Environmental politics responsible for Zika?

February 11, 2016

The World Health Organisation has declared the Zika virus is a public health emergency.

It is carried by mosquitoes and Dr Jacqueline Rowarth lays the blame for them on the DDT ban:

Emotion transcends evidence; fears transcend facts; anti-science is on the rise. . . 

In 1962 Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring hit the shelves.

The American Council on Science and Health describes the book as “lyrical but scientifically flawed – arguing eloquently but erroneously that pesticides, and especially DDT, were poisoning the environment and also endangering human health.” . . .

But emotion and politics trumped the science.

Banning DDT was a political move. It has been claimed as the first major victory for the environmentalist movement in the US.

During its use between 1940 (when its insecticidal properties were discovered) and 1972, DDT was estimated to have saved more lives than any other man-made chemical.

Particular efficacy in the malaria battle has been recorded. In tropical regions the prevalence of malaria-infected people decreased from approximately 70% in the late 1950s, to 5% in the mid 60s. But by the mid 1980s cases infection was over 50% again.

The US Agency for International Development has stated that malaria would have been 98% eradicated had DDT continued to be used. . . 

Forty-four years from the banning of DDT, the lines of sad women in hospitals in Brazil, with their microcephalic babies in their arms or still in utero, have etched themselves into memory.

People are wondering whether the scientifically-proven use of DDT could have prevented this tragedy. Both the emotion and the evidence have been presented globally on screen; fears and facts are inter-linked.

A positive future depends on correct interpretation of scientific research, and good communication of the research implications. Real victories require an apolitical approach, whatever the topic.

This isn’t the first time that environmental politics and emotion have trumped science but it could be one of the costliest in human terms because of the severity of the birth defects Zika virus causes and the number of people affected by them.


The collective we are dumbfounded

February 9, 2016

Dame Helen Mirren nails it: The collective we are dumbfounded that people still drive drunk.

There may be some irony that it comes in an advertisement for alcohol. But it’s one of the Superbowl ads and it isn’t anti-drinking, it’s anti-drinking too much and driving.

 

 


Personal attacks unprofessional

November 12, 2015

The reported response to research that found neo-natal fatalities were more likely with newly-graduated midwives in control of births is unseemly and unprofessional.

A public health researcher is facing a backlash from the midwifery profession for her research into baby mortality rates.

The College of Midwives has laid a complaint to the Medical Council against Dr Beverley Lawton’s research, whichfound babies were more likely to die at birth – or soon after – if the midwife was in her first year on the job.

Dr Lawton, who was the lead author of the study, said researchers from the Women’s Health Research Centre and Illinois University had matched the level of experience of New Zealand midwives to data on baby mortality in New Zealand between 2005 and 2009.

They found a higher likelihood of a baby dying at or near birth if the midwife – with midwifery-only training – was in the first year out of midwifery-only training, compared to midwives with between five and nine years’ training, she said.

The findings were published in the International Journal of Gynaecology and Obstetrics a few weeks ago.

But, since then, Dr Lawton said she had come under fire for the research from various midwifery groups.

“We’ve had letters attacking myself or the group, things like trying to block some of the research, the important research about severe morbidity, trying to get membership on the same maternal monitoring committee and lastly but not least they’ve made a complaint to the Medical Council.

“It must be the first time anybody’s made a complaint about public health research to the council.” . . 

Another one of the study’s authors, Stacie Geller, said all the authors were careful when drawing conclusions from the research.

“We were very very careful in our data collection and in our methodological principals that we established in examining this data; our scientific enquiry was quite careful.

“We spent a long time thinking about our findings and the interpretation of them.”

Ms Geller said she was shocked by the action taken by the College of Midwifes.

“An academic disagreement that should have been handled in an academic professional matter, instead it has been highly unprofessional. . . 

The College and other midwifery groups should be concerned about the findings of this report but if they take issue with its contents they should respond with professional and academic rebuttal of the message not personal abuse of the messenger.

Instead they appear to be more defensive of their members than advocates for high professional standards.

 


Not when but how

November 4, 2015

Fears that opening bars to allow people to watch rugby World Cup games would lead to major problems have not been realised:

Allowing bars to open during Rugby World Cup games didn’t turn the country into the drunken shambles that had been predicted, say the backers of the law change that made it possible.

Police communication centres today said the local aftermath of the All Blacks win over Australia in the Rugby World Cup final in London was quiet.

A law change was made two months ago to allow bars to open early during the tournament, rather than having to apply for special licences. Under the changes, hoteliers had to give police seven days’ notice they would be open.

The change was enabled by a bill from ACT’s sole MP David Seymour, who watched the final at a bar in Auckland’s Mt Eden.

He was happy there had been no major problems and it showed New Zealanders were actually responsible people.

“The picture that was painted when the bill was debated was that New Zealanders are infantile and if there’s not a law made to prevent it happening there would just be drunk people pouring out into the street and harassing children,” he said. . . 

While longer opening hours of bars and other licensed premises provides a greater opportunity for drinking, it’s not when people drink but how and how much that is the problem.

There is a problem with immature and unhealthy attitudes to alcohol which lead people to drink too much, but that is not a problem for most of us.

Legislation should be aimed at anti-social and abusive behaviour and allow the majority who drink without causing themselves or anyone else problems to do so when they want to.


Rural round-up

October 14, 2015

Shareholders seek board changes for leaner, fitter Fonterra:

Two Fonterra shareholders and former Fonterra board members are calling on Fonterra shareholders to reduce the number of directors in a move to improve the company’s performance.

The two, Greg Gent and Colin Armer, have put forward a notice of proposal to the company’s annual meeting in late November seeking shareholder support for a reduction of board members from 13 to nine.

“We all want our cooperative to be more globally competitive and successful with a clear strategy to achieve that. Our farming businesses and livelihoods depend on that,” says Greg Gent who was formerly deputy chairman of the company. . . 

Forest & Bird congratulates New Zealand police on 1080 arrest:

Forest & Bird congratulates the New Zealand police for making an arrest as part of their investigation into a 1080 threat to infant formula late last year.

“This threat wasn’t just a challenge for our dairy industry and exports, it also had the potential to damage our ability to control introduced predators that are killing our native wildlife” explained Kevin Hackwell, Group Manager of Campaigns and Advocacy at Forest & Bird.

“We absolutely support the continued use of 1080 in New Zealand’s forests. It’s the most sensible, cost-effective way to reduce pest numbers and allow native forests and wildlife to thrive” said Mr Hackwell. . .

Alliance Group to offer farmers loyalty payments – Gerard Hutching:

Alliance Group will offer loyalty payments this season to farmer shareholders in what some observers are saying are the first shots in a procurement war.

The offer comes with the caveat that farmers have to supply 100 per cent of all their livestock or 100 per cent of one species.

The reward for farmers supplying 100 per cent of their lambs is an additional 10c per kilogram per animal.

Chief executive David Surveyor said the co-operative was forecasting $100 for an 18kg lamb for the 2015-2016 season. . . 

Farmers and growers hope to avoid another drought – Gerard Hutching:

Some South Canterbury farmers and growers are shying away from being dependent on Lake Opuha water and are putting in their own bores.

Jo and Steve Malone, who own Redwood Cherries and Berries on the Pleasant Point Highway, lost thousands of dollars during this year’s disastrous drought.

“We are going to drill for water because we don’t want to be reliant on the lake. We are waiting for the council to give us consent,” Jo Malone said.

They were not as big users of water as dairy farms. Their cherries had not received irrigated water for the last five years, but it was vital for the strawberries. . . 

Grain payments spell risky business – Alisha Fogden:

MAKING seven-day payment terms standard was a contentious topic in the managing market risk session at the recent Australian Grain Industry Conference in Melbourne.

Grain Trade Australia chief executive officer Geoff Honey, who was guest speaker, said that could potentially reduce competition.

“There are organisations that buy grain from you that sell it to an end-user that is on a 30-day end-of-week delivery,” he said.

“If it became seven-days EOW standard across everybody, you could be removing a layer of competition. . . 

A cure for vitamin B6 deficiency :

In many tropical countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, cassava is one of the most important staple foods. People eat the starchy storage roots but also the leaves as a vegetable. Both have to be cooked first to remove the toxic cyanide compounds that cassava produces.

But the roots have a disadvantage: although rich in calories, in general they contain only few vitamins. Vitamin B6 in particular is present in only small amounts, and a person for whom cassava is a staple food would have to eat about 1.3 kg of it every day for a sufficient amount of this vital vitamin.

Serious deficiency in Africa

Vitamin B6 deficiency is prevalent in several African regions where cassava is often the only staple food people’s diet. Diseases of the cardiovascular and nervous systems as well as are associated with vitamin B6 deficiency.

Plant scientists at ETH Zurich and the University of Geneva have therefore set out to find a way to increase vitamin B6 production in the roots and leaves of the cassava plant. This could prevent vitamin B6 deficiency among people who consume mostly cassava. . . 


Rural round-up

September 14, 2015

Federated Farmers welcome court ruling on genetic modified crop:

A Western Australian Court of Appeal ruling on genetically modified (GM) crop liability has been welcomed by Federated Farmers as a landmark decision which clearly sets out fundamental responsibilities of good neighbours that apply equally well in New Zealand and around the farming world.

In 2014, organic farmer Steve Marsh sued his neighbour, GM farmer Michael Baxter, for damages after sheaves of GM canola blew onto his property, resulting in his partial decertification as an organic farmer. Mr Marsh also sought a permanent injunction preventing his neighbour from growing GM crops.

At the time the case went to court, anti-GM groups, confident of a win, hailed it as potentially precedent setting. . . 

25 pieces of advice for 25 year-old farmers – Matthew Naylor:

I have been a farmer in my own right for a quarter of a century.

I know that I look unfeasibly young to make such a claim; I started work at 15 and pretty well managed to avoid higher education.

Twenty-five more years of toil and I will be looking at the age of retirement from the other side.

To commemorate this halfway milestone, I have compiled the little that I have learned over my 25 years of experience into 25 pieces of advice for 25-year-old farmers.

  1. Set a clear and simple business plan and stick to it. Tell it to anyone who will listen – your family, colleagues, customers, competitors and even the postman.
  1. Kill weeds when they are small – this rule applies to any problem you encounter in life. . . 

Street doctor tells rural people to watch their health – Jill Galloway:

A doctor who specialises in treating people in rural regions says farmers need to get their own health checked more often.

Dr Tom Mulholland talked to about 50 people at the old Parewanui school near Flock House, Bulls this week.

“Farmers are good at looking after their stock and their land, but not so good at looking after themselves and their top paddock [their heads].”

About half the group listening to him talk were men. . . 

NZ stands firm on lamb export deal:

New Zealand will not agree to a review of New Zealand’s quota of lamb exports to Europe despite pressure from British farmers, the government says.

Livestock board chairs from Britain’s farming unions, meeting in Brussels, have called for the review. They say New Zealand has moved from sending frozen lamb to chilled lamb and from carcasses to bone-in cuts, representing a substantive change to the original deal signed in the 1980s.

But Trade Minister Tim Groser points to later trade negotiations which changed that agreement. . .

Avocado congress should ‘raise industry profile‘:

The World Avocado Congress get underway in Peru today.

The congress is held every four years and New Zealand Avocado chief executive Jen Scoular, who is in Peru, said it was a great opportunity to raise the profile of the industry.

Ms Scoular said the congress, which runs for a week, allows countries to share science and research information. She said tree productivity and irregular bearing of avocados would be a hot topic because it was a global issue. . . 

Whitebait, birds receive conservation boost:

Whitebait will be making a comeback into Christchurch and more will be done to protect the habitats of Canterbury’s colony-nesting river birds, says Associate Conservation Minister Nicky Wagner.

The Community Conservation Partnership Fund is providing more than $126,000 to the Whaka Inaka project to restore whitebait habitat in Christchurch, and more than $33,000 to the Braided River Partnership project to improve the success of colony-nesting birds along Canterbury rivers.

“Whitebait spawning in Christchurch has declined, particularly after the earthquakes caused significant habitat damage. The Whaka Inaka project will provide an immediate temporary spawning habitat for whitebait along 3km of Christchurch river banks,” Ms Wagner says. . . 

A falling dollar not all bad news – Rick Powdrell:

I was just thinking lately how things can change so abruptly in a year.

Farmers are once again facing tough realities of global export trade, price volatility and geopolitical unrest.

This time, last year, dairy was buoyant with record payout and nothing looking at halting the juggernaut.  Sheep meat prices were positive for the season; beef was in the ascendancy and wool finally rebounding.

Fast forward and dairy is struggling with sheep meat failing to deliver on anticipated returns. Still, beef is extremely strong and wool has continued its gradual recovery. . .


Rural round-up

September 11, 2015

Sheep and beef farmers to benefit from weaker NZD:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Economic Service released its New Season Outlook 2015-16 today. It predicts the average sheep and beef farm in New Zealand will see its profit before tax lift to $109,900 this season – 9.6 per cent more than last season, but 3.1 per cent below the five-year average.

B+LNZ Chief Economist Andrew Burtt says this is positive news, at a time when the New Zealand economy will benefit from increased farm sector spending.

“This season, New Zealand’s 12,300 commercial sheep and beef farmers will spend a total of $4.66 billion on fertiliser, interest, repairs and maintenance and general farm operating costs. This will be welcomed by rural suppliers and communities, particularly at this time.” . . 

Techno lucerne: getting the best out of bulls – Kate Taylor:

Nothing spells out spring more than lambs and daffodils.

You won’t find many woolly creatures on the Central Hawke’s Bay farm of Angus and Esther Mabin, apart from the ones keeping the grass down in the home paddock.

You will find daffodils though. Thousands of them planted across more than 8ha by Angus’ Mum Railene over 40 years and now sold as a fundraiser for CHB Plunket. Every September, giant-sized daffodil signs grace the side of SH2 south of Waipukurau and locals and visitors swarm to the farm known as Taniwha. . . 

Will ants bee the saviours of our hives? – Alexa Cook:

Scientists have discovered a new ant virus related to the deformed wing virus, which kills honey bees.

Bees and ants often forage together, and may be capable of passing on diseases to each other.

The new virus is carried by Argentine ants, which are one of New Zealand’s major bee pests.

The ants already carry a deformed wing virus, which can cause bee colony collapses. . .

Silver Fern Farms ‘strategic’ not even close – Gravedodger:

The entire  NZ Meat Industry may qualify in that category but there is absolutely nothing about a farmer supplier owned part player processor, I hesitate to call them marketer, in the meat industry to what I understand Strategic to involve.

Yes there is farmer supplier investment  in SFF and if the whole shambolic outfit went broke tomorrow it would have some dire effects for many but in the absence of any significant new meatworks being created, those that were built in the latter years of last century have all outlived the planned obsolescence and the older ones are more relics than meatplants.

The entire meat industry since the “Dunedin” departed New Zealand waters with the first refrigerated cargo of meat for the UK over 130 years ago, is littered with incompetence and manipulations bordering on fraud as aspiring entrepreneurs attempted to make their fortune. . . 

New great walk to be ‘one of the best‘ – Paul Taylor:

The Department of Conservation is working on plans for a Great Walk near Queenstown, the country’s 10th.

The proposed three day route is through the spectacular scenery of nearby Mt Creighton Station.

The ”Moonlight Trail” is part of a mooted trade off between the Government and the company which owns the perpetual lease for the 15,000ha station. . . 

New Zealand Winegrowers launches consumer focused education programme in China:

The New Zealand Wine Intermediate Certificate was launched in Shanghai last week, giving Chinese wine consumers the chance to learn about New Zealand’s diverse wine styles.

The education programme was developed by New Zealand Winegrowers and New Zealand Trade & Enterprise in response to a growing demand for information about New Zealand wine from consumers across China.

“This certificate has been several years in the making. We are working with New Zealand based Master of Wine Jane Skilton and her team at the New Zealand School of Wines & Spirits, whose experience will prove invaluable” said Chris Yorke, Global Marketing Director at New Zealand Winegrowers. “Education plays a huge part in our marketing strategy for China, and the launch of a programme specially tailored for consumers will help raise awareness and appreciation of our premium wines in a growing market.” . . 

Watch your back this spring:

Sheep farmers busy with tailing/docking of lambs are being urged to take extra care of their backs.

With spring comes more stock handling,” says Al McCone, WorkSafe’s Agriculture Programme Manager. “Injuries often happen when people do routine tasks like tailing/docking over and over again. Before you or your workers start any job on the farm, stop and consider what you need to watch out for and how to get it done safely.”

In September last year, people working on farms made 600 claims qualifying for ACC funding for back injuries. In addition to injuries suffered as a result of tailing/docking work, other back-related injuries came from kicks or crushing by animals, slips, trips and falls, and injuries from vehicles and heavy machinery. . . 

True Dairy Trainees Targeted in Contest Revamp:

Changes to the 2016 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year competition will give genuine dairy trainees the opportunity to succeed.

National Convenor Chris Keeping says the entry criteria in the dairy trainee competition has been tightened to ensure it caters for young people, who have less experience and qualifications than other potential new entrants to the dairy industry.

“The dairy trainee contest aims to foster and assist new people coming into the industry to gain the skills, knowledge and reputation they need to progress,” Mrs Keeping says. . . 

2015 New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards:

Entries in New Zealand’s most prestigious competition for extra virgin olive oil closed on Wednesday 9th September, with a total of 70 entries. There were 60 entries in the Extra Virgin classes and 10 entries in the Flavoured Oil classes, which are new classes for these Awards.

The 2015 New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards have attracted entries from all of the major olive growing regions across the country. . .

Save on calf rearing this season:

Weaning calves from milk when they reach 65 kilograms could add to the bottom line if a good value meal and pasture is added to the diet early on – especially when it comes to replacement heifers.

Wendy Morgan, Nutrition and Quality Manager at animal nutrition company SealesWinslow said the cost of rearing calves can be reviewed by farmers who are looking for ways to make cost savings this season.

“To wean from milk, start weighing calves at six weeks of age. An animal can be weaned once it has reached 65 kilograms, has an obvious rumen (a pot belly when looking at it from behind) and is eating 1 kilogram of meal for three consecutive days,” she said. . .

The Global Forest Industry in the 2Q/2015:

Excerpts from the Wood Resource Quarterly (www.woodprices.com)

Global Timber Markets:

Sawlog prices fell again in the 2Q/15 in most of the 19 regions worldwide that are part of the Global Sawlog Price Index (GSPI). The Index is at its lowest level since 2009, and is down 20% from its all-time high four years go.The only regions where prices increased in the 2Q were in Northwest Russia andthe Interior of British Columbia.

Global trade of softwood roundwood slowed down towards the end of 2014 and log shipments have continued to be slow during the first half of 2015, with the biggest reduction in imports being in Japan, South Korea and Sweden. . . 

Increased cruise ship biosecurity a welcome result for kiwifruit:

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) announcement to beef up biosecurity on incoming cruise ships is a welcome result for the kiwifruit industry.

Kiwifruit Vine Health (KVH) Chief Executive, Barry O’Neil, says KVH has been working with MPI for increased border interventions on the cruise ship pathway, and supports the work being done to address the increasing risks.

“The cruise ship pathway is one the kiwifruit industry is concerned about so we are fully supportive of MPI’s proactive approach following a cruise ship passenger risk review.” . . 


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