16 May | UPSC Current Affairs: UNODC, Trees, Xenotransplantation & More

GS Paper 2

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

  • News: 2024 World Wildlife Crime Report has been released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
  • Establishment: UNODC was founded in 1997 through a merger between the United Nations Drug Control Programme and the Centre for International Crime Prevention.
  • Global Leadership: A global leader in the fight against illicit drugs and international crime.
  • Responsible for implementing the UN lead programme on terrorism.
  • Functions of UNODC
      • Education and Awareness: Works to educate people worldwide about the dangers of drug abuse.
      • International Action: Strengthens international action against illicit drug production, trafficking, and drug-related crime.
  • Crime Prevention and Justice Reform: Improves crime prevention and assists with criminal justice reform to strengthen the rule of law and criminal justice systems.
  • Source of Funds: Relies on voluntary contributions, mainly from governments, to carry out the majority of its work.
  • Key Publications:
      • World Drug Report
      • Global Report on Trafficking in Persons
      • Global Report on Trafficking in Cultural Property
      • World Wildlife Crime Report
  • Headquarters: Located in Vienna, Austria.

GS Paper 3

Silk Cotton Tree 

  • News:  Semal trees are disappearing from south Rajasthan.
  • Physical Characteristics: A lofty deciduous tree known for its crimson red flowers.
  • Distribution: Found in various regions across India, including Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Assam, Bihar, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.


  • Significance of the Semal Tree
      • Fire Resistance and Revegetation: Fire-resistant and used for revegetation in fire-prone areas.
      • Cooling Properties: Known for its cooling properties.
      • Environmental Impact: Pioneer tree that generates rich biomass every season.
      • Used to reclaim wastelands: Fixes carbon and aids in carbon sequestration by shedding all leaves before flowering.
      • Economic Uses: Seeds produce edible oil, which is used in making soaps.
      • Medicinal Uses:
        • Ayurvedic medicines can be prepared from every part of the tree.
        • Roots are used for treating ailments such as diabetes.
  • Cultural Significance:
        • Considered a bio indicator; late flowering could signify a hot summer or a delayed monsoon.
  • Tribal Uses:
        • Garasia tribe in Rajasthan consumes the tree’s reddish root for food.
        • Kathodi tribe uses its wood to craft musical instruments.
        • Bhil tribe uses it to make utensils.

Pine Needles

  • News: Bio-energy projects initiated by the Uttarakhand Renewable Energy Development Agency (UREDA) to utilize the abundant flammable pine needles for electricity generation have been “unsuccessful.”
  • Description: Pine needles are the long, slender leaves of pine trees, found in abundance in hilly regions.
      • They are covered in a waxy coating that helps prevent water loss to the environment.
      • Highly combustible, the accumulation of pine needles on the forest floor aids in the spread of forest fires.
  • Local Significance in Uttarakhand
      • Local Name: Known as “Pirul” in the state of Uttarakhand.
      • Usage: Pine needles are collected from the forest floor and used as raw material for handcrafted products.
  • Forest Coverage and Generation
      • Forest Coverage: In Uttarakhand, 16.36%, or about 3.9 lakh hectares, is covered by chir pine forests.
      • Generation Estimates: Annually, over 15 lakh tonnes of pine leaves are generated in these forests.
  • Applications
      • Handcrafted Products: Pine needles are utilized as raw material for various handcrafted products.
      • Power Generation: Pine needles are used for power generation through biomass gasification technology, converting them into electrical energy.

Read also – Blue Economy: Meaning, Significance and Challenge | UPSC


  • News: The first recipient of a modified pig kidney transplant passed away recently around two months after the surgery was carried out.
  • Definition of Xenotransplantation: Any procedure involving the transplantation, implantation, or infusion into a human recipient of either:
      • Live cells, tissues, or organs from a nonhuman animal source.
      • Human body fluids, cells, tissues, or organs that have had ex vivo contact with live nonhuman animal cells, tissues, or organs.
  • Use of Pigs in Xenotransplantation
      • Pig heart valves have been used for replacing damaged valves in humans for over 50 years.
      • Pigs’ anatomical and physiological parameters are similar to those of humans.
      • Breeding pigs on farms is widespread and cost-effective.
      • Many varieties of pig breeds provide an opportunity to match the size of harvested organs with the specific needs of the human recipient.
  • Complications in Xenotransplantation
      • Organ Rejection: Ensuring the human body does not reject the organ is crucial.
      • Method: Embedding the pig’s thymus gland, responsible for educating the immune system, underneath the outer layer of the kidney to prevent immune responses.
      • Infection Concerns: Potential for infection with both recognized and unrecognized infectious agents. Possible transmission to close contacts and the general human population.
      • Public Health Concerns: Risk of cross-species infection by retroviruses, which may be latent and lead to disease years after infection.

Khanij Bidesh India Limited (KABIL)

  • News:  Khanij Bidesh India Ltd (KABIL) hopes to acquire a lithium block in Australia this year.
  • Formation: KABIL is a joint venture company formed by three public sector units under the Union Ministry of Mines.
  • Participating Units:
      • National Aluminium Company Limited (NALCO)
      • Hindustan Copper Limited (HCL)
      • Mineral Exploration Corporation Limited (MECL)
  • Primary Goal: To ensure a consistent supply of critical and strategic minerals for the Indian domestic market.
  • Functions: 
      • Identify, acquire, develop, process, and commercially utilize strategic minerals from overseas locations.
      • Collaborate with other countries or companies to secure access to these resources.
  • Focus Areas:   Emphasis on Lithium and Cobalt, which are crucial for electric vehicle batteries and other green technologies.


  • News:  OpenAI introduced its latest large language model (LLM) called GPT-4o recently.
  • Definition: GPT-4o (“o” stands for “Omni”) is a revolutionary multimodal AI model developed to enhance human-computer interactions.
  • Capabilities:
      • Multimodal Interaction: Allows users to input text, audio, and image combinations and receive responses in the same formats.
        • Capable of interacting using text, vision, and audio.
        • Can view and discuss screenshots, photos, documents, or charts uploaded by users.
        • Real-time spoken conversations and facial reading capabilities.
      • Enhanced Memory: Updated memory capabilities allowing it to learn from previous conversations with users.
      • Speed and Efficiency: Responds to queries as fast as a human does in conversation, in around 232 to 320 milliseconds.
        • Significant improvement over previous models with longer response times.
      • Multilingual Support: Shows significant improvements in handling non-English text.
      • Enhanced Understanding: Enhanced audio and vision understanding.
        • Can gauge emotions, identify objects, and solve problems in real-time during live interactions.
        • Uses a single model trained end-to-end across various modalities (text, vision, and audio).
      • Holistic Processing: Capable of understanding tone, background noises, and emotional context in audio inputs simultaneously.
      • Digital Personal Assistant: Described as a digital personal assistant that assists with a variety of tasks.
  • Significance of GPT-4o
      • AI Race Intensification: Comes at a time when tech giants like Meta and Google are working towards building more powerful LLMs and incorporating them into various products.
      • Technological Leap: Represents a significant advancement in multimodal AI technology, enhancing human-computer interaction. Can revolutionize how AI assists with real-time tasks across various industries.
      • Market Impact: Promotes competition among leading tech companies, driving further innovation and advancements in AI technology.
        • Potential to influence AI development strategies and product offerings across the tech industry.
  • Limitations of GPT-4o:
      • Early Stage of Development: GPT-4o is still exploring the potential of unified multimodal interaction. Certain features, like audio outputs, are initially accessible in a limited form with preset voices.
      • Safety Concerns:  Includes filtered training data and refined model behavior post-training. Extensive safety evaluations and external reviews have been conducted.
      • Risk Areas: Focus on mitigating risks related to cybersecurity, misinformation, and bias. Currently, GPT-4o scores only a Medium-level risk across these areas.

Facts for Prelims

Exercise SHAKTI

  • News: 7th Edition of India-France Joint Military Exercise ‘Shakti’ Commences in Meghalaya.
  • Biennial Exercise: It is conducted biennially, alternating between India and France.
      • Its last edition was held in France in 2021.
  • Other Exercises between India and France: 
      • Exercise Garuda: Involves the Indian Air Force and the French Air Force.
      • Exercise Varuna: Involves the Indian Navy and the French Navy.
      • Exercise Desert Knight: Conducted between the Indian Air Force (IAF), French Air and Space Force (FASF), and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Air Force.

Memory of the World (MOW)

  • News: The Ramcharitmanas, Panchatantra and Sahṛdayāloka-Locana have been included in ‘UNESCO’s Memory of the World Asia-Pacific Regional Register’.
  • Launch: UNESCO launched the Memory of the World (MoW) Programme in 1992.
  • Governance: This programme is administrated by an international advisory committee appointed by UNESCO.
  • Aim
      • Facilitate preservation of the world’s documentary heritage 
      • Catalyse universal access to documentary heritage 
      • Enhance public awareness worldwide of the significance of documentary heritage 
  • Documentary Heritage: It is a legacy of humankind, through which we can look back into the past, enrich our present lives, and look into the future with the boldness forged by enduring memories.
      • It consists of manuscripts, printed books, photographs, films, and sound recordings.
  • Components:  The programme recognises documentary heritage of international, regional and national significance, maintains registers of it, and awards a logo to identified collections.
      • International Register consists of several Indian entries namely Tamil Medical Manuscript Collection, Saiva manuscripts Rig Veda etc.
  • Ramcharitmanas: It is an epic poem in the language of Awadhi, composed by the 16th-century Indian poet, Goswami Tulsidas (c.1532–1623).
      • The core of the work is a poetic retelling of the events of the Sanskrit epic Ramayana, centered on the narrative of Rama, the crown prince of Ayodhya.
      • Tulsidas began writing the scripture in Vikram Samvat 1631 (1574 CE) in Avadhpuri, Ayodhya.
  • Panchatantra: The Panchatantra is a compilation of inter-woven series of tales in prose and poetry, mostly animal fables. 
      • It was compiled in Sanskrit (Hindu) and Pali (Bhuddhist) by Pandit Vishnu Sharma.
  • Sahrdayāloka-Locana:  it is written by Acharya Anandvardhan in Sanskrit. It is a text of Indian Poetics.

Key Terms in News

  •  Ozempic/Semaglutide: is a drug for type 2 diabetes, misused for weight loss by celebrities/influencers.
  •  Ethylene Oxide (EtO): The Spice Board of India (under the Commerce Ministry) made it compulsory to check for Ethylene Oxide (EtO) residue in Indian spice exports to Singapore and Hong Kong. This was done after Hong Kong banned MDH & Everest brand masala/spices packets. EtO is a fumigant/pesticide that can cause cancer.
  •  Salmonella bacteria: The USA banned MDH spices due to this in 2024. Salmonella can lead to a severe stomach infection if food is not adequately cooked.
  •  Goldene: a one-atom-thick 2D material created by Sweden’s researchers. Thickness: 100 nanometers thick. Done with the help of an age-old Japanese technique used to forge katana swords, using a chemical known as Murakami’s reagent. Applications? Electronics industry.
  • AlphaFold 3: It is a Google AI model that can predict the behavior of molecules. It is used for the discovery of new drugs. A new version of AI/Software launched. It can now predict behavior for all molecules, including human DNA, proteins, enzymes.
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