Homeopathy Awareness Week

April 17, 2014

It’s World Homeopathy Awareness Week.

Apropos of this Siouxsie Wiles writes:

In case you need reminding what homeopathy is, it is based on Hahnemann’s bizarre doctrine that substances which cause disease symptoms in healthy people will cure similar symptoms in sick people, but only if they have been diluted to such a degree that there is unlikely to be a single molecule of the substance left in the preparation. . . .

There’s a video there if you want a giggle.

Also at Sciblogs, Grant Jacobs asks: how do you approve a course for something known not to work?

So let’s reflect on homeopathy’s contribution to public health:

 

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Rural round-up

February 18, 2014

Dairy farms set to beat compliance deadline – Tony Benny:

DairyNZ hopes to have all dairy farmers in the Amuri Basin signed up to its Sustainable Milk Plans by the end of the year, meaning they will comply with new Environment Canterbury environmental regulations well before the 2017 deadline.

The plans are based on a voluntary scheme in the Waikato, tweaked to comply with requirements of the Hurunui Waiau River Regional Plan, which came into force in December, under the Canterbury Water Management Strategy.

“The ultimate goal is this will tick all the boxes so at the moment, as I understand it, it does meet all the requirements of Schedule 2 of the Hurunui plan and Schedule 7 of the Land and Water Regional Plan which are both the farm environment plan schedules,” said DairyNZ catchment manager Canterbury Tony Fransen. . . .

For cows daughters mean more milk - Chris Cash:

The amount of milk a cow produces is affected by the sex of her fetus, a new study reports.

Cows that gave birth to a daughter produced considerably more milk than those that had sons. And back-to-back daughters led to a bonanza of milk from their mothers — over two 305-day lactation periods, nearly 1,000 pounds more milk than from cows that had given birth to sons, an increase of 3 percent.

The study, described in the journal PLoS ONE, could have implications for dairy farmers and for new discoveries about human breast milk. . .

NZ vs Aus – who wins at the farmgate? – Freshagenda:

As the current season has unfolded and payouts have heated up over the ditch, many farmers here  are asking the inevitable question – How do Australian farmgate prices compare to New Zealand’s? 
 
To address this question more fully, we really need to look beyond the current season and examine a long term comparison. Freshagenda’s analysis of payments made by Australian manufacturers compared to Fonterra’s over the past 13 years (including a forecast for 2013/14) show that Australian prices have been ahead by around A$0.19 kgMS on average. This is once adjustments have been made for protein – measured as “crude’ in New Zealand and “true” here, and converting NZ prices to Australian dollars. 
 

What the green and black bars on the chart  indicate (in US dollars this time) is that since 2009, Australian farmgate prices have been more resilient when there have been downturns in the international market, while New Zealand’s prices have responded more quickly and fully when commodity prices head upwards. . .

Increasing your slice of the economic pie:

As a commodity producer of primarily agricultural products, New Zealand is not in a favourable position to dictate what goes on in the global marketplace. However, Senior Lecturer in Supply Chain Management, Dr Mark M.J. Wilson , says by looking at the supply chain as a total system, there is the opportunity for businesses to compete through collaboration.

“New Zealand Inc tends to get buried as a supplier within the supply chain,” says Dr Wilson. “For example, our milk products get wrapped up as supply commodities to major confectionery brands that then capture the benefit of their branding to the consumers. So New Zealand gets paid as a commodity player, while the confectionery giant gets the profit from the brand ownership.

“No longer do businesses compete against businesses; rather we need to think about value chains competing against value chains.. .

Two charts about animal use in research - Thomas Lumley:

Prompted by Siouxsie Wiles’s report of talking to an anti-vivisectionist demonstrator, here are two charts from the annual report of the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee. These are the people who monitor the use of animals in research, testing, and teaching in New Zealand.

The first chart shows what types of animals are used and what happens to them afterwards. . .

 

Triple investment property combines business opportunities with rural lifestyle:

A highly successful multi-purpose hospitality and commercial accommodation business being run as a “hobby” by its current owners has been placed on the market for sale.

The Dairy Flat property north of Auckland combines two business operations with a home on a 4.7 hectare lifestyle section, offering potential new owners the best of both professional and lifestyle worlds.

Located at 48 Young Access in the rural community 25 minutes north of Auckland, the property encompasses a boutique bed and breakfast business with a private residence, a purpose-built glass house function pavilion and a smaller dwelling used as commercial accommodation. . .


Science needed in media

August 16, 2013

A man claiming to be a vet has come up with a theory on how Fonterra’s whey protein concentrate was contaminated.

The story headlined vet links botulism to feed not pipes says:

A veterinarian and farm consultant doubts the recent Fonterra botulism scare was caused by a dirty pipe, and says he is sitting on material that will embarrass the dairy giant further.

Matamata veterinarian and farm performance consultant Frank Rowson says Fonterra should be tracing the source of the Clostridium botulinum bacterium back to farms or their own water supply.

He doubts Clostridium botulinum was caused by an old pipe at Fonterra’s Hautapu plant and said it had to get in there in the first place. . . .

Rowson said: “This disease originates in contaminated feed and animal manure, and research all over the world of which I am part, shows that GM feeds and the use of increased amounts of glyphosate herbicides increases the prevalence of this disease in pigs, poultry and dairy cattle, and the neuro toxin that causes the disease will pass through the food chain into milk.” . . .

At Sciblogs, Siouxsie Wiles asks could the botulism be linked to herbicide use and GM crops

Firstly, Fonterra and MPI have made it clear that it was not the toxin but the bacterial spores that contaminated the whey powder. . .

. . . According to the Irish Department Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the C. botulinum toxin types that cause disease in cattle are C and D, which do not cause disease in humans. Fonterra still haven’t released information on the type of C. botulinum which contaminated their whey powder, but given the recall, we can assume it was either A, B, E or F, the types which cause botulism in humans. From this, it would seem that Rowson’s claim that the source of the Clostridial contamination is linked to glyphosate usage and cattle is highly questionable.

The Veterinary Association also sides with science:

 The New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) believes that unproven theories published in the media do little to clarify the situation in regard to the investigation that is currently underway to determine the cause of the botulism contamination of some Fonterra dairy products.

 The NZVA is liaising closely with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Fonterra in their investigation of this incident and supports a robust scientific process to establish the cause.

 “Claims made by Mr Frank Rowson recently reported in the media about the cause of the contamination are speculation and not helpful in assisting the investigation,” NZVA President Dr Steve Merchant said.

 Mr Rowson, described as a veterinarian and farm consultant in the media, is not a registered veterinarian and is also not a member of the NZVA.  He does not represent the views of the veterinary profession or that of the NZVA,” said Dr Merchant. “We are dealing with a complex scientific issue and we need to bring together the relevant scientific expertise in New Zealand to ensure the investigation leads to a successful resolution.” . . .

There is more than enough emotion and misinformation on the issue without the media adding to it with stories not supported by science.


What kills kiwis when

February 17, 2013

Siouxsie Wiles continues her series on what kills us with a post on changes with age:

This table shows the number of people who die in each age bracket:If you want to live a long life, your chances are considerably enhanced if you’re born as a girl rather than a boy.This shows causes at different ages:


What kills us

February 4, 2013

Following up her post on what kills us, Siouxsie Wiles breaks down the statistics by gender:

battle-of-the-sexes

 

Its striking that more men die of prostate cancer than women die of ovarian, and twice as many men than women die from cancer of the bladder and kidney. But lots more women die of cerebrovascular diseases, that is strokes and brain haemorrhages, and dementia. . .

This is important information for health policy – is the money spent on education, prevention and treatment going where the need is greatest?


What kills kiwis

January 21, 2013

Sci blogger Siouxsie Wiles asked what Kiwis die of last week and has now provided the answers:

She’d used social media to survey people about what they thought would kill them and this shows the perception vs reality:

Offsetting Behaviour points out that misconceptions about what kills us could have policy implications.


What kills Kiwis?

January 17, 2013

Sic-blogger Siouxsie Wiles wants to know what Kiwis think kills us (ie the people not the birds).

Following the link will take you to the survey and she promises to reveal all at the end of the week.


How clean is your cucumber?

June 4, 2011

Travellers in third world countries are warned about not eating raw fruit or vegetables unless they’ve peeled them but few are concerned in countries with better standards of hygiene.

I’ve had giardia which has made me a bit paranoid about what I eat when away from home but I’d never have worried about salads in Germany.

However, that was before the news of illness and deaths there as a result of  haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) and enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC):

The number of patients in Germany presenting with HUS and bloody diarrhoea caused by STEC is 470, which is 97 more than the day before, and 1064 of EHEC, which is an increase of 268. Overall in Europe, 499 cases of HUS and 1115 cases of EHEC have been reported, 1614 in total.

Cases have now also been notified from: Austria (HUS 0, EHEC 2), Denmark (7, 7), France, (0, 6), Netherlands (4, 4), Norway, (0, 1), Spain, (1, 0), Sweden (15, 28) and Switzerland (0, 2) and the United Kingdom. (2, 1) All these cases except two are in people who had recently visited northern Germany or in one case, had contact with a visitor from northern Germany.

The BBC reports 16 people have died of the disease and the cause hasn’t been ascertained.

It was originally blamed on Spanish cucumbers at considerable cost:

Spain’s fruit and vegetable exporters estimate they have been losing more than 200m euros ($290m; £174m) since the outbreak emerged.

Germany has admitted the bacteria did not come from Spain as initially reported, but said the decision to issue the warning had been correct as a different strain of E.coli was present in Spanish cucumbers.

The speed and extent of the impact on Spanish producers is horrifying and reinforces the need for vigilance with food production and processing here for both health and financial reasons.

Siouxsie Wiles gives a scientist’s perspective on the outbreak:

Recently, researchers have shown how plants become contaminated with EHEC, and it makes scary reading. Most people would think that as long as they gave their vegetables a decent rinse before putting them in their salad, then all would be well. If only it were that simple. It turns out that the bacteria aren’t just hanging around on the surface of the plant. Shaw and colleagues (1) showed that EHEC attach to the very cells that open and close the pores plants use for gas exchange. From here, the bacteria can then get inside of the plant cell, where no amount of rinsing can reach them.

It’s not easy to get your five plus servings of fresh fruit and vegetables when you’re travelling at the best of times, but I’d rather risk a little vitamin and fibre deprivation than a stomach bug like this.


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