Rural round-up

February 13, 2019

Two surveys, two different results on water quality  – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Media coverage of the Fish and Game Survey has eclipsed the results from the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) released at the end of last year.

Both were done by Colmar Brunton. Both involved approximately 1000 people.

Fish and Game focussed on ‘Perceptions of the environment: what people think’ and had one results chart. MfE’s report was under the title of ‘Environmental Attitudes Baseline’ with 62 pages of results, analysis and reporting of further questions. . .

Milk miracle: New Zealand AgResearch scientists eye new baby booster – Jamie Morton:

Dr Mark McCann calls milk a miracle food.

And for good reason: over millions of years, it has evolved to cram all of the energy and nutrients we need in early life into one package.

“The sheer amount of growth that babies go through in the first 1000 days of life is astounding.”

McCann, a senior research scientist at AgResearch, said one important part of this period was how different organs and systems developed to boost our potential for good health over a lifetime. . . 

Let’s use real wool to make Kiwiana – Julie Geange:

When people from overseas think of New Zealand what do they think of?

The All Blacks, Flight of the Conchords and sheep. New Zealand produces the fourth largest export of sheep meat globally and has around 29 million sheep, although in the past this number has reached 60 million.

When close to four million international visitors come to our shores they look to buy things that will remind them of New Zealand. Visitors who find themselves in a tourist destination, like the Hawke’s Bay, are wanting to get something quintessential Kiwi to take home as a gift. They visit tourist shops and reach for pure white toy sheep decorated with cheeky grins. . .

Hotcompetitionatshearingwoolhandlingevents – RIchard Davison:

Aspiration met perspiration in Balclutha on Saturday, as the nation’s top shearers and woolhandlers battled it out for Otago honours.

Conditions for competitors at the Otago Shearing and Woolhandling Championships were at the challenging end of the spectrum in the town’s War Memorial Hall, as temperatures topped 28degC.

Demonstrating why he is world champion was Gisborne woolhandler Joel Henare, competing in his final South Island event before he retires later this year. . .

NZ’s bid to hold world avocado congress :

The avocado industry has thrown its hat into the ring to bring the Avocado World Congress to New Zealand for the first time in 2023.

The congress, which is held every four years, brings together 2000 people in the industry including growers, researchers and investors.

The New Zealand industry is worth $150 million and it forecast to grow to $1 billion by 2040. . .

Welsh farmer’s daffodils could help 250,000 Alzheimer’s sufferers :

Daffodils grown by a Welsh sheep farmer have been found to contain a higher-than-usual amount of galantamine, a compound known to slow Alzheimer’s disease.

Kevin Stephens’ flowers, grown in the Black Mountains in Wales, produce unusually high amounts of the disease-fighting compound.

His flowers could now be used to help 250,000 patients who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. . . 


‘When do we stop talking and start doing?’

February 13, 2019

The Prime Minister has promised this is the year the government will deliver, but what and when?

The Mental Health Working group delivered its report and the government’s response is more working groups:

The 21-member working group set up to advise the government’s response to the mental health inquiry has been replaced with several more working groups.

But mental health advocates have said the process runs the risk of unnecessarily repeating the inquiry. . . 

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson raised concerns.

“Part of our feedback was you have to be really clear what it is you’re asking people, otherwise this could look like the inquiry is just carrying on. When do we stop talking and start doing? . . 

Working groups are beginning to look like mushrooms – breeding in the dark.

The question on when the government stops talking and starts doing applies to a lot of other areas where action is needed and words are all we’re getting.

Take the Prime Minister’s address last week.  It had lots of fine words but not a single concrete policy.

Contrast that with National leader Simon Bridge’s first address of the year which had clear and coherent policy on inflation indexing tax brackets.

 

 


Why it’s so hard to lose weight

February 10, 2019

While the media is full of stories about the obesity epidemic, there is a growing body of research showing diets don’t work and a move to intuitive eating instead.

So why is it so hard to lose weight?

 

Hat tip: Uotpia

 


Cancer doesn’t just come in pink

February 4, 2019

It’s World Cancer Day.

Women, and those who care about them, must remember cancer doesn’t just come in pink.

Ovarian cancer isn’t detected by smears.

Symptoms can include:

abdominal bloating/swelling, abdominal/back/pelvic pain, change in bowel function, urinary frequency or urgency, eating less and feeling fuller, indigestion, unintentional weight loss, painful intercourse, fatigue and abnormal vaginal bleeding. If these symptoms are new, unusual or worsening and last for more than two weeks it is important to see a doctor, and keep seeing a doctor until you get a diagnosis.


Proceed with caution

January 21, 2019

University of Otago researchers recommend a cautious approach to decriminalising cannabis:

Associate Professor Joseph Boden from the Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Otago, Christchurch, has a research interest in the use of cannabis and has specifically investigated the use of cannabis among participants in the Christchurch Health and Development Study, a study following the lives of 1265 children born in Christchurch in 1977. By age 35, almost 80 per cent of the participants had reported using cannabis at some point in their lives.

In an editorial in the latest issue of the New Zealand Medical Journal today, Associate Professor Boden says to date most of the debate on changes to cannabis law imply it is a relatively harmless drug and that cannabis law change will only have beneficial consequences. However, both he and co-author of the editorial, the late Emeritus Professor David Fergusson, former director of the Christchurch Health and Development Study disagree.

“We would argue that, on the basis of evidence generated by longitudinal studies based in New Zealand, both assumptions are incorrect,” their editorial states.

What they propose is development of laws and policies that both discourage the use of cannabis and avoid criminalising recreational users of the drug. The key elements of their policy are:

  • Simple possession of cannabis by those over 18 would be decriminalised, as would supply of small amounts to adults, as recommended by the recent Mental Health Inquiry.
  • Penalties for the supply of cannabis to those under 18 would be increased.
  • Investments in mental health services for those with cannabis use disorder and cannabis-related conditions would be increased, again in line with the recent Mental Health Inquiry.

Professor Fergusson died in October last year, but he and Associate Professor Boden wrote the editorial prior to his death. Associate Professor Boden explains their reasoning is based on their research which shows resoundingly that cannabis use by participants in the Christchurch study is associated with educational delay, welfare dependence, increased risks of psychotic symptoms, major depression, increased risks of motor vehicle accidents, tobacco use and other illicit drug use and respiratory impairment.

At the same time, evidence from the study suggests the prohibition of cannabis is also a cause of some harm with males and Māori participants having higher rates of arrest and conviction for cannabis-related offences. Furthermore, the analysis showed that cannabis use did not decrease following this, suggesting prohibition generally failed to reduce cannabis use among participants.

“Given this context, the most prudent course of action for New Zealand to follow is to develop policies which eliminate the adverse effects of prohibition while at the same time avoiding the possible adverse consequences of full legislation,” their editorial states.

They highlight recent research reviewing changes in both medical and recreational cannabis laws in the United States that has shown cannabis legislation has increased the use of cannabis and cannabis-related harm. While cannabis use among adolescents has not increased, both cannabis use and cannabis-use disorders increased among adults. There was also evidence of increases in cannabis-related emergency department visits, driving under the influence of cannabis and accidental exposure to cannabis in children.

The war on drugs hasn’t worked, or at least that’s what those wanting to liberalise drug laws say.

But what does hasn’t worked mean?

It has provided opportunities for crime and income for criminals.

It hasn’t stopped all people from using the drugs that are illegal.

It hasn’t stopped the health problems that result from use.

But has it stopped some people from using them and reduced the harm done by use?

Would there still be opportunities for crime and income for criminals if personal use of cannabis was legal, or at least decriminalised?

Would more people use cannabis if it wasn’t illegal or at least decriminalised?

Would there be more health and social problems resulting from that use and greater costs dealing with them?

If law changes in the USA has increased the use of cannabis and cannabis-related harm that is likely to happen here.

Can we afford the human and financial costs of that here?


Rural round-up

January 19, 2019

Are farmers really just a bunch of whiners and whingers? – Pat Deavoll:

Farmers are forever getting it in the neck for being a bunch of whiners.

They are seen as operating in a constant state of discontent. Too much rain, or not enough rain. Crossbred wool on a downward spiral. The gross domestic product teetering on the verge of collapse. The price of grain too low; the cost of fertiliser too high. Too much compliance. The list of complaints seems endless.

I beg to differ. Sure, the ups and downs of farming make the news, but farmers have it far from easy, even in this day of uber-technology and precision farming.

I grew up on a farm in North Canterbury, and I still think of my father, who farmed from the 1950s through to the 2000s, as being the hardest working, most uncomplaining person I’ve ever known. . . 

Lamb prices exorbitant – Annette Scott:

Buyers at the 24th annual Rakaia Gorge lamb sales hope prices hold up this season with lambs going under the hammer at record high prices.

Agents and farmers alike acknowledged the strong demand for store lambs right across the board, reflecting a booming industry with sheep on a high.

Favourable weather has created an abundance of grass that is driving exceptional demand for both store lambs and capital stock.

Pushed by the continuing strong demand for store lambs in Canterbury, buyers bid up briskly on the 10,000 lambs offered at High Peak and Snowdon Stations to ensure they didn’t miss out. . . 

Grass surplus not wasted – Richard Rennie:

South Wairarapa drystock farmer Mike Warren has had to look to a mechanical mouth to help keep up with rampant grass growth on his 1200ha property. 

While working hard to control the grass quality on his steeper country by stocking it as high as possible he has been selectively baling up flatter country and now has the dilemma of where to store 540 wrapped bales, 150 hay bales and 50 bales. 

The property comprises 30% steep hill country and the rest flat to flatter. . . 

Wetlands labour of love – Toni Williams:

It has taken nearly 20 years, but the wetlands of the Riverbridge Conservation Park are doing just what conservationist Russell Langdon hoped – offering a habitat environment for nature to thrive.

The park, nestled about 500m from the Ashburton River at Westerfield, south of Ashburton, has been a labour of love for the Mid Cantabrian.

Thousands of back-breaking man-hours have gone into its development, taking the park from the bare farmland paddock it once was to a fully formed wetland with multiple ponds and native forest grounds, all mostly unplanned and planted to encourage wildlife to thrive.

And it is still not finished. . . 

Prime arable and grazing research station for sale:

After 72 years of contributing to local and regional research, AgResearch’s grazing and arable Research Station at Winchmore, North-West of Ashburton is to be sold.

Winchmore was originally purchased in 1946, with a focus on providing local research into the use of border dyke irrigation. Long term fertiliser trials were started in the 1950s and together the site has contributed to more than 500 science publications.

AgResearch Director of Infrastructure John O’Dea says, “Projects and priorities have changed in recent years, which has seen more research conducted on commercial farms or small scale intensive research. This means the Winchmore site has primarily focused on the long term fertiliser trials.” . . 

Eat-Lancet report good opportunity for New Zealand:

The EAT-Lancet Commission’s report on healthy diets from sustainable food systems highlights the importance of sustainable, grass-fed red meat produced in countries such as New Zealand.

“New Zealand is already adopting many of the strategies recommended by the report’s authors including committing to healthy diet goals, reorienting agricultural priorities to producing high quality healthy food in a sustainable way and supporting biodiversity,” says Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Chief Insight Officer, Jeremy Baker. . .


Better meat better

January 16, 2019

New Zealand researchers are hoping to prove that the best red meat is good for heart health:

The University of Auckland’s Liggins Institute has recruited a group of men between 35 and 55 to eat free meat three times a week for two months.

Prof David Cameron-Smith says the men have been allocated either grass-fed Wagyu beef, grain-finished beef or a vegetarian alternative.

“We’re making a direct comparison against soy, so it’s a vegetable alternative,” he told Newshub.

The study is looking at how complex fats in high-quality unprocessed meat affect heart health. Prof Cameron-Smith says Wagyu beef is rich in healthy fats.

“They have very high concentrations of omega-3 fats, and other anti-inflammatory fats that may protect you against heart disease – so that’s where our research comes in.”

Prior research hasn’t brought good news for meat-lovers. While some studies have been inconclusive, many end up concluding the more red meat you eat, the higher risk you’re at of developing heart disease and other conditions, including cancer. Prof Cameron-Smith suggests that may be a reflection of the kinds of red meat people are eating.

All meat isn’t equal.

Better cuts are unprocessed with no additives.

“A healthy diet needs to have a range of protein sources – including vegetable protein sources – but if you are going to eat meat, make it the best meat.” . . 

If the study proves that better meat is good for heart health it will provide ammunition against the people who are trying to convince governments to tax meat.

Better meat is already more expensive than lower quality alternatives.

Adding a tax to it would make it even more expensive and lead more people to buy cheaper, and less healthy, alternatives.

 


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