Bioterrorism very real threat

March 31, 2009

The vulnerability of agricultural assets between farm and fork  is concerning Terry Etherton, Distinguished Professor of Animal Nutrition and head of Dairy & Animal Science at Pennsylvania University.

Agriculture in the U.S. is remarkably robust from a standpoint of productivity and efficiency in the food distribution chain but dangerously fragile because of countless vulnerabilities that could be exploited. There are few events that would cause more economic damage than a widespread attack on the agriculture infrastructure in the U.S .

He looks at threats from nature, foreign animal diseases and asymetric biolgical attacks and gives a close to home example in the latter category:

A recent example of an asymmetric attack occurred in New Zealand where a small group of farmers intentionally introduced a virulent rabbit pathogen (rabbit calicivirus disease) as a strategy to control the population of wild rabbits. This introduction was so effective that the disease is epizootic in New Zealand and threatens to spread beyond Oceana. The significance of this event is that a group of motivated individuals without much scientific training managed to research, acquire a source of the pathogen, and penetrate one of the best biosecurity systems in the world to unleash a hemorrhagic disease virus on the rabbit population in New Zealand.

While I appreciated the frustration farmers felt at inaction on the rabbit plague, the illegal introduction of RCD set a dangerous precedent and also showed that in spite of tough bio security controls, we are vulnerable to accidental or deliberate attacks.

Etherton concludes:

It is not easy to answer the questions of how bad an agricultural bioterrorist event would be in the U.S. However, the preponderance of evidence is that it would be potentially devastating to agribusiness and likely challenging to national security. A huge challenge will be to find ways to reduce the likelihood of an attack and the subsequent impact on society.

If the impact of agricultural bioterroism poses that much of a threat to the USA, the danger is even greater in New Zealand where a much greater proportion of our economy is dependent on agriculture.

HAT TIP: Farming Show


Once is a mistake

March 31, 2009

In the days when rugby was just a game, All Black coach Charlie Saxton encouraged players to think for themselves and said he didn’t mind them making mistakes if they learned from them.

But he said while doing something wrong once was a mistake, failing to learn and repeating it was a cock-up and while he accepted mistakes, he hated cock-ups.

John Key is taking a similar line with his ministers:

Mr Key made it clear when he named his ministers that he wanted “outcomes, results and accountability”. Yesterday, he said if anyone in government “needed a bollocking” it would come from him.

And, unlike the previous Prime Minister who showed unusual tolerance when Winston Peters breached the Cabinet Manual, Key has warned his patience is limited.

It doesn’t matter that Richard Worth was paying for his trip to India himself, acting in a private capactiy and made no personal gain, there was a perceived conflict of interest because he’s a minister and he ought to have realised that.

However, it was a mistake rather than a cock-up and I’m pleased it’s been accepted as that by the Prime Minsiter because Worth has brought a long over due and welcome improvement to the relationship between LINZ and farmers as Minister of Lands.

The previous incumbent had neither understanding of nor sympathy for high country farmers. Worth has done more good in his four months as minister by working to heal the rift in the high country  than the former minister did in the whole of his term.


Last bastions of communism

March 31, 2009

Communist farming practices are usually associated with North Korea and Cuba.

European Union MP Daniel Hannan who excited international interest with his attack on Gordon Brown’s policies, has found another bastion of agricultural communism: the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy:

Price fixing, storeage and destruction of food stocks for which their are no markets, wanton passing on of costs and suffering to the third world which is deprived of markets, people penalised by high prices and high taxes . . .

Those are the costs, who gets the benefits?

As Hannan says on his blog:

Who does best out of the system? EU bureaucrats, natch. . .

And it doesn’t matter where it is, the bureacrats get the benefits from subsidies and tariffs and everyone else pays the costs .

Hat Tip: Taxpayers’ Alliance


Jamie Oliveoil’s recipe for EU Ag Fudge

March 31, 2009

Jamie Oliveoil  is having a boil up to campaign against Britain’s membership of the European Union.

I’ll leave that issue aside because this video is also a compelling argument against subsidies and for ensuring politicians and bureaucrats don’t interfere with the relationship between producers and consumers.

Agricultural Fudge, Subsidy Stew, Tariff Tortellini . . . however you cook them up they cause economic indigestion.

They cost taxpayers and consumers, they threaten food supplies, lead to gluts and shortages and they distort markets.

The people they hurt the most are the poor who can’t afford to pay more for their food and face unfair competition when they sell their produce.

Hat Tip: Fairfacts Media Show & Taxpayers’ Alliance


A $1b interview

March 31, 2009

The Wall Street Journel interview with John Key  generated a bit of interest in New Zealand, but mostly by way of the isn’t-it-good-the-world-notices-us reporting.

Bernard Hickey reckons it was worth much more than that and explains how John Key secured a US1bln loan for New Zealand with a newspaper interview.

Hickey’s post explains how ANZ  National secured a $1b bond issue in the USA, it’s worth reading in full so I’ll leave it with this:

It turns out the interview was a crucial factor in the success of the bond issue, the first long term issue by a New Zealand bank since July last year. It is likely to set the tone for more.

Thank you John.


Life’s fatal

March 31, 2009

Too much red meat will kill you – study

I didn’t realise that was news because I’ve been reading reports recommending eating only moderate portions of red meat two or three times a week for years.

But I was interested in this:

Red meat was defined as beef, pork, bacon, ham, hamburger, hot dogs, liver, pork sausage, steak, and meats in foods such as pizza, stews, and lasagna.

No mention of lamb.

Does that mean lamb doesn’t count as cancer and heart disease causing red meat?

Or does it just mean that lamb is such a small part of the average diet in the USA the study didn’t think it rated a mention?


How green is my bottle?

March 30, 2009

The label proudly proclaimed this was an eco-bottle because the plastic was made from plants, in contrast to most other plastics which are made from oil.

It didn’t say whether the total impact on the environment of producing the bottle was greater or less because of that but as it was the only bottle available and I had left home without water to take on a walk I bought it.

I drank the water but kept the bottle to re-use it, thinking that would be the right thing to do with an eco-bottle.

But alas, look what happened when the plastic met hot water:

march-09-018

It’s called Charlie’s Honest Water, but is it being honest about the eco-bottle? The PR  says it’s good, but how good is it if it can’t be reused?

I know that it’s better to use tap water in a reusable bottle, but for those occasions when that’s not available should I opt for a one-use eco-bottle or a plastic-from-oil one which doesn’t collapse when it’s washed?

Or is it true that the ones that don’t collapse leach nasties into the water so shouldn’t be reused anyway?

Kermit was right, it’s not easy being green – especially when you don’t know whether what you are doing is good for your health and that of the planet and what’s simply greenwash.


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