Water quality concern for all

The Ministry of Environment report on water quality shows most of our popular coastal swimming spots are fine for swimming most of the time but there are many freshwater swimming spots which should be avoided.

The immediate response to this was criticism of farmers and “dirty dairying” in particular.

But farmingin genreal and dairying in particular are not the only culprits.

The New Zealand Herald editorial calls for more action from farmers but also points out:

. . . Oil and brake fluid released onto roads is carried by rains into stormwater drains and end up in streams. Too often in heavy rain wastewater systems overflow and add to the contamination. . .

I make no excuses for people who pollute waterways but some of the criticism levelled at farmers is unfair and where farming can be blamed, it’s not necessarily dairying that is causing problems.

The MfE data summary shows the Kakanui River at Clifton Falls as having poor water quality.

This is very near the intake for the rural water scheme which supplies the water we drink but it is upstream of any dairy farms.

Further down the Kakanui from Clifton Falls, below several sheep and dairy farms and some intensive horticulture,  at the estuary the water quality is fair.

We’ve been working with the regional council to ensure we’re doing all we can on our farm to protect waterways. Tests showed high E-coli below a dam and it wasn’t our stock or farming practices which were to blame, it was water fowl.

Some water issues can be laid at the feet of human visitors too  Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers water spokesman notes:

“Being a representative farmers’ organisation, we know our members cannot duck or hide that a number of these sites do fall in rural areas. Federated Farmers is aware of this and is why we are working across industry and with our own members to lift agriculture’s game.

“I know farmers ‘get it’ and this is why it is wrong to blame farming for everything. Doing that masks the reality there are very poor sites around settlements and near camp sites. . . 

Some farmers still need to improve their practices but most recognise the need to protect waterways. Feds chief executive Conor English says:

. . . The focus needs to be on finding solutions, based on sound science and profitable and sustainable farming.

Farmers are custodians of the land and water, harvesting for the benefit of today and future generations. They want to leave it better than they found it.

While some still need to pull their socks up, farmers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars putting in effluent systems, excluding stock from waterways, measuring fertiliser and investing in more efficient irrigation. That investment has allowed export growth, earning money to pay the bills for hospitals, schools and other services. It provides jobs and has improved the environment.

Water-quality measures must include all those whose discharge into rivers . . .

Water quality concerns us all and improving it requires improvements in both rural and urban practices.

51 Responses to Water quality concern for all

  1. Here’s an interesting blog, Ele, by a dairy farmer in Rangiora who is looking into mobile dairy systems, (which I think would fill a real niche in NZ, vis a vis cashflow improvement and environmental issues): http://milkingonthemoove.blogspot.co.nz/2012/10/the-mobile-milking-system.html

    Regarding your post above, he has some interesting facts about nitrate leaching:

    “Most New Zealanders would not know that market gardeners have almost twice the amount of nitrate leaching of a dairy farm. Neither would they know that cropping farmers leach just as much as an intensive dairy farm.

    These figures seem to go against what I had always been told about urine and nitrate leaching, because there is no urine on a market garden. The reason cropping & market gardeners leach nitrates is because of the high fertilizer use and the high amount of plant residue left in the soil, especially over winter.”



  2. homepaddock says:

    Thanks Mark, I’ve been following those posts. We saw a mobile milking system in Argentina and I have a post under construction about it with links to Milkingonthemoove.


  3. Good one. Look forward to the post.


  4. Viv says:

    Ele, the number of dairy cows in NZ has nearly doubled since 1990, perhaps that has got something to do with the deterioration in water quality. Do you know how many cows there are in the Kakanui catchment now compared to 20 years ago? Also, how much water is taken out for irrigation compared to 20 years ago? How much fertilizer applied compared to 20 years ago? You may not have the figures close to hand, but I expect all will have increased. Of course dairy farmers are in the spotlight over water quality, what other industry has undergone such an expansion at the same time as the rivers got dirtier?


  5. homepaddock says:

    The water is poor above the dairy farms in the Kakanui and fair below them. I’m not suggesting dairy farming improves water quality and yes, in some areas dairying makes it worse. But in this case if the worst water is upstream of the dairy farms you can’t blame them, there must be another cause.

    There is more irrigation but the Kakanui is very strictly monitored and irrigation stops when it drops to specified levels.


  6. TraceyS says:

    Broad generalisations such as made by Viv are not helpful and actually draw attention and effort away from environmental problem-solving.by blaming whole industries and all those that comprise them, including those who are innovative and capable of stimulating positive change. I am not a dairy farmer, but I have experience first-hand of running an operation within an industry that has been similarly smeared. An individual operation which is managing it’s effects well within such an industry has very little hope of being recognised for their genuine, credible and successful approaches to environmental management because they suffer under the industry’s poor public image. Do you know how this feels Viv? It is not only unfair, but hinders the recognition of best-practice – which is exactly what needs to be promoted to improve the environment. It’s high time there was recognition of businesses of all kinds as problem-solvers within society, not just greedy profiteers. The water quality problems (and others) can only be solved by those who actually know how to do it – those who know the land, live and work with it, and understand it intimately. To make enemies or criminals of these people, or even to tar them all with the same brush ignores that fact that the answers lie in their hands.


  7. TraceyS says:

    Hi Ele. Why could dairy farming not improve water quality? Such as by promoting beneficial microbial populations which can break down pollutants or filtering water through appropriate soils and gravels before they reach waterways. I would think that diary farms would produce ample nutrients to feed such bacteria.


  8. homepaddock says:

    Good point, Tracey.


  9. robertguyton says:

    Fonterra, in it’s desire to be ‘loved by the public’ will step up it’s involvement in discussions on social media, like this blog, in order to counter any negative comments and ‘beef up ‘ the amount of dairy-friendly comments across the medium. Eh TraceyS!


  10. Cadwallader says:

    What I am curious about is the manner by which water quality s tested. Is it a matter of identifying certain excesses of elements in the water? Is it purely visual? Is it taste? Is it measured against historic standards? I do not know, but as a frequent visitor to the rivers in the Temuka region over nearly 60 years the rivers to my untrained eye seem as pure and innocuous as when I was a child. I have swum in them, ingested them and eaten trout from them during my lifetime and continue to do so without hesitation.


  11. homepaddock says:

    I know Tracey, she isn’t a dairy farmer, doesn’t work for Fonterra nor does she write on instruction for anyone. Your conspiracy theory fails.


  12. homepaddock says:

    I think they take water samples and test them in a lab.


  13. robertguyton says:

    Your personal testimonial does get Tracey off the hook, Ele, but doesn’t disprove my claim.
    Cadwallader – there are a range of tests for water quality, from visual assessments right through to lab testing. It depends of course, on what you are testing for. Nitrates are not visible, but pose a real threat to human health. Many toxic pesticides and herbicides, for example, are rarely tested for, that being a very expensive process. Some things are excluded politically from testing.


  14. TraceyS says:

    Quite true. We farm cattle and some of our land could be used for dairying (as it has been in the past) but we choose not to for a variety of reasons.


  15. Captain Fantastic says:

    Robert is correct. Some things are excluded politically. A good example exists in Southland. The Gore District Council avoided a bollocking in the Environment Court, after polluting a stream, fairly badly. They got away with “exemplary justice”. Fencing and amenity plantings. Yet we have a farm owner, living away from the farm in question,a first offence, a clean record, heavily fined $48,000, fined for the actions of another, fined just because his name was on the consent. Environment councils prefer to leave the majority alone and “onside”, and divide and rule, and pick on individuals.


  16. Cadwallader says:

    Thanks. What is politically excluded from testing? Without having definitive guidelines on testing it seems a bit pointless for the media to headline water degradation. It is all very well to take samples off to a lab without having some handle on what is being scientifically pursued.


  17. robertguyton says:

    Captain Fantastic is correct. Some decisions are unfair. Some farmers receive summary justice where other institutions, such as town or city councils, are delivered a different result. It rankles me as it rankles the Captain. The name on a consent, be it individual or council, is where the buck stops, legally, and this can cause a great deal of debate around who has responsibility. Often, there are circumstances that make it difficult to understand legal decisions, but that’s, I guess, what judges and courts are for. They are trained to make good decisions based on fact. Council-based decisions, as with those of say, a federation, are different and add a further layer of possible dispute. I don’t agree however, with your last sentence, CF. It’s too simplistic but obviously you have a bone to pick.


  18. robertguyton says:

    Cadwallader – councils who take or commission water tests will know exactly what they are testing for – it’s a very expensive process and not done without justification, in my experience.
    I used the term ‘politically’ broadly, to mean those decisions about what is useful to test for or not, depending on several things: community expectations, central Government demands, lobbying from industry, existing scientific programmes, the requirements of the RMA and consents issued to water and land users. No council could test for everything, all of the time. Priorities are set. Some contaminants are overlooked for the reasons listed above, and others.


  19. TraceyS says:

    Hey Robert, we hade a house cow that I hand-milked until very recently. I made butter, yoghurt and even had a go at cheese. Does that count? Sadly she died a few weeks ago and I miss her. Funnily enough her name was “Ellie” and she hailed from a small, sustainable, caring dairy farm in North Otago.


  20. TraceyS says:

    Oh dear that sounded all wrong. No offense meant to Ele!


  21. robertguyton says:

    Tracey – sorry to hear about Ellie. You get to know a house cow really well when you are hand milking her (I’ve had that experience also 🙂 I enjoyed the butter making especially, wooden pats and all. We have a lovely ‘Blow’ butter churn made from glass that’s fun to use. I like the sound of your dairy farm – small, sustainable and caring is the model I promote, as contrast to the industrial developments that make up much of the dairy industry nowadays. So, yeah, you were a dairy farmer 🙂
    Will you get another? Was she a Jersey?


  22. TraceyS says:

    Yes she was a Jersey and she was loved and respected by a lot of people. A local farmer who owns big dairy farmer nearby helped us, but in the end the work to try and save her was too exhausting.and we gave up. She was a very dear friend. A lot of farmers, even big ones have feelings for their animals. In the environmental debate we so often and so unfortunately forget the fact that ALL farmers are humans with families and emotional connections and obligations to their land, staff and animals. I am sensitive to the environemental issues, but at the same time can’t help thinking you poor buggers when reading about the changes that may be ahead. You know they got to where they are at now legitimately.


  23. Viv says:

    Hi Tracey. I don’t see why pointing out that the numbers of dairy cows has doubled at the same time as the rivers have got dirtier should be intepreted as me smearing people and calling them criminals. I was trying to point out why attention goes on that industry when water pollution comes up in the media. Do you think the increase in dairy cow numbers, fertiliser use and irrigation is unrelated to the increase in polluted waterways? My comments are not meant as a personal attack on Ele or anyone else. And yes I do know what it is like being part of an industry which gets bad press. I’m a dentist, apparently we are all sadistic, money grubbing bastards, I don’t take it personally and strive to overturn that impression.:-)


  24. Captain Fantastic says:

    Viv, you shouldn’t jump to conclusions. Urban people seem to live with blinkers on. Do an internet search about leaking urban sewage ponds. There are shockers across the country. Some leaking upto 860,000 litres a day. No one worries. Least of all Environment councils. Seems to me that blaming farmers is a bizarre form of urban escapism. Why not link it to global warming, or the increase in Asian migration, the bad behaviour of politicians, or larger aircraft. Equally logical.


  25. robertguyton says:

    The abomination that is human sewerage treatment in NZ is something this councillor has challenged for years, before I was voted onto the council and since. Disposal of humanure to water is a shameful practice, in my view.


  26. robertguyton says:

    But would it work for nitrates? That’s the $64 000 question.


  27. TraceyS says:

    Wetlands encourage nitrogen-eating bacteria. We looked at doing this in two locations recently, but the catchment sizes mean we’d need consents. Such consent are obviously not straightforward to obtain, see http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/196411/lower-taieri-wetland-be-restored and http://www.odt.co.nz/regions/otago/221988/orc-consent-unlikely-reflooding-wetland. If there was more certainty and more support and if the process wasn’t so fraught with difficulty then we would go for it. Every dollar spent on the process is a dollar less spent on environmental improvements.


  28. TraceyS says:

    Hi Viv, there probably is a link but there are as others point out, many contributing factors. Waters on our property are high in nitrates at the point where a spring comes out of the ground. We were told by the lab this may be due to the close proximity of a cemetary (initially I thought that was a joke). Further down it is contaminated by the septic tank water of our residential neighbours. Then the tides push water from a lagoon contaminated from an old rubbish tip back up into the waterways as well. It would be more convenient to blame the farming practices above us eh? The social issues involved in addressing the other contributions are enormous. The kind that divide communities and pit neighbour against previously friendly neighbour. We have fenced the main waterways to keep stock out, stock lightly, and don’t use superphosphate anymore. Farming is just one piece of the puzzle.


  29. Viv says:

    You are right Tracey, farming is only 1 part of the puzzle. If all NZ farms dealt with water issues the way it sounds like you do that would be awesome. Septic systems, industrial and urban run off and old polluted sites must all be dealt with. I know what you mean about neighbours, we have very nice neighbours whose cattle drink from and stand in the stream. The neighbour has also used a digger to scrape away all vegetation from the stream edges, nowhere for whitebait. But it’s difficult, when does a ditch become a stream? My neighbour would probably say he is keeping the drains clear. I am concerned about further increases in the total NZ dairy herd, I’m sorry if this is intepreted as picking on farmers, but intensive dairy farming is having an adverse effect on water quality. Old tips, industrial run off, urban sewage have not doubled in the last 20years, dairy numbers have. It’s just maths


  30. robertguyton says:

    As the dairy industry intensifies, it seeks to become more efficient and affect the environment less, by changing behaviours on farm and by adopting better technologies. The problem, as I see it, is that genetic engineering becomes more and more tempting. I see that already, ge cotton seed is being imported and fed to dairy cows here. This is a serious development, in terms of our previous ge -free status. It’s also the thin edge of a very worrying wedge. It won’t be long til we’ll hear that ge pasture grasses are the best thing since sliced bread and that we must have them in order to remain competitave. What nonsense that will be, but it will come, soon. The dairy industry is putting its efforts into water quality, but the public should be watching these other areas very closely. I am.


  31. TraceyS says:

    I reckon your last sentence is a fair comment Viv.


  32. TraceyS says:

    But what if, Robert, there was a ge bacteria invented that could rapidly eat up nitrate in the water and release it to air? There has been a ge strain of bacteria made to prevent tooth decay in children. I’d go for that if it meant my kids could be free of cavities, fillings and pain whereas we usually avoid ge food if there is a choice.


  33. robertguyton says:

    TraceyS – interesting ideas. The tooth decay development is one I’d cautiously support, it being directly applicable to a serious medical issue and applied to a contained ‘area’, the child’s mouth. The release of a nitrate-eating bacteria that didn’t already exist, into the open environment sounds incredibly foolhardy. I hope you can see the contrast in circumstance. You seem to favour ‘magic wand’ solutions, with your hopes centred around science and genetic engineering. I’m of the opposite persuasion, believing that it’s better, safer, more sustainable and wiser, to look to tuning up systems and organisms that already exist. It concerns me greatly that the nitrate-inhibitors promoted by the industry, are in fact anti-biotics, applied broadscale to paddocks. How risky is that! bacteria mutate faster even than insects, so I imagine it wouldn’t be long til those anti-biotics are rendered useless and others have to be developed, or until some unforseen development causes greater probles in the environment. Modern dairy farming is tuning up the processes and simplifying the environment for the sake of efficiency, seemingly without being aware that the margin for error is becoming finer and finer and the potential for collapse greater and greater. Highly tuned systems become more and more vulnerable.
    I’ve more to say, but you may have lost interest already, so I’ll pause here and wait for your response 🙂


  34. Viv says:

    Robert, I am suprised you would support a GE bacteria being used in kids mouths. Their mouths are not closed systems, fingers, toys and pencils go in and out and stuff comes out the other end too. I have not seen data onlong term clinical trials proving efficacy or safety. There is no magic answer to tooth decay ( usual stuff, less sugar and acid, proper cleaning, fissure sealants help ). In my professional opinion, one of the most useful things in the fight against decay in adults and kids is MILK !


  35. TraceyS says:

    The point about the tooth decay bacteria strain is that it was invented by a passionate problem-solver. That’s what I believe will make a difference, no magic wands and I don’t think ge is the only option left. You try to put me into a box! But yeah I do believe in science you are right about that. I never knew that antibiotics are used in the way you say. Is this true in NZ? Never heard of it. As I understand we humans have only identified a tiny fraction of the species of bacteria predicted to exist, so maybe nothing would need to be ‘invented’ but rather discovered. In a single spoonful of soil there may be thousands of bacterial strains. It’s pretty safe to say some of them would be foreign to us at the moment. As you suggest, bacteria are doing their own morphing anyway so nature is continually inventing new variants without our help – and releasing them into the open environment unassisted. Who knows if they will be desireable ones? What’s so wrong with fine tuned-systems if there are enough responsible people who are capable of working to maintain them? Efficiency does matter. Efficient systems (whether considered fine-tuned or not) will have people motivated to maintain them. Inefficient ones won’t because it’s hard to make a living out of them. Some natural systems are incredibly efficient compared to the engineered alternative. One that comes to mind is human reproduction. But even natural systems can collapse without any human input. We’re vulnerable anyway, just don’t like to admit it do we?? 🙂


  36. TraceyS says:

    Have you heard of Oragenics and if you have, what’s your opinion as a dental professional? What about natural oral probiotics in Blis products. Do you think the ‘crowding-out’ theory is meritable?


  37. robertguyton says:

    Ha! That’s caught me out. I was trying to be accommodating to the idea of ge that is specifically aimed at an illness is less worrysome that broad-acre applications. Certainly, your ‘no magic answer’ is correct and I concer with your professional opinion. When you say MILK :-), do you mean raw MILK? There is widespread concern about the quality of ‘Fonterra’ milk, as compared with other forms (A1, raw, non-pasteurized, non-homogenized etc.)


  38. robertguyton says:

    ” What’s so wrong with fine tuned-systems if there are enough responsible people who are capable of working to maintain them?”

    Good question and therein lies the danger. Highly tuned systems often bypass natural protections, the most commonly over-ridden being bio-diversity. Vast variety of organisms provides a buffer against sudden collapse from disease, adverse climate events and a number of other ‘threats’. Responsible people might be able to maintain these synthetic systems, but they too can become the flaw in the system – complacency, short-cutting, cost-cutting and a whole lot of other ‘human’ failings can imperil systems and do, witness the many, many instances of effluent spills on dairy farms through human error and other failings (remember the Lake Elesmere ‘event’ of recent times?) Putting the entire security of the environment in the hands of human operators would be very foolish, yet that’s where the industry is heading – intensification means all of these things become critical. The introduction of genetic engineered organisms into these farms, all for the sake of increased production, will end badly, in my opinion, because of the effect I’m describing.


  39. ploughboy says:

    robert,does eviroment southland have any lysimeters in the ground.up here in ecan i dont know of any and would like to see some results.Measureing river water does not tell us were these nutrients come from.i sure we have all seen results from tests that dont make sense.Was there a lagoon on stewart island that tested high in phosphates and nitrogen? as i heard that this but have not read anything to confirm this. The avon and heathcoterivers in chch and the leith in dunedin are regulerly high in phosphates and nitrogen but dont run through farm land.


  40. robertguyton says:

    Ploughboy – yes, we do. You are right to say that measuring river water doesn’t accurately describe the source of pollutants. There has to be site-specific monitoring. ES has purchased/is purchasing an extraordinarily accurate ultra-sound type device that can track nutrients below the surface of the soil and show exactly where leaks are occurring. Overseer too has value in pinpointing losses. There are a range of other monitors that can be employed on the ground, rather than in the rivers. Test results can be confusing, that’s true and when they are, other predictive thinking has to be employed. It’s no good holding off taking action until the science is perfect – it’s not likely to be that accurate, ever, and in the meantime, the pollution continues. Looking at the point of application and decisions around that is a sensible approach, I reckon. Stewart Island’s lagoon issue is a case in point. If the P and K aren’t coming from natural sources, some human action must be causing them. It’s a matter of investigation, I reckon. The island isn’t pristine, as you know, and has both livestock and human waste in the ground, as do all of our settled areas. You note that ‘city rivers’ also have N and P, which is a truism. I don’t think anyone blames cows for the state Avon or the Leith 🙂


  41. ploughboy says:

    thanks for that robert,hopefully with these monitors we can get better informed anwers.Dont get me wrong we as farmers can do a better job.Was rang by a fert company over the winter on a think tank type of disscussion and they seem to be well down the track to bringing to the market smarter use of fert.im also informed that water quality on the waitaki plains has been improving for the last ten years.The intresting thing to work out would be how much of p and n in the water is natural.As for oversea i believe it is a poor predicter of leaching as it measures nutriants at root level not leaching,.a great tool though for not over fertalising.what councils are wanting to use it for it was not designed for..


  42. robertguyton says:

    “what councils are wanting to use it for it was not designed for..”

    You might find Fonterra are wanting the same thing, ploughboy 🙂
    We as townspeople can do a (much) better job too. For starters, the ‘drains are for rains’ programme shows that individuals and small community groups can start to reverse the bad practices in towns and cities.
    I don’t think it’s very difficult to establish base-line N and P loads. There are pristine areas to model from and experience to draw information from also.
    Your fert people might be making good changes, I sincerely wish them God-speed. Lag times are difficult to do anything about – some are 35 years long and mean there are areas that are yet to be impacted by past behaviours – it’ll be ugly when that happens.
    Some organic/biodynamic farmers have a better grasp of the inputs/outputs balance than many conventional farmers, but have been ‘sidelined’ for years. Their pov and experience would benefit ‘modern’ farmers a great deal but I don’t see that realization hitting home on the conventional farm or industry boardroom yet – I’m not holding my breath either.


  43. Viv K says:

    Hi Tracey & Robert (& Ele who hopefully doesn’t mind that we have gone way off-topic here)
    I hadn’t heard of Oragenics, but did a google search and found their page online. They seem to be a standard probiotic system and not GE as far as I could see (GE being artificially altering the genetic code of an organism) The info page at Oragenics says “without requiring lifestyle changes” it will have a positive effect, so it looks to me as if it is being sold as a bit of a “magic wand” treatment.
    Not familiar with the ‘crowding out’ theory, so can’t comment, sorry.
    Probiotics are interesting, our mouths –like all of our bodies are lined with biofilm. The makeup of the biofilm is altered by different factors and Probiotics aim to give us a source of ‘good’ bacteria to make up the biofilm. As I understand it ,Blis technologies are based on the same principle and it’s a good idea, but not a substitute for a healthy diet and proper cleaning. People with healthy mouths will have with a biofilm mostly populated by good bacteria.
    Every time we eat something sweet, whether it is lollies, biscuits, honey or fruit , the plaque bacteria in our mouths make acids which start to dissolve the outside surfaces of our teeth. Acidic drinks such as juice & fizzy erode the teeth directly. Saliva comes to the rescue. It buffers (neutralises) the acid and our teeth start to harden again. This happens back and forth every day.
    To make enough saliva we need plenty of water, it also helps flush out some of the acids. Milk and cheese, which are alkaline, help to counter the acid attack. That’s where the milk comes in, as far as your teeth are concerned it doesn’t matter if it’s raw, pasteurized , homogenized, A1, A2 or turned into cheese. Mostly it’s just down to the pH. Milk can also be converted into fancy stuff like CPP-ACP (casein phosphopeptides-amorphous calcium phosphate- google “recaldent”) which can be absorbed into the outer enamel surface to harden the teeth.
    Our teeth are calcified things sitting in a bath of fluid all day, when the fluid becomes acidic, they dissolve- just like shellfish will with ocean acidification. I had one of those ‘lightbulb’ moments when I made that connection- that’s why I’m a dentist who is really concerned about carbon emissions.


  44. robertguyton says:

    Ver good, Viv – that’s how I see it also. Makes the mouth-breather’s lot a difficult one, what with their dry teeth and all. It would be a marvelous thing if Ele was to put up a climate change post and allow intelligent discussion, such as yours, to flourish. It’s such and important issue and so quickly sidelined by supporters of a Government that is in denial and actively ruining any opportunity to play a valuable role in lessening the damage climate change will do/is doing. Jan Wright is clearly disgusted by National’s venal actions around the ETS and the National MPs blockheaded behaviour in connection with anything to do with climate change.


  45. TraceyS says:

    I loved your reply Viv – very informative. A healthy diet including raw milk and good oral hygene is not a panacea on its own though (as you know). My kids have all that and still got cavities. We have used Oragenics for a year now and no further problems (cross-fingers!). Crowding out is simply making sure there are thriving populations of health-giving bacteria present so that new ones have difficulty establishing themselves due to lack of food supply, space etc. I was aware that Organics uses a natural, non-ge strain. But the scientists behind this product are also developing a one-off treatment that could provide life-long protection against tooth decay which I believe IS genetically modified (see http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2004-07/buggy-cavity-fix). PLEASE don’t switch off – Oragenics tablets are not cheap and I would say outside the reach of most people’s budgets, especially those who desperately need them. Can you imagine the difference that this new one-off treatment could make to the lives of thousands of children in NZ whose parents either cannot or will not provide them with good oral hygience and a good diet? I have been quite closely involved with a lower-socioeconomic (for want of a better word) community for nearly four years. None of the families could afford Oragenics on a regular basis and they do their best to provide good food etc. But the barriers between where they are currently and the Weston-Price-advocated sort of diet are enormous. When I took real meet to school as part of a hot lunch initiative quite a number of children were unable to even chew it enough to swallow it (and it was tender lamb). They’re just so unused to this sort of food. Please read the link above and also the comment from John Duffy including “To my way of thinking, the FDA is delaying the Oragenics solution as much as possible to delay as long as possible the event of Oragenics going to market. Too much money is at stake”. Wouldn’t it be sad if the environment became a scapegoat for protecting the dental industry? In the meantime children go on suffering when a solution is already at hand. Call it a “magic-wand” if you like. I prefer to call it innovation. There is no excuse for dentists and governments ignoring scientific developments that could prevent suffering and also save millions in public money. The main problem I have with ‘green’ policies including anti-genetic engineering is that in their idealism they are often inhumane in the short-term.


  46. TraceyS says:

    Why are you so concerned about promoting climate change discussion Robert? I became interested in climate matters about 13 years ago in the days when anyone who dared to raise the topic in intellignet company would almost certainly be labled as a complete lunatic. I wonder if anyone has recorded the growth in climate change discussion over the last ten years? If it continues on the same progression, in another five years we will not be talking about anything else! You have nopthing to worry about…


  47. robertguyton says:

    “The main problem I have with ‘green’ policies including anti-genetic engineering is that in their idealism they are often inhumane in the short-term.”

    What on earth do you mean by that, Tracey?
    Yours seems a ridiculous comment.


  48. TraceyS says:

    You take a blanket approach to ge that would deny people short-term help that they need. Some problems will take generations to fix in the ‘ideal’ way eg. through education, changing values, raising incomes etc. In the meantime, a ge solution could prevent suffering and improve people’s ability to contribute to society. Such an example is the one-off ge Oragenics treatment. Imagine two kids, both now adults. Grown up in the same less-than-ideal circumstances. One who has all their teeth in good order and another whose are rotten and broken – who will have the best job prespects? Who will pass on tooth decay to their kids? It’s all very well to say ge is bad/risky/unproven etc. But is ignorance any better? You were right to ‘cautiously support’ this idea before you did a quick about-face.


  49. robertguyton says:

    Tracey – I don’t think you’ve done your homework on the Green’s view on genetic engineering. Still, if it suits you to paint the Greens black on ge, so be it.


  50. TraceyS says:

    Robert – I take that back then if I am wrong.


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