Health Programme (DMHP)/Medical College resources for physical consultation and/or eSanjeevani for audio visual consultation.
- The public can access the Tele MANAS helpline by dialing tollfree number or short code. This call will be an IVRS based audio calling only, with a timely auto-call back approach. Through the automated callback service, the caller will first be attended to by a trained counsellor.
- INS Kirpan—which is an indigenously-built missile corvette—was decommissioned after completing 32 years of service to be gifted to Vietnam.
- It was handed over to VPN with a complete weapon complement. Since its commissioning in 1991, the ship has been an integral part of the Navy’s Eastern Fleet and has participated in several operations.
- It is manned by about 12 officers and 100 sailors and is 90 meters long and 10.45 meters in width with a maximum displacement of 1,450 tons.
- The Chalcolithic or Copper Age is the transitional period between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age. It is taken to begin around the mid-5th millennium BC and ends with the beginning of the Bronze Age proper, in the late 4th to 3rd millennium BC, depending on the region.
- The development of states—large-scale, populous, politically centralized, and socially stratified polities/societies governed by powerful rulers—marks one of the major milestones in the evolution of human societies
- The Transfiguration Cathedral in Odesa is the Orthodox Cathedral in Odesa, Ukraine, dedicated to the Transfiguration of Jesus and belongs to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Golden traingle of drugs
- The Golden Triangle refers to one of the biggest poppy-growing and drug-trafficking corridors in the world straddling China, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand.
- It provides ideal conditions for opium cultivation, which began during the 16th and 17th centuries. Heroin became a major component of the opium trade after World War II, and the demand for heroin by United States troops during the Vietnam War helped transform the opium economy of the Golden Triangle into a large and profitable heroin economy
- The ‘Golden Crescent’ comprises the opium producing areas of South-West Asia, including Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province and Baluchistan. The ‘Golden Triangle’ is situated in South-East Asia and comprises parts of Myanmar, Thailand, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Vietnam