Word of the day

October 29, 2013

Labile – liable, open or prone to change;  readily or continually undergoing chemical, physical, or biological change or breakdown; easily altered; unstable; an adaptability to alteration or modification, relatively easily changed or rearranged.


#gigatown #gigatownoam update

October 29, 2013

Oamaru –  #gigatownoam –  is still at the top of the #gigatown leaderboard with 13,192.

That’s around a vote from every single person in the town – a great start for #gigatownoamaru.

It’s all aimed at turning the country’s Sharpest town, into the southern hemisphere’s first #gigatown, courstey of Chorus:

Over the course of the competition, we’ll measure social media and online community engagement in support of each eligible ‘town’.

The town with the loudest voice will be New Zealand’s first Gigatown, and will be well positioned to become a leading digital innovation hub for New Zealand, showcasing how ultra-fast broadband can re-define our economy, reshape how our children learn and change how our communities live, work and play.

Points will be counted up for each town and adjusted relative to the town’s size to become ‘Gigapoints’, which are displayed on this website so you can keep track of your town’s progress. The adjustment for town size ensures that each town has the same opportunity to be the Gigatown.

The five eligible towns with the most points at the end of the initial round will go forward to the finals. Find out more.

Leaving comments with the hashtags #gigatown and #gigatownoamaru or #gigatownoam here or on Facebook or Twitter accounts which register on the GIgatown website will help the cause.


33 recommendaitons in independent review of contaminated whey protein

October 29, 2013

The independent inquiry into Fonterra’s contaminated whey protein concentrate has made 33 recommendations.

In a detailed report, the inquiry found that a number of factors, including a lack of senior oversight of crucial decisions, problems with tracing potentially affected product and belated escalation of the issue, contributed to the event in August this year. 

Speaking at the tabling of the inquiry report in Auckland today, Jack Hodder QC, who led the inquiry team, said: “Fonterra is a high quality organisation with talented and dedicated people. The WPC80 Precautionary Recall let them down. 

“There were shortcomings in a number of areas, which, compounded by a number of events and co-incidences, converged to create this significant issue. 

“Our findings and recommendations do not indicate any fundamental problems within Fonterra. That is not our conclusion. 

“They do point to a range of improvements Fonterra can make to become an even better company.“

The Chairman of the special oversight committee for the inquiry, also an independent Fonterra director, Sir Ralph Norris, said his committee “endorsed the key recommendations and themes identified by the inquiry team… It has undertaken a thorough, consultative, independent and incisive analysis.”

The inquiry team was led by a legal team from Chapman Tripp, co-ordinated by senior partner Jack Hodder, QC, and independent experts Gabrielle Trainor, a Sydney-based specialist in crisis management and communication, and international dairy consultant, Jacob Heida of the Netherlands.

 “The inquiry team recognises that Fonterra is well advanced on a journey from being a cost-focused dairy ingredients producer to being a customer-focused global foods products supplier that is second to none in its aspirations, standards and people.

“Some areas of weakness have been highlighted, and this has created the opportunity for Fonterra to further strengthen it processes, culture and governance. 

“Acting on the recommendations made will lead to Fonterra becoming even more responsive to the global expectations of excellence in food safety and quality, and engaging more comprehensively with stakeholders.

“The findings and recommendations are important foundations for Fonterra’s continued success.”

 The Chairman of Fonterra, John Wilson, told the media briefing that the board of Fonterra was fully committed to implementing the recommendations made.

“What directors found encouraging is that this Independent report to the Directors has a significant degree of overlap with management’s Operational Review, which was made public last month.

“There are no contradictions between the two sets of recommendations.

“Much of the recommended change is already underway, or has already been identified as needing to be changed.

“We are committed to adopting a ‘best of class’ philosophy around food safety and incorporating the latest, world class methods into every facet of our operations.”

He said the board had also committed to the reconvening of the Independent Inquiry Committee in 9 months, and again in 18 months, to assist the board in reviewing the progress that has been made against the recommendations.

In an email to shareholders, Fonterra chair John Wilson said:

  • There are 33 recommendations, 24 relating to operational issues and many of them overlap with management’s operational review findings.
  • We asked the inquiry team to challenge every aspect of the business to find out what happened and why, to reduce the chance of this ever happening again and to make our Co-operative stronger.
  • It finds Fonterra does most things extremely well and the report says we are “already operating at a high quality level in almost all respects”.
  • The crisis was complex involving many customers, many countries, languages and cultures.  It was on a scale most companies never face.
  • Problems escalated because senior management and the Board were left out of the loop too long and we lost time needed to get an effective plan in place.
  • A change in computer systems compounded difficulty in obtaining accurate information.
  • The report is thorough and the Board accepts its findings and recommendations.

Here is the summary of the findings and recommendations from the report:-

Primary findings of what happened

  1. Fonterra did not include any sulphite reducing clostridia (SRC) tests for any of its production of WPC, even though it had accepted SRC tests under at least one contract with a major customer.
  2. Some errors of judgement were made in preparation for the reworking process applied to the relevant WPC80 batches.
  3. The standard pre-start up automatic cleaning regimes used by Fonterra plants required improvement.
  4. There was insufficient senior oversight of the crucial decision to engage AgResearch to test for C. botulinum.
  5. The commissioning, design and limits of the C. botulinum testing were inadequate.
  6. Fonterra was unable to promptly and definitively track the destinations of the affected WPC80.
  7. There was only belated recognition (and delayed escalation to senior management and the Board) of the explosive reputational risk involved – a failure to “join the dots” between a) C. botulinum b) infant food products c) consumer sensitivities and d) Fonterra’s global reputation.
  8. Fonterra’s crisis management planning, including the external communications aspects, was inadequate for a crisis of this kind and scale.
  9. Fonterra management of the crisis in the critical early period, including the external communications aspects, was not well executed.
  10. There was some lack of alignment and confidence between Fonterra and the New Zealand Government in the critical fortnight after the contamination concerns were advised to the Government and made public.

Principal operational recommendations

  1. Fonterra’s food quality and safety specifications and testing be reviewed to ensure they are “best in class” standard: consistent with the most rigorous requirements of customers, and with international best practice.
  2. Risk management and crisis management processes be strengthened, including by establishment of a specially trained and multi-disciplinary (but not full-time) Incident Management Team and regular relevant training, global best practice product tracing systems, and a new Risk Committee of the Board.
  3. Reputational risk assessment form part of the criteria for escalation and assessment of non-standard external scientific tests.
  4. Plant cleaning programmes be amended.
  5. There be continued building of a directly-employed strong, specialist and experienced communications team, including in key global markets, supplemented with contracted high calibre local expertise where appropriate.
  6. There be enhanced and sustained efforts to address a “Fortress Fonterra” perception held by a material proportion of key stakeholders, by Fonterra redefining the style and substance of its engagement with them.
  7. The Inquiry be reconvened after 9 months and again after 18 months to review Fonterra’s progress on those recommendations.
  • The report notes that the recommendations are “essentially in the nature of incremental improvements and consistent with Fonterra’s pre-existing commitments to both food quality and safety and to continuous improvement.”
  • On the operational side, we will have a specific focus in relation to the re-working process, risk management, testing for contaminants, cleaning processes at our plants, escalation of problems, operational planning, and communications.
  • The Board will split out a specific Risk Committee from the current Audit, Finance and Risk Committee to provide a separate emphasis on managing risk across Fonterra, providing an overview to ensure our management team continues to improve our processes, monitoring and risk escalation right through our Co-operative.
  • Our priorities are to ensure the operational review is completed, the independent inquiry team’s recommendations are acted on, and that future crisis management is “best in class”.
  • Most importantly, we must take all stakeholders with us and make those relationships stronger.
  • I have huge confidence we will build on our world class reputation for food safety and quality.

The executive summary starts by pointing out:

. . . any major inquiry will tend to accentuate a few negative considerations. This tendency requires a balancing reminder about the many positive considerations – here including the impressive quality of Fonterra’s people and plants, and its pre-existing commitments to food safety and quality and continuous improvement across the organisation.

This is a reminder that although lots of things went wrong and the subsequent reaction was handled badly, the company itself gets most things right.

The report’s brief was to determine what went wrong and what needs to be done to avoid it happening again.

It has done that and it is up to Fonterra to act on the recommendations to do everything it can to prevent any further food safety issues and to ensure it is prepared to respond if, or when, there is a problem in the future.

The full report is here.

The government is undertaking a ministerial inquiry and the Ministry of Primary Industries is doing a compliance investigation, both of which are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

 

 


Rural round-up

October 29, 2013

Futuristic drones to watch your sheep – Howard Keene:

Kiwi agriculture scholarship winner sees drones having a big potential in the industry.

Natasha King went overseas on a Nuffield Scholarship recently to primarily look for energy-generating solutions to New Zealand’s effluent disposal problems, but also became fascinated by some of the new technologies she came across.

“It wasn’t my area, but I became interested in it as a basic farmer from New Zealand,” Ms King, who is Meridian Energy’s national agribusiness manager based in Christchurch, said. . .

Steaks high in trans-Tasman Trans-Tasman beef battle – Jenna Lynch &  Elton Smallman:

The Kiwi and Aussie battle is heating up again, but there’s no sport in sight. This time it’s a battle of the beef.

Australian red meat is making its way across ditch and filling a gap in our supermarkets, as Kiwi beef farmers recover from last summer’s drought.

But how does the Aussie beef compare to a good homegrown Kiwi steak?

Well there’s only one way to find out: A blind taste test. . .

Lots of changes in industry, but basic principles remain the same – Yvonne OHara:

Winning the first and second Southland regional Sharemilker of the Year competitions and coming second by half a point in the national competition was memorable and disappointing for Karen Bellew and Stephen Malone.

The former Edendale 50/50 sharemilkers, who have since separated, won the inaugural regional competition in 1990 but it was held too late for them to compete in the national final.

However, they were allowed to enter the Southland event the following year and won again. . .

Lincoln University to apply expertise to restoration project:

International mining company Rio Tinto has confirmed that it will continue funding a major ecological restoration project currently underway at Punakaiki on the South Island’s West Coast.

The Punakaiki Coastal Restoration Project (PCRP) has been underway for five years and is part of a four-way partnership between Lincoln University, Rio Tinto, the Department for Conservation (DoC) and Conservation Volunteers New Zealand (CVNZ). Professor of Ecology, Nicholas Dickinson , and his colleagues in the Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences have been spear-heading the project for Lincoln University.

Rio Tinto has committed to another three years of funding the PCRP, which involves the restoration of a 70-hectare site that has been negatively impacted over the years through both mining and agriculture. The company originally bought the site to mine ilmenite (an oxide of titanium), but later gifted it to DoC. . . .

Tarras Water weighs options:

Tarras Water Ltd is still afloat, even if the company’s hopes for a dry shareholder have been sunk, director Peter Jolly says.

When contacted by Southern Rural Life last week, Mr Jolly said the company’s shareholders were looking at their options, including some which would not involve Tarras Water Ltd.

The company’s board was still meeting regularly and had a ”telephone link-up” about three weeks ago and an ”informal” meeting last week, he said.

However, the board had abandoned hope of a dry shareholder taking equity in the company, he said. . .

Council downsizes, reports increased event attendance  – Timothy Brown:

Beef and Lamb New Zealand’s Central South Island Council decided on a smaller council at its annual meeting in Cromwell last week, reducing the number of councillors from four to three.

South Canterbury farmer Andrew Fraser stepped down, and the three other councillors, Blair Smith, Ivan Geary and Robert Peacock were re-elected unopposed. . .

Council downsizes, reports increased event attendance


#gigatownoamaru #gigatown

October 29, 2013

Oamaru’s campaign to become the Southern Hempishpere’s first #gigatown has got off to a good start.

The community is getting behind it by choosing Oamaru on the gigatown website .

There’s also posts on Facebook and Twitter and a blog  too.

Each post or comment with the hastag #gigatown and #gigatownoamaru or #gigatownoam will help the cause.


Two funerals and a wedding

October 29, 2013

A Labour weekend celebration had been in my diary for months, but two more were added a few days before.

The two recent additions were funerals, the long-standing appointment was for a wedding.

The tributes at the funerals were so well done that you could have walked into the services not knowing the ones who’d died and walked out feeling you knew them well.

Both were people who never made the headlines but who left the world a better place for their contributions to their families and their communities.

The wedding was an intimate one – just family.

Three generations on both sides gathered to celebrate with the couple.

The service began with the bride’s father piping her and her mother hand in hand to where the rest of us waited.

The vows were sincere; the readings, by the groom’s sister and bride’s mother, appropriate to the couple; the singing by the bride’s sister delightful; the whole service meaningful and joyful for the bride and groom and those who witnessed it.

The two dinners which followed (the first immediately after the service, the second the following evening) were relaxed and happy.

It was all exactly the way the way the couple wanted to start their marriage, focussed on what really mattered.

Big or small, that’s the way all weddings should be.


People behind politics

October 29, 2013

The movement against genetic modification is strong but a lot of the opposition is based far more on politics and emotion than science.

Those buying into the politics and emotion forget about the people who could benefit from GM food like golden rice.

Dietary micronutrient deficiencies, such as the lack of vitamin A, iodine, iron or zinc, are a major source of morbidity (increased susceptibility to disease) and mortality worldwide. These deficiencies affect particularly children, impairing their immune system and normal development, causing disease and ultimately death. The best way to avoid micronutrient deficiencies is by way of a varied diet, rich in vegetables, fruits and animal products.

The second best approach, especially for those who cannot afford a balanced diet, is by way of nutrient-dense staple crops. Sweet potatoes, for example, are available as varieties that are either rich or poor in provitamin A. Those producing and accumulating provitamin A (orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes) are called biofortified,* as opposed to the white-fleshed sweet potatoes, which do not accumulate provitamin A. In this case, what needs to be done is to introduce the biofortified varieties to people used to the white-fleshed varieties, as is happening at present in southern Africa by introducing South American varieties of orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes.

Unfortunately, there are no natural provitamin A-containing rice varieties. In rice-based societies, the absence of β-carotene in rice grains manifests itself in a marked incidence of blindness and susceptibility to disease, leading to an increased incidence of premature death of small children, the weakest link in the chain.

Rice plants produce β-carotene (provitamin A) in green tissues but not in the endosperm (the edible part of the seed). The outer coat of the dehusked grains—the so-called aleurone layer—contains a number of valuable nutrients, e.g. vitamin B and nutritious fats, but no provitamin A. These nutrients are lost with the bran fraction in the process of milling and polishing. While it would be desirable to keep those nutrients with the grain, the fatty components are affected by oxidative processes that make the grain turn rancid when exposed to air. Thus, unprocessed rice—also known as brown rice—is not apt for long-term storage.

Even though all required genes to produce provitamin A are present in the grain, some of them are turned off during development. This is where the ingenuity of the Golden Rice inventors, Profs Ingo Potrykus (formerly ETH Zurich) and Peter Beyer (University of Freiburg) comes into play. They figured out how to turn on this complex pathway again with a minor intervention.

One of the criticisms used by opponents of Genetic modifcation is that it’s not about feeding the hungry but about controlling food supply.

The International Rice Research Institute:

Golden Rice was invented by Professor Ingo Potrykus, then of the Institute for Plant Sciences, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and Professor Peter Beyer of the University of Freiburg, Germany. By 1999, Professor Potrykus and Dr. Beyer produced a prototype Golden Rice and published their landmark research in Science.

The inventors’ desire to donate Golden Rice as a gift to resource-poor farmers in developing countries led to a public-private partnership with Syngenta to help further develop Golden Rice.

Scientists at Syngenta then carried out additional laboratory, greenhouse, and field research to help raise the beta carotene levels in Golden Rice. In 2005, they developed a new version of Golden Rice that produces substantially more beta carotene than the 1999 prototype – as published in Nature Biotechnology.

Syngenta arranged royalty-free access to the patents and intellectual property, held by several biotechnology companies, for a number of key technologies used in Golden Rice. This allows IRRI and others to develop Golden Rice varieties on a non-profit basis. . .

Not everyone will be swayed by those inconvenient facts.

For those who prefer emotion there’s one of the people hurt by the politics:
"Since Golden Rice was first announced in 2000, Greenpeace has made a concerted effort to block its introduction. They have waged a campaign of misinformation, trashed the scientists who are working to bring Golden Rice to the people who need it, and supported the violent destruction of Golden Rice field trials at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines." By opposing Golden Rice, Greenpeace defies its own values – and harms children: http://bit.ly/HkKKZG Image via http://www.facebook.com/groups/GMOLOL


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