Jan 04, 2017 News
The IAST has responded to Kaieteur News in which it says some “gravely mis-informed and
unnamed person’s purporting to be whistleblowers”, have leveled baseless innuendo and ad hominim attacks on this Guyanese Institute of international repute.
These sustained attacks have followed the termination of two former employees in the earlier part of 2016 and would follow a report Tuesday on which calls were made for a forensic audit into IAST, a state-run entity that does research into technology that could be used in local applications.
IAST and its Director, Professor Suresh Narine issued the following statement yesterday:
1) The publications and poison pen letters circulating are generally not based on fact. They appear to be subjective interpretations of persons who do not understand the process of research and development in complex scientific organizations. Research and development require intensive investment. It often takes several years for the results of scientific research to be realized and a few years after that for these investments to become commercialized. However, the evidence of IAST’s remarkable work has been widely reported in the media, on its websites and in various technical project reports. The application of the science it has produced not only creates products but positively affects Guyanese lives in Guyana and contributes to science.
2. The Director’s contract is specific and legitimately covers his honoraria connected with travel, living and supervising the IAST labs in Guyana. There is no instance in which these have been overstepped.
It is expected that scientists of the kind of renowned repute of Prof. Suresh Narine are sought after and hold various affiliations with facilities globally for the purposes of collaborative science. His other affiliations are a boon to IAST and not a liability.
3. That IAST operations have been audited each year since 2014 as reported before in the press. Any further scrutiny is routinely and openly facilitated.
4. Summary responses to unfounded comments published;
a) Coconut Derived High Value Chemicals : Only $45,324,261 was spent. The project begun in 2013 and is ongoing. The equipment has facilitated the production of high purity ethyl laurate, lauric acid and high purity methyl laurate. The equipment also allows IAST to pursue projects related to synthetic organic chemistry reactions on the plethora of natural materials that are grown or can be grown in Guyana. The IAST is still the only facility of its kind in the country, where these reactions can be conducted. Some of this equipment was pivotal in allowing the institute to develop the very successful Rupununi Essence line of facial cleansers. This equipment is being used in various other ways as well, to produce extracts of several botanicals working with in conjunction with indigenous collaborators in Regions 9 and 8. A food grade food extruder was purchased in the same year for $55,582,785 as part of the IAST’s capital allocation. This piece of equipment was pivotal in the development of Morning Glory Rice Breakfast Cereal and Nutrition Bars, for which a commercial facility was built in Anna Regina and for which commercial equipment is due to arrive in mid-January. A variety of other products such as aqua culture feed, risotto, Thai noodles etc have also been developed using this equipment.
b) Rubber Recycling Plant : $28,787,658 was spent on this used pilot plant. A brand new plant costs approximately $46,200,000, in China and requires cryogenic input. The refurbished plant is entirely operational. It produces high quality crumb rubber at a cost of $218/kg. A 50lb bag of crumb rubber sells for US$58.99 on Amazon, which equates to US$2.60 per kg, which is $545/kg. This is using biodiesel produced from waste vegetable oil at the institute to fuel the generator providing power to the equipment. The IAST has produced all the crumb rubber required to coat the original number of Demerara Harbour Bridge Plates (1500) – it is outside the control of the Institute to dictate to the Bridge Authorities when to apply the coating, although several attempts have been made. The Demerara Harbour Bridge had arranged to deliver 1500 plates, but only 300 were delivered to be coated as they ran out of funds.
c) Rainforest BioProspecting Laboratory : The institute has a vibrant effort in BioProspecting, dating back to 2010, Our efforts with bioprospecting has garnered the following results:
1. Lemongrass extract now used in Rupunini Essence, a successful commercial product. Formulational work is being done with essential oils of sweet sage, jasmine extract, lavender extract, bay leaf, lime peel extract, etc.
2. Purple Potatoes, with immense nutraceutical value, being dried and developed into an instant nutritional drink mix (at the completion stage of the research).
3. Research into extraction of Kiambe Bark, which is used by our Macushi People for medicinal healing.
4. Extraction and identification of the active ingredients in crab wood oil, which is now also being used in Rupununi Essence.
d) Alternatives to Mercury in Gold Mining : IAST in collaboration with a local mining company has been successful in demonstrating that the use of cyanide and activation carbon can not only supplant mercury in the process of mining gold, but can significantly increase yields of gold from ore (from ~65% to greater than 94%!). Discussions are also ongoing with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the GGMC on how to best promote the technology, so that Guyana can begin to address its obligations to the Minamata Convention. Kaieteur News itself reported on this project: https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2016/02/22/iast-develops-technology-for-mercury-free-gold-mining/
e) Hall of Residence : A formal MOU was signed in June 2016 between the University and the IAST, which stipulates how the facility will be managed and revenue generated for upkeep and maintenance. A joint committee has been struck comprising representatives from both the IAST and the University of Guyana and this committee will be working to begin construction of the facility early in 2017.
f) Paramakatoi Travel: The purported vaction in Paramakatoi was in fact a working trip where the Narine’s triplets accompanied Minister Garrido-Lowe and Professor Narine into Paramakatoi to begin a project now in completion stages to grow and process sundried tomatoes. That visit included consultations with communities in Bamboo Creek, Mountain Foot and Paramakatoi, with visits to several farms to assess the potential for the project, and to obtain Free and Informed Prior Consent from the community to pursue the project. Also, this being during the drought many of the Paramakatoi Community’s wells were drying up and the community was concerned about the safety of their water supply. Minister Garrido-Lowe and Professor Narine visited all the wells in the community and procured water samples for IAST testing to ensure that the community’s water was not compromised. Indeed, Kaieteur News itself reported on this trip: https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2016/03/28/agriculture-development-business-in-hinterland-being-taken-to-new-levels-iast-director/ .
G.Annai Travel: There was no cost to the IAST for this travel. Professor Narine and Minister Sydney Allicock met with drillers working on a well (this was during the drought) at Annai and then at Bina Hill, and took samples of water for testing at the IAST. A meeting was held with the Director of Bina Hill, Eugene Xavier and others. The team then made their way to Woweta, where a village meeting was held with the Minister and Professor Narine regarding collaboration with the community. This was followed by a meeting in Surama between Professor Narine and Minister Allicock and members of the Macushi Research Unit, to plan the way forward for the Rupununi Essence product, as this was during the time the product was being developed. Dr. Narine’s family did indeed accompany the team but this was certainly not a vacation.
A scientific research institute like the IAST need to be equipped if it is to develop transformational commercial products. – Members of the public including students are always welcome to arrange tours to view the equipment which was purchased and which are kept in good repair and used in IAST projects. Call Alicia Castello at 592 222 4214. Email: [email protected], Website: http://iast.gov.gy
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