Too much politics not enough science

03/03/2021

Auckland Professor of Medicine Des Gorman is less than impressed with the ‘deja vu’ lockdown:

The situation the country has found itself in was “déjà vu” after the second lockdown in less than a month, one medical professor says. 

The latest cases of Covid-19 have plunged Auckland back into Level 3 lockdown, with the rest of the country at Level 2 – coming barely two weeks after the last three day lockdown. 

Auckland University professor of medicine Des Gorman told Mike Hosking it seemed plans were being made up on the spot. 

He said it showed our “inconsistent risk-management approach”, and the Government needs to improve 

“If we needed to be in level three two weeks ago, then coming down to level two in one was clearly precipitous and early.” 

Why is it like this?

Gorman said the Government’s Covid-19 response was too much politics and not enough science. . .

The way Prime Minister Jacinda Arden chose to put herself front and centre of the daily sermons from the podium of truth made the response overtly political.

There might have been grounds for her presence and delivery at first in reassuring the country as we faced the first lockdown and growing numbers of Covid-19 cases.

But she chose to stay in the limelight long after one of her ministers and more appropriately Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield should have been the ones delivering updates.

That paid off with the election result giving Labour an outright majority but it came with risks that MIchael Bassett points out are now becoming apparent.

Watching TV last night, I couldn’t help thinking that the Prime Minister’s extraordinary luck is starting to run out. Every aspect of her lockdowns was questioned. Endless bungling over the South Auckland community outbreaks of Covid 19 were revealed, and she didn’t seem very happy about any of it. She has only herself to blame. After twelve months of wrestling day in, day out with the virus it was inevitable that eventually she would lose control of issues, given that so many other things have to be dealt with by any Prime Minister.

This is why successful leaders of governments have learned over the years to delegate. Jacinda Ardern has a bloated ministry of 26 members with two under-secretaries as well, but she insists on doing too much herself. She’s been told by her advisers that she is the surest pair of hands in the Ministry and that her popularity is vital to Labour’s standing with the public. For three years now that has been true, and even although she has sometimes seemed to be engaged in a running totter around the lip of chaos, she has remained upright. The overwhelming impression I gained from last night’s news was that if she insists on handling every detail and fronting every day on Covid 19 she will fall in. After twelve months of testing, getting the results takes far too long, contributing to the recent South Auckland problems; contact tracing has been haphazard of late; assurances the Prime Minister kept giving about lockdown rules and their enforcement proved to be wrong; her line on whether to pursue people who break the rules has been wobbly to say the least; and the silly decision to stop short of vaccinating front-line GPs in South Auckland, which wasn’t her call, reflected back on Ardern because her control of everything Covid is so omnipresent. . . .

That worked for her when she had our trust but that is being eroded by repeated lockdowns and the apparent failure to accept mistakes are being made and to learn from them.

Perhaps the international praise has gone to her head.

There is no doubt New Zealand looks good when compared with many other countries, but as Heather du Plessis-Allan points out, we don’t compare well with others:

We will always tell ourselves another lockdown is fine if we keep comparing ourselves to the worst Covid-hit countries, especially the UK and the US. Because seven days looks paltry compared to the months and months they’re pulling in the UK.

But what about all the places fighting Covid without yo-yoing in and out of lockdowns What about all the places that haven’t even had a single lockdown?

We’ve talked about Taiwan ad nauseum. Not a single lockdown there, and only nine deaths. By comparison we’ve had 26 deaths and several lockdowns.

What about New South Wales, which is increasingly looking like an example of how to combat Covid. They haven’t had a single state-wide or Sydney-wide lockdown this entire pandemic. Meanwhile, Auckland has had four lockdowns, which will be a total of 11 weeks – or nearly three months – at the end of this week.

NSW’s biggest city, Sydney, hasn’t had a single week with the whole place in lockdown. NSW has had 54 deaths, which isn’t bad for a population of about 8 million.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s response is nuanced. They lock down suburbs and hotspot areas, so if there’s a flare-up in the Northern Beaches, the restrictions are limited to the area, not the entire state, or even the entire city. Compare that to NZ, where Invercargill is in level 2 right now.

NSW is actively trying to avoid lockdowns. They have an excellent contact tracing system so they can put sick people into isolation, rather than all people into lockdown.
And last I checked they just went 40 days or so without a community case.

You are welcome to keep comparing us with northern hemisphere countries who are in the depths of winter to see how well we’re doing, because we’re always going to be better than the absolute worst in the world.

Or you can compare us to NSW, just across the ditch, to see how much better we could be doing.

Lack of compliance with isolation requirements is the immediate cause of the latest lockdown but as the ODT editorialises, we can point our fingers at the government too:

The Government, and especially the Ministry of Health, does not escape blame. Despite many hard-won improvements over the past 12 months, parts of the ministry’s operations are still lethargic when these crises hit.

New Zealand’s lucky streak, supposedly, ended because of the community case from one of the few Papatoetoe High School families not contacted for about a week after contract tracers went to work. Apparently, various phone numbers were often tried.

The failure to door-knock within days, however, was not misfortune but lack of urgent drive. Any decent media reporter, when phone calls failed, would have been visiting the family home long before the first family positive test.

Similarly, the wait by patients for many hours for advice from Healthline is poor.

How many people, who should have been tested, simply gave up? An underlying message is that the Government, despite all the strong words, might not really care that much. Only now, late as usual, do we learn of further scaling of surge capacity on Healthline.

There remain major questions, too, about the lack of use of saliva testing. . . 

There are also questions about the MInistry’s and government’s competence when contact tracing is failing us:

After more than a year of dealing with Covid-19 the Government is still failing its own contact tracing performance measures and is failing to be open and transparent about locations of interest, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

Information supplied to National from the Health Minister show that in both the recent Northland case and the Papatoetoe outbreak, the Ministry of Health failed against two measures of contact tracing that were considered ‘critical’ by the Government.

The Government sets a target of having 80 per cent of contacts of an index case located and isolated within four days. But in some cases related to these two incidents, only 52 per cent of contacts were isolated within four days.

“Alongside reports from the current Papatoetoe outbreak that contacts were called but not visited, this shows the Government needs to do better with contact tracing,” Dr Reti says.

“Dr Ayesha Verrall’s audit into the Government’s contact tracing regime last year made it clear that our system was lacklustre, and the Government promised to turn this around.”

The Government needs to say whether its contact tracing indicators have ever been completely met in any of the many community outbreaks since the Americold community cases sent Auckland into lockdown last year, Dr Reti says.

“There is no excuse for not implementing Dr Ayesha Verrall’s recommendations in full given she’s sitting right there at the Cabinet table.”

Meanwhile, recently released documents show six locations of interest were undisclosed in the recent Northland outbreak – nearly 20 per cent of all the locations in that case.

“The Director General of Health has said non-disclosure is a rare event but nearly 20 per cent of all locations can’t possibly be considered rare,” Dr Reti says.

“It’s important that the public knows these locations because it impacts not only the people inside but potentially those outside, like kerbside rubbish collectors.

“Properly identifying locations of interest would likely lead to more people coming forward, rather than less.

Claiming that medical centres don’t need to be disclosed because they have an appointment book that shows who was there doesn’t really work as an excuse, Dr Reti says.

“As someone who has owned and managed many medical centres, I know it’s not possible to tell who is in the waiting room at any one time, who are accompanying patients, or who has entered just to use the bathroom or pass a message on.

“We need to understand the rules for non-disclosure and they need to be consistently applied and with an assurance that the risk of transmission is exceptionally low.

They might have got away with mistakes in the early days when, as they pointed out there was no rule book.

But it’s now a year since the first case of Covid-19 was diagnosed in New Zealand and that excuse has long past its use-by date.

Most of us have done as requested but patience wears thinner with each lockdown and the government’s failure to be open about its plans over where-to-from-here raises questions over whether or not it has one.

Businesses are justified in asking for the plan to be made public.

Some of the country’s most powerful business leaders are demanding the government lay out its Covid-19 plan, including how it is measuring its current strategy and its plans to get the border open. . . 

The group is calling for clarity and openness, saying the details need to be made available beyond government circles.

Mercury chair Prue Flacks said major New Zealand businesses would welcome the opportunity to assist the government in its longer-term planning.

“We’ve seen the open and transparent approach taken by Australia on its vaccine roll-out plan, the launch last week by the United Kingdom government of a clear plan to manage a path out of its current lockdown and the ongoing success in Taiwan of avoiding lockdowns through using technology to manage home isolation.

“It will be beneficial for all New Zealand if the Ministry of Health and other agencies take an open and transparent approach to the development of a path towards sustainable virus management.” . . .

We are all justified in not just asking for the plan, but asking that it be less about politics and more about science.


Rural round-up

24/02/2021

Lucky to be alive – Nigel Beckford:

Sheep and beef farmer Jack Cocks almost died from an aneurysm. Now he’s sharing with other farmers what his recovery taught him about resilience. 

Jack’s part of the team that runs Mt Nicholas, a high-country merino sheep and cattle station, on the western shores of Lake Wakatipu. “I grew up on a sheep and beef farm, went to uni, travelled overseas and came back and worked in an agribusiness consultancy. My wife Kate and I came here to work in 2009. There’s a team of four of us that run the farm. It’s probably more of a democracy than a lot of farms but it works well. It means we can use all our different skills.”

Jack says Mt Nicholas is a great place to work and raise a family (they have two kids). “Although we’re in an isolated situation, there is a team of us here so we might see more people during our working day than many sheep and beef farmers. I really love what farming offers – that mix of running your own business as well as working outside doing practical things. We enjoy a huge variety of work.”

All that was suddenly at risk when he suffered his aneurysm in 2013.  “I’m very lucky to be here,” he says, remembering the night it happened. . .

IrrigationNZ supports Infrastructure Commission assessment that ‘status quo’ for water management no longer tenable:

IrrigationNZ is heartened by the release of Te Waihanga’s (Infrastructure Commission) state-of-play report #3 on water released today and agrees with many insights .

“The report acknowledges that the status quo of water management is unlikely to be sustainable – and we 100% agree,” says IrrigationNZ chief executive Vanessa Winning.

“We are pleased the report highlights the need for a holistic and long-term strategic view of water to ensure optimal, sustainable and inclusive outcomes. This is long overdue and something we have advocated for. . . 

Regenerative agriculture white paper sets out pressing research priorities :

There is a pressing need for scientific testing of the anecdotal claims being made about regenerative agriculture. A new white paper sets out 17 priority research topics identified by 200+ representatives of New Zealand’s agri-food system.

Regenerative agriculture has been proposed as a solution for some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most acute challenges. Advocates suggest it can improve the health of our waterways, reduce topsoil loss, offer resilience to drought, add value to our primary exports, and improve the pervasive well-being crisis among rural farming communities.

With a groundswell of farmers transitioning to regenerative agriculture in New Zealand, there is an urgent need for clarity about what regenerative agriculture is in New Zealand and for scientific testing of its claimed benefits.

A new white paper, Regenerative Agriculture in Aotearoa New Zealand – Research Pathways to Build Science-Based Evidence and National Narratives, sets out 17 priority research topics and introduces 11 principles for regenerative farming in New Zealand. . . 

Young inventor on mission to transform wool sector – Annette Scott:

The strong wool industry can pin its hopes on a resurgence with $5 a kilogram return for coarse wool fibre in the sights of Kiwi inventor and entrepreneur Logan Williams.

Just 25 years of age and hailing from Timaru, Williams hit the headlines when he developed and successfully exited four revolutionary inventions, including polarised contact lenses to treat photosensitive epilepsy and a system to destroy methane gas produced on farms.

He received awards for his inventions, including a National Merit Award at the Eureka Science and Innovation Competition. . .

Roped in for life by rodeo – Sally Rae:

As the rodeo season continues around the country, Southland farmer and cowboy Greg Lamb has overcome a few hefty obstacles to get back in the saddle again. Business and rural editor Sally Rae reports.

Extraordinarily determined.

That sums up Greg Lamb, a Southland sheep and beef farmer and rodeo champion who has battled injury — and a brain tumour — while pursuing and succeeding in the sport he loves.

Mr Lamb (43), who farms near Waikaka, might be a bit banged up at the moment — he hit the ground with his shoulder “fairly hard” at Wairoa rodeo last month, fracturing his shoulder blade, four ribs and a vertebra — but he is focused on making a return this season. . . 

Westland’s new CEO takes reins :

Westland Dairy Company Limited’s new CEO Richard Wyeth is looking forward to bringing the strength of a global dairy giant to the opportunities that lie ahead for the West Coast dairy processor after taking up the leadership role this week.

Mr Wyeth’s arrival at Westland yesterday was welcomed by resident director of Westland Dairy Company Limited, Shiqing Jian, who stepped down as interim CEO. Mr Jian served as interim CEO following the resignation of former Westland CEO Toni Brendish in August last year.

“We hope Richard is as excited as we are about the opportunities that lie ahead for Westland as he takes stewardship of this iconic New Zealand company,’’ Mr Jian said. . . 


Can NZ learn from EU mistake?

19/02/2021

There’s a lesson for New Zealand here:

Europe’s refusal to permit its farmers to cultivate genetically engineered (GE) crops led to the avoidable emission of millions of tonnes of climate-damaging carbon dioxide, a new scientific analysis reveals.

The opportunity cost of the EU’s refusal to allow cultivation of GE varieties of key crops currently totals 33 million tonnes of CO2 per year, the experts say.

This is equivalent to 7.5 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the entire European agricultural sector, or roughly what might be emitted each year by 10-20 coal-fired power stations.

Given that farmers in North and South America adopted GE crops from the late 1990s onward, this analysis implies that over subsequent decades the additional carbon emitted due to the EU’s opposition to genetic engineering will likely be in the hundreds of millions of tonnes.

The findings result from from the fact that GE versions of major crops produce a higher yield because they can better resist damage from insects and competition from weeds.

With Europe’s farmers condemned to lower total agricultural yields because of GE crop non-adoption, more farmland globally has to be kept in production or plowed up which otherwise might be available for forests to sequester carbon in trees and soil. . .

Can our government learn from the EU’s mistake?

If they want us to accept the science on climate change it must base policy on countering it on science and allow us to use tools which science has proved are both safe and effective.


Science must drive car policy

20/11/2020

Climate Change Minister James Shaw wants to ban imports of fossil-fuelled cars by 2030:

. . . The UK is planning to ban all new combustion engine vehicles by 2035 – though British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to bring this forward to 2030.

Shaw, the Green Party co-leader, is concerned about the fate of the UK’s cars after the UK ban, considering most of the world drives on the right. “If we let those into New Zealand, we are stuffed. We will have no chance of being able to reduce our transport emissions, which are the fastest-growing sector,” he said. . .

He is right there is a potential for dumping should the UK ban actually happen.

But a ban here is unlikely to do anything to reduce emissions. Instead it will encourage people to stock pile diesel and petrol fuelled cars before the ban comes in and to keep old cars longer once the ban is in place.

But worse, mass conversion to electric vehicles could increase global emissions.

Bjorn Lamborghini says:

Electric cars require large batteries, which are often produced in China using coal power. The manufacture of one electric car battery releases also a quarter of the greenhouse gases emitted by a petrol car over its entire life time.

The United Nations has raised environmental and ethical concerns about the mining of cobalt and lithium required for these batteries too:

. . .For example, two-thirds of all cobalt production happens in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). According the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), about 20 per cent of cobalt supplied from the DRC comes from artisanal mines, where human rights abuses have been reported, and up to 40,000 children work in extremely dangerous conditions in the mines for meagre income.

And in Chile, lithium mining uses nearly 65% of the water in the country’s Salar de Atamaca region, one of the driest desert areas in the world, to pump out brines from drilled wells. This has forced local quinoa farmers and llama herders to migrate and abandon ancestral settlements. It has also contributed to environment degradation, landscape damage and soil contamination, groundwater depletion and pollution. . .

Back to Lomborg:

Second, electric cars are charged with electricity that is in most countries powered by fossil fuels.Together this means a long-range electric car will emit more CO2 for its first 60,000km than its petroleum equivalent. . . 

Most of New Zealand’s power comes from renewable energy now, but could existing generation cope with a steep increase in demand from charging cars if the nation’s fleet had a lot more electric vehicles?

We need a reality check. First politicians should stop writing huge cheques just because they believe electric cars are a major climate solution. Second, there is a simpler answer. The hybrid car saves the same amount of CO2 as an electric car over its lifetime. Third climate change doesn’t care where CO2 comes from. Personal cars represent about 7% of global emission and electric cars will only help a little.

RIght now electric car subsidies are something wealthy countries can afford to offer virtue-signaling elites. But if we want to fix the climate, we need to focus on the big emitters and drive innovation in fusion, fission, geothermal, wind and solar energy. Advances that make any of these cheaper than fossil fuels would mean it’s not just rich Londoners changing their habits, but everyone, including China and India, switching large parts of their energy consumption towards zero emissions.

The problem with Shaw’s policy is that it’s driven by politics when it needs to be driven by science.


Not the full picture

20/10/2020

Sciblogs asks which milk is best for the environment?:

Any plant-based milk, be it made from beans, nuts or seeds, has a lighter impact than dairy when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the use of water and land. All available studies, including systematic reviews, categorically point this out.

But studies and reviews don’t paint the full picture.

Dairy milk and the juice pretenders do not have the same nutritional value and when we’re talking about feeding the world that matters.

Rabobank’s Berry Marttin explained why at Farm2Fork last year:

He said a lot of current reports are measuring how much emissions per gram, or kilogram.

But the issue is that we don’t live by kilos. We survive as humans by calories.”

He said if you look at it from a calorie point of view, it painted a clearer picture of the amount of carbon output along the whole supply chain versus what calorific value you obtained from that food – and also better reflected the amount of processing.

However, humans don’t live on calories alone, we also need nutrients.

He used milk as an example (with findings from the report Nutrient density of beverages in relation to climate impact, by Annika Smedman et al), as it was consumed by 6 billion of the world’s 7.7 billion people.

It had lots of “pretenders” competing for its market share, such as plant derived “milks”, many of which sold themselves as healthy alternatives.

Milk production also represents 3-4pc of global carbon emmissions.

“And that brings us to the fact that people think that cows are polluters – it’s a big issue. That’s what people think about it.”

He said the Australia-New Zealand region did have the lowest output of carbon in the world per litre of milk produced.

“If you look at 100 grams of milk, it produces 100g of CO2. But if you look at the most important thing, which is actually the nutrition density of milk, it’s 50 (nutrients that we need daily).

“It’s a very high nutrition density.”

“Let’s look at the emission of soya drink – it has very low emissions (per unit of volume). But then let’s look at the nutrition density of soya drink, the problem is it has only one or two nutrients that we need every day.

“So are we measuring the right thing? Nope. Are we telling the right story? What’s better? Milk, or soya drink?

“Is the industry telling what is better for the environment?”

He said if you correlate the emissions with the nutrient density, you get a clearer picture of nutritional value against emissions output.

Mr Marttin said people must start asking what is the nutritional value per amount of carbon emitted, or else food production from farming will never get to the four megatonnes target.

And, as a society, if we don’t understand that, we will continue to make the wrong decisions and produce foods that are actually not nutritious and be emitting carbon in the process. . .

Good science should not just look at emissions. It ought to look at the whole picture.

Comparing the emissions of dairy milk with the pretenders without taking into account is a bit like comparing the emissions from an ambulance with those from a sports car.

The ambulance does life saving work, the sports car is a toy.

Milk from cows is a food, the non-dairy pretenders are not.

 

 

 


Science when it suits

01/09/2020

Federated Farmers is pleased the Green Party has called for us all to embrace science:

Federated Farmers couldn’t agree more with the call from the Green Party today that science should guide the policies and decisions of MPs.  

“They issued the challenge in relation to the recent positive COVID-19 cases in Auckland but as a party that should be interested in consistency and logic, we look forward to the Greens also applying this ‘listen to the science’ principle to issues such as genetic engineering technologies and methane emissions,” Federated Farmers President Andrew Hoggard says.  

In a press statement headlined ‘Greens call for continued commitment to science from political leaders’, co-leader James Shaw said in the wake of the new cases of COVID-19 from community transmission “… now is the time to band together as a country, be directed by the science, and back good decision making”.    

Policy should be backed by science and that should support good decision making all the time, not just in relation to Covid-19.

This is spot on,” Andrew said.  “Science also tells us that unlike the long-lived greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, biological methane from New Zealand’s farmed livestock does not need to be reduced to net zero to have no additional effect on global warming. 

“A reduction of 10-22% by 2050 is sufficient, yet the  climate change legislation put in place by the government has a much harsher, non-science based target which will only add extra significant economic costs and undermine the competitiveness of our meat and dairy in the international market.”  

Environment Commission Simon Upton told the government that forestry could be used to offset biological methane but not emissions from fossil fuels and Shaw ignored him.

The Greens have been similarly science obtuse in relation to GE.  

“Gene editing technologies have huge potential in our fight to be predator-free, to deal with pest plants such as wilding pines, and to develop new types of grasses that will lead to ruminant animals emitting less methane. But the Greens appear to have had a closed mind on GE, despite scientists such as Sir Peter Gluckman endorsing the need to debate and embrace these technologies,” Andrew said. 

The opportunity cost of New Zealand’s stubborn policy toward GE will only increase as the exciting technology continues to mature, leaving New Zealand worse off and offering an increasing competitive advantage to other countries. 

Opposition to GE is usually based on emotion not science.

All we are asking is that consumers and producers are empowered to make their own decisions on the technology, rather than being hamstrung by restrictive regulations that ignore the best available science. 

 “The Greens’ new professed enthusiasm to be guided by science is most welcome,” Andrew said. 

If only the Greens acted on Shaw’s call. Unfortunately the party only supports science when it suits it.


Chemistry

25/07/2020

“Organic” is good, chemicals, pesticides in particular, are bad?

Chemistry is not that simple.

 


Living under cancer sword

13/02/2020

When you’re pregnant you have  hopes and dreams for your babies and their futures, dreams you probably aren’t fully aware of unless you lose them.

Some of our dreams were dashed when our sons were diagnosed with degenerative brain disorders and died young, Tom aged 20 weeks, and Dan 10 days after his fifth birthday.

Life with the boys who had multiple disabilities and passed none of the developmental milestones wasn’t easy, nor was coming to terms with their deaths.

Many people who learn about Tom and Dan say they couldn’t cope if that happened to their children. I’d probably have thought the same until I had to. Then, the only alternative to coping was not coping and through necessity, I coped.

That doesn’t mean I always did it well. There were some very long nights and some very dark days; nights when I fell into bed exhausted by grief but couldn’t sleep, days when it felt like I was stuffed full of dark clouds and was ready to burst. But even at the very worst of times I had the love and support of my husband, wider family and friends, shining light against the darkness of despair.

And our sons, who could do so little, taught us so much: how blessed we are to have that support; that people are people regardless of what they can or cannot do and that ability isn’t a right it’s a privilege

Our response has also been governed by the knowledge that it would only compound the tragedy of our son’s difficult lives and early deaths if being bitter and twisted and focusing on what we’d lost stopped us appreciating and enjoying all we still had and could have.

And we still had their older sister who gave us the joys and challenges children provide.

None of those challenges were major until nearly three years ago when she was diagnosed with low grade serous ovarian carcinoma (LGSOC), a type of ovarian cancer that is frequently incurable.  Jane, at just 32 years old, was told with current treatments her life expectancy was likely to be only five to 15 years.

Ovarian cancer is the 5th most common cause of female cancer death in New Zealand. Yet we  knew almost nothing about the symptoms. For two years Jane was told by doctors her symptoms were not serious, right up until she required emergency surgery from cancer complications. You can read more about the symptoms here:

Not letting what we’ve lost with the lives and deaths of our sons, blind us to what we still have is, of course, easier in theory than practice and it has been harder still to focus positively in the wake of Jane’s diagnosis.

There’s been a lot of tears, a lot of prayers and a lot of swears. There are nights of restless sleep when I wake to find the nightmare is real, and days when I cry easily and often. But again we’ve got wonderful support from family and friends, and just as she gave me a reason to not just survive but live a full life when her brothers died all those years ago, Jane’s example is providing an inspiration for me now.

18 months after diagnosis and 8 weeks after breaking her leg skiing.

If it’s hard for me as a mother, how much harder must it be for her,  a young woman living under the cancer sword, facing what it’s already cut from her life, the pain of that and the knowledge that it could take so much more?

She could have sunk into depression and stayed there. She could have chosen to focus only on herself. Instead she is doing much, much more.

She is fighting not just for herself but for all the other women around the world who share her cancer, many of whom are young like her.

What will determine whether women like our daughter live or die is research. Rare cancers like Jane’s, account for almost half of all cancer deaths yet receive just 13.5% of research funding.  The limiting factor isn’t science, it’s the money for the scientists to study it that’s lacking.

When Jane was diagnosed there wasn’t any way to donate directly to her cancer anywhere in the world. She knew that had to change if she and other women were to survive. She liaised with doctors,  researchers and charities around the world and founded Cure Our Ovarian Cancer – a registered charitable trust, that facilitates donations for low-grade serous cancer research both in New Zealand, and internationally.

Jane spends most of her days connecting with women and researchers around the world, fundraising for research into her cancer. Through Cure Our Ovarian Cancer and it’s partner charities, she’s helped raise more than $200 000 in less than two years. And aside from a small payment fee, 100% of every dollar raised goes to research.

She’s humbled by the public’s generosity, but also overwhelmed by how far is left to go. Tens of millions are needed if change is to happen in time for her. But as Jane says, “How can I do nothing? Knowing that in 10, 20, 30 years time, women will continue to die in droves without research. You just have to try.”

We’re in awe of everything Jane is doing while living with this awful cancer. It’s heartbreaking but her example pushes us to do better every day.

As a family we are committed to helping in every way we can. We’ve funded three research projects in the US and NZ and continue to do what we can. But this problem is too big for one family to solve without help.

This is why we’re going public. Because our daughter,  and all the other women with this dreadful disease,  need your support.

Our message to you is simple. Please donate, please fundraise and please tell everyone you know about our incredible girl and this horrible cancer. Women’s lives are on the line.

Learn more: cureourovariancancer.org

Follow Cure Our Ovarian Cancer on Facebook and  Twitte and Instagram.

Jane’s personal blog is janehascancer.com


Need right response

16/01/2020

Climate change agitation started on the left.

Some of it was driven by genuine concern for the environment. Some had, and still has, a wider anti-capitalist political agenda.

Climate change is now an issue that spans the political spectrum but most response is still shaped by the left with its usual recipe of less of this here and more tax on that there.

Ironically, given climate change activists’ demands to accept the science, a lot of the response does not follow the science.

Much of the response is also simplistic and does not take into account all the costs and consequences of prescribed actions nor does it follow the prescription for sustainability which requires a balance of economic, environmental and social concerns.

The teaching resource on climate change issued by the Ministry of Education exemplifies this, mixing misinformation and preaching with the science and teaching.

There is a huge opportunity here for the right to promote a much more positive response that will counter the eco-pessimism and provide real solutions with technology and innovation.

That is what has provided answers to problems that have beset the world in the past and that is what is needed if we’re to safeguard the health of the planet for the future.


Rural round-up

14/10/2019

Get on with it – Neal Wallace and Colin Williscroft:

Politicians might be slow acting on climate change but retailers and consumers who buy New Zealand produce aren’t and they expect Kiwi farmers to reduce their carbon footprint, special agricultural trade envoy Mike Petersen says.

He urges food producers to stop arguing about details and start reducing carbon emissions to preserve demand in lucrative markets.

“It is very real in-market,” he said.

Peterson said “If people think this is being dreamed up by NZ politicians to get at NZ farmers then you need to think again.”

It is being driven by those who buy our food.

“Companies and consumers are driving climate change. . . 

Number of natives under one billions trees anyone’s guess -Eloise Gibson:

How many of the one billion trees planted in the next decade will be native species? Government tree planting agency Te Uru Rakau has clarified that it can’t hazard an estimate. 

The Government’s tree planting agency, Te Uru Rakau, says it can’t estimate what proportion of the one billion trees programme will be native species, saying a previous figure it gave to Newsroom was meant to be purely “illustrative”.

The illustrative figure was used to calculate the estimated climate benefit from the tree scheme, which Te Uru Rakau has put at 384 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the trees’ lifetimes. . . 

Bunds offer phosphorus solution – Richard Rennie:

Capturing phosphate in water spilling off farm catchments has been made easier thanks to work done by a Rotorua farmer group and a doctoral student who have developed detainment bunds on trial properties.

A field day later this month gives farmers the chance to look at work that has largely been under the radar but offers a practical, farmer-focused solution to improving water quality. Richard Rennie spoke to the group’s project manager John Paterson.

While nitrogen mitigation has played on the minds of most regional councils and many farmers, phosphorus losses are also required, under the Government’s latest water quality rules, to be measured and curtailed.  . . 

Exotic breeds offer genetic diversity – Yvonne O”Hara:

Anieka and Nick Templer like a bit of variety in their dairy herd, adding panda-eyed, triple-cross Montbeliarde, Normande, Fleckvieh and Aussie Reds to their mix.

They are are 50/50 sharemilkers on 230ha near Balfour, with 630 cows, and they are targeting 500kgMS/cow and 330,000kgMS production this season. Their herd includes 35 pedigree Ayrshires.

The 2015 Southland/Otago Farm Manager of the Year winners have daughter Maycie (5) and employ two Filipino staff: Emman Orendain and David Lupante.

Mrs Templer grew up on a dairy farm and has always been interested in the more unusual cattle breeds. . . 

‘If we lose these communities we won’t get them back‘ :

AgForce Queensland chief executive Michael Guerin says “if we lose these communities, we won’t get them back”, as “unprecedented” drought conditions continue to affect Australian farmers.

Hundreds of drought-stricken farmers have reportedly stopped receiving payments in the past two years, through a government assistance program, after having reached the four-year limit.

Under the allowance, more than 1,300 households are given $489 a fortnight.

“This federal government is working with us, trying to work with communities that are in incredible trouble” Mr Guerin told Sky News host Paul Murray. . . 

The latest flip-flop on red meat uses best science in place of best guesses – Nina Teicholz:

Eggs are bad; eggs are good. Fat is bad; fat is good. Meat is bad; meat is… OK?

That last food flip-flop made big headlines last week. It was a “remarkable turnabout,” “jarring,” “stunning.” How, it was asked, could seemingly bedrock nutrition advice turn on a dime?

The answer is that many of the nation’s official nutrition recommendations — including the idea that red meat is a killer — have been based on a type of weak science that experts have unfortunately become accustomed to relying upon. Now that iffy science is being questioned. At stake are deeply entrenched ideas about healthy eating and trustworthy nutrition guidelines, and with many scientists invested professionally, and even financially, in the status quo, the fight over the science won’t be pretty.

Red meat is a particularly contentious topic because people have such strong objections to eating meat for a variety of reasons: the environment, animal rights and even religion (Seventh-day Adventists advise against it). . . .


Bad science scapegoats meat

07/09/2019

Bad science is to blame for scapegoating meat:

Meat has been getting a bad rap in some parts of society, being blamed for everything from increased cancer to greenhouse gas emissions by environmental and commercial influencers. This has led to Professor Frédéric Leroy, Professor of Food Science and biotechnology at Vrije Universiteit, Brussels, to concluded that meat has effectively become a scapegoat for commercial and environmental advocates, much of which was based on bad science. Speaking at a lecture at the University of Auckland, Professor Leroy discussed how this scapegoating came about and whether it is justified. . . 

The anti-farming rhetoric is not based on the good practices followed in New Zealand where cattle, deer and sheep are raised on extensive farms, ranging free.

The anti-meat rhetoric overlooks the important part moderate amounts of beef, lamb and venison play in a healthy diet.


A win for science

19/08/2019

The USA’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking action to provide accurate risk information to consumers and to stop false labeling on products:

EPA is issuing guidance to registrants of glyphosate to ensure clarity on labeling of the chemical on their products. EPA will no longer approve product labels claiming glyphosate is known to cause cancer – a false claim that does not meet the labeling requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The State of California’s much criticized Proposition 65 has led to misleading labeling requirements for products, like glyphosate, because it misinforms the public about the risks they are facing. This action will ensure consumers have correct information, and is based on EPA’s comprehensive evaluation of glyphosate.

“It is irresponsible to require labels on products that are inaccurate when EPA knows the product does not pose a cancer risk. We will not allow California’s flawed program to dictate federal policy,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “It is critical that federal regulatory agencies like EPA relay to consumers accurate, scientific based information about risks that pesticides may pose to them. EPA’s notification to glyphosate registrants is an important step to ensuring the information shared with the public on a federal pesticide label is correct and not misleading.” 

In April, EPA took the next step in the review process for glyphosate. EPA found – as it has before – that glyphosate is not a carcinogen, and there are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label. These scientific findings are consistent with the conclusions of science reviews by many other countries and other federal agencies. . .

This is a win for science and the environment and a reminder that users must be responsible for their own actions in following instructions on the label.

Glysophate is an important tool in minimum tillage which reduces fuel usage and protects soil from erosion.


Science when it suits again

16/08/2019

The government is ignoring its own scientific advice over setting methane reduction targets:

Advice to the Government from MPI’s officials shows that the Government’s proposed methane reduction targets go well beyond the science of what is needed for New Zealand to meet its 1.5⁰C Paris Agreement commitments and was purely a political decision made in Cabinet.

“Official’s advice validates the arguments we have been making that methane does not need to reduce by the amount proposed by the Government in the Zero Carbon Bill in order to limit warming to no more than 1.5⁰C,” says Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s CEO Sam McIvor.

Mr McIvor’s comments are also echoed by DairyNZ’s CEO Dr Tim Mackle.

“The agricultural sector has consistently said that the Government is asking farmers to do more than what’s required, and more than what’s being asked by other sectors of the economy, and this has been confirmed by the Government’s own advice”, says Dr Mackle.

“We are willing to play our part to address climate change and want to have a transparent and science based discussion about what that should be.”

The government can’t ask us to accept the science on climate change then ignore it in responding.

While the Government referenced the IPCC report, in applying the target for a global reduction in methane emissions to New Zealand, they have conveniently omitted the IPCC’s caveat that makes clear these global targets shouldn’t simply be slapped on individual countries.

It is also ignoring the Paris Accord which stipulates that cliamte change mitigation should not be at the expense of food production.

“The combined effect of the excessive methane targets and net zero target for nitrous oxide, which even go beyond the IPCC’s advice for this gas, means that New Zealand is effectively aiming to go below 1.5 degrees and by doing so, letting other countries off the hook,” says Mr McIvor.

The Government is even being inconsistent in its own statements in saying it has relied on IPCC advice, with parliamentary written questions showing it did not seek any specific advice from the IPCC in doing this.  Instead the Government has cherry picked the numbers it wanted and gone with the highest ranges it could find for methane, as well as going beyond what the IPCC recommended for nitrous oxide.

Federated Farmers’ National Vice President Andrew Hoggard says that the advice from MPI vindicates the sector’s position that the Government has opted for a political target on methane rather than a scientific one.

“When the IPCC explicitly states their global methane reduction targets shouldn’t be used as national targets, and Article 2 of the Paris Agreement requires countries to set targets in a manner that doesn’t threaten food production and to take into account different national circumstances, it’s disappointing that the Government has opted to pursue a political target agreed at Cabinet to make it feel good on the world stage regardless of its lack of scientific backing or the disastrous consequences it could have on New Zealand’s food producers,” says Mr Hoggard.

B+LNZ, DairyNZ, and Federated Farmers, while all having made individual submissions on the Zero Carbon Bill, are united in their view that the proposed 24-47 percent target is too high and are encouraging the Government to take a science-based approach that reflects the fact that methane only needs to reduce by a small amount each year in order to contribute no additional warming.

The government is proposing unrealistic targets. Even trying to meet them will come at a high cost, in both economic and social terms, with no environmental gain.

In doing so it is using only the science that suits it again.

There is a better way – setting realistic targets and working with agricultural groups to drive real behaviour change on farm:

Sector organisations have put forward an alternative Primary Sector Climate Change Commitment – He Waka Eke Noa – to build an enduring farm-level emission reduction framework to help the rural sector reduce its footprint.

“We want to play our part and take action. That’s why we have put forward a credible five-year work plan with clear and measurable actions, outcomes and timeframes” Dr Mackle says.  

“Our proposed plan is a collective initiative across multiple agricultural sectors, and includes rolling out Farm Environment Plans for all farms by 2025 to ensure every farmer knows their emissions footprint, where on farm those emissions are coming from, and what they can do to manage them”.

Having reliable data is important so that a farmer can make decisions and trade-offs factoring in resilience, profitability, and all the business decisions that need to be weighed up.

“We are asking the Government to partner with the agricultural sector to develop and deliver targeted programmes of action and coordinate efforts to reduce emissions. We strongly believe that working in partnership is the best approach to deliver real change” Dr Mackle added.

“DairyNZ does not support a levy on farmers in the ETS at processor level because it won’t drive the behaviour change to reduce emissions.

“It will take money out of farmers pockets at a time when it would be better invested on-farm to prepare for and start the process of managing emissions.

“Safeguarding the environment and maintaining a sustainable and competitive dairy sector is very important to our farmers, customers, and consumers. 

“Farmers care about the environment and are continuously refining their farm systems to improve environmental outcomes.“The dairy sector is committed to playing our part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions alongside the rest of the New Zealand, but policy responses need to be fair and they need to drive the right behaviours” Dr Mackle concluded.

DairyNZ’s submission on Action on agricultural emissions can be found here.

The government has a choice – it can set realistic targets for methane reduction and work with the primary sector to achieve sustainable on-farm changes; or it can ignore the science and impose unrealistic targets providing neither the tools nor incentives farmers need to make a positive difference to their practices and the environment.


Science not unsubstantiated aspiration

09/08/2019

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says better land management can contribute to tackling climate change but is not the only solution.

. . . Land must remain productive to maintain food security as the population increases and the negative impacts of climate change on vegetation increase. This means there are limits to the contribution of land to addressing climate change, for instance through the cultivation of energy crops and afforestation. It also takes time for trees and soils to store carbon effectively. Bioenergy needs to be carefully managed to avoid risks to food security, biodiversity and land degradation. Desirable outcomes will depend on locally appropriate policies and governance systems. . .

Greenpeace must have missed the bit about food security and locally appropriate solutions because it immediately called for New Zealand’s dairy heard to be halved which, Politik points out, would cost the country approximately $8.3 billion in lost exports.

On top of that, there would be job losses on farm and in the downstream businesses, irreversible depopulation of rural communities and global emissions would increase as less efficient farmers in other countries ramped up production to meet the demand for food we’d no longer be producing.

Greenpeace would be more aptly named Redpeace to reflect its politics. Their call ignores the fact that what is being called for is largely what New Zealand farmers are already doing, and are striving to do better.

It comes on the eve of Federated Farmers submission to the select committee on the Zero Carbon Bill where they called for honesty on what farmers are being asked to do:

Adopt a methane target that science tells us will ensure no additional impact on global warming, not an unsubstantiated aspiration that will cause lasting damage to rural communities and the standard of living of all New Zealanders.

That was the message from Federated Farmers to the Select Committee hearing on the Zero Carbon Bill this morning.

“Federated Farmers agrees with the current text in the Bill on the need to achieve net zero carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide in the NZ agricultural industry by 2050,” Feds climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said.

“This ambitious support is in spite of the industry being heavily reliant on reliable energy supply and internal combustion powered vehicles for transport, both of which produce carbon dioxide, and despite the task of agriculture reducing nitrous oxide to net zero being incredibly challenging.”

Farmers “embrace this challenge” because those two gases are long-lived and build up in the atmosphere, so New Zealand – and the world – needs to get those gases to net zero as quickly as possible, Hoggard said. But methane, which is belched by livestock, is a short-lived gas that produces almost no additional warming and flows in and out of the atmosphere if emitted at a constant rate.

The science says NZ agriculture needs to reduce methane by about 0.3% a year, or about 10% by 2050, to have no additional warming effect – or in other words a zero carbon equivalent. Yet a 10% target has been set for 2030 – much earlier than for any other sector of society – and up to 47% methane reductions by 2050.

Hoggard told the Select Committee that appears to be “because it seems easier to tell people to consume less animal-based protein than it is to cut back on trips to Bali.

“If that is the case then let’s be open and honest and admit the agriculture sector is being asked to do more than its share.”

Farmers are in a minority, it’s far easier to pick on them than to ask people to make real and meaningful sacrifices.

The Minister has challenged those disagreeing with the proposed targets to explain why he shouldn’t follow the advice of the IPCC. Federated Farmers provided three main reasons:

– a key piece of advice in the relevant IPCC’s 2018 report was not to use the numbers from that report as precise national targets,

– the report also recommended a much lower target for nitrous oxide but Federated Farmers is ignoring that as it is a long-lived gas.

– finally, the report modelled numerous pathways that all achieved the 1.5 degree warming target. In some of those pathways biogenic methane actually increased. Economists pondered those pathways to work out the least cost to the globe of achieving the target, not the least cost to New Zealand.

“This report was clearly not designed to be copy and pasted into our domestic legislation. Modelling on what is the least cost to the economy for New Zealand to do its part hasn’t been done,” Hoggard said.

Answering Select Committee member questions, Hoggard suggested there was a strong case for rewarding or incentivising farmers to go beyond 10% by 2050 methane cuts. Methane reductions beyond 10% would actually have a cooling effect on the planet and in effect was the same as planting trees to sequester carbon, a practice rewarded through the ETS.

But planting trees with a 30-year life before harvest is only a temporary solution, and blanketing productive farmland with pines kills off jobs, spending and inhabitants that rural communities depend on.

The science, peer reviewed and provided by Environment Commissioner Simon Upton, says forestry should not be used to offset fossil fuel emissions but could be used for shorter-lived gases like methane.

However, if farmers achieved the 10% methane reductions that ensure no additional warming, and are rewarded for striving for additional reductions, there is incentive to invest in additional emissions reduction technology.

“That keeps the rural community going, and reduces global warming – a win/win situation.”

The proposed policy is lose-lose.

The only way for farmers to meet unrealistic targets would be to reduce stock.

That would have devastating economic and social consequences and no environmental gain.

If the government expect us to accept the science on climate change, it must accept the science too, all the science including that on methane, and not just the bits it finds convenient.

It must also accept the Paris Accord’s stipulation that climate change mitigation should not come at the expense of food production.


Ag part of the tech boom

05/07/2019

Politik discusses Knowledge Wave Mark Two which seeks to boost the tech sector and quotes Helen Clark from the original Knowledge Wave conference:

Our export profile resembles that of developing countries, not that of a developed one.

Our export profile is unique among developed countries for the volume and value of primary produce and the large part that plays in our economy.

But the quote, and some policies from this government, send the message that there’s something wrong with that.

They ignore the fact that primary production does so well in New Zealand not just because of our natural advantages – the climate and soils – but because of the investment in, and application of, research and technology.

There is some comfort in David Parker’s statement:

“The agritech sector has been chosen as a key focus because it brings together two of New Zealand’s key competitive advantages – our expertise in agriculture and horticulture with our well-educated workforce,” he said.

This focus is already being undermined by government policy which incentivises forestry over food production.

Economic growth,  a broader based export economy and technological innovation are all worthy goals but none should be achieved by dragging down or devaluing primary production.

Our export profile does resemble that of a third world country, but primary production in New Zealand is very much a first-world business and already part of the tech boom.

When climate change could threaten food security, our ability to produce highly nutritious food in a very efficient manner is of even more importance.

 

 


Rural round-up

29/06/2019

Success from the ground up – Luke Chivers:

Future Post is leading change in on-farm sustainability with its new environmentally friendly fence post that won the top Agricultural Innovation award at this year’s Fieldays.

“It came as a huge surprise,” Future Post founder Jerome Wenzlick said.

“We weren’t expecting to win, that’s for sure.” . .

Here’s my beef with the entitled and pampered fat cats – Phil Quin:

Whereas I’m not exactly persuaded by James Cameron and Sir Peter Jackson that New Zealand can or should go meat-free, I’m pretty sure we could manage without three more Avatar films.

“What we need,” Cameron told us last week, “is a nice transition to a meatless or relatively meatless world in 20 or 30 years.”

Even for a filmmaker better known for special effects than human-seeming dialogue, this is a clunker. 

To be fair, though, when you’ve made a couple of billion dollars from blue aliens on a fictitious planet, and when you have come to regard New Zealand as your personal movie set, what’s so hard about replacing dairy and meat with plant-based alternatives?   . . .

Grain sector sees bold future – Annette Scott:

New Zealand is behind other countries in developing and investing in plant-based food ingredients and it’s time to bite the bullet, Plant Research managing director Adrian Russell says.

Agriculture and the world food supply are in the biggest revolution in history, Russell told the Grain and Seed Industry Forum at Lincoln.

“There’s incredibly exciting times to get into as an industry, things are changing and we need to change with it.

“The rise of the flexitarian consuming less meat is predicted to quadruple global pea protein demand by 2025.  . .

Rural boards changing – Brent Melville:

Rural New Zealand boardrooms, once the exclusive enclave of the old boys’ club, are becoming more diversified.

It is not happening quickly. But it is happening.

Women account for only about one in four board members of the large primary sector co-operatives. Two are on the 11-strong Fonterra board and they comprise two of seven on the Silver Fern Farms board, two of nine on the Board of Alliance Farmers Produce and three of 10 on the Farmlands board. . . 

New job helps with title aspirations – Sally Brooker:

Alan Harvey’s new job is proving great preparation for his tilt at the Young Farmer of the Year title.

The Aorangi region representative in the grand final has moved from being an agricultural consultant for Agri Planz to operations manager for North Otago dairy farming company Borst Holdings Ltd.

After winning the Aorangi competition in February, Mr Harvey said he would have to work on his knowledge of the dairy sector before the national final in Hawke’s Bay on July 4 to 6. So he is filling the gaps in his knowledge while enjoying the variety his job brings. . . 

Egg Industry introduces first industry-led trace programme:

A locally developed, industry-led source assurance programme will set the bar for consumers by enabling them to trace their eggs back to the farm they came from to verify that the eggs they want to buy are the eggs in the carton, says New Zealand’s Egg Producers Federation (EPF).

“True source assurance comes from authenticity across multiple platforms, and for that reason, we see this as the most ambitious primary industry-led programme available,” says EPF Executive Director, Michael Brooks. . . 

The slow welcome death of GMO panic – Abe Greenwald:

In the United States, the public panic about the dangers of genetically modified foods is fading fast. This is an amazing—and rare—triumph of reason and science over public hysteria and political posturing.

On Monday, for example, the New York Times published an article by Knuvul Sheikh detailing recent advances in genetically modified crops without offering a single word about potential health dangers or environmental concerns. In fact, it seems there’s a rebranding effort on the left to hype GMO foods as a vital response to climate change.


Bag ban virtue signalling

05/06/2019

Wondering if the plastic bag is worth it for the sake of the environment? 

. . . In this article ‘Things you’re doing to save the planet that are actually terrible’, Vice reveals that reusable cotton tote you feel so smug about is actually polluting the air and waterways more than a plastic bags. Quoting this 2018 Danish study, reusable cotton bags are only a solution to the problem if we reuse them consistently for 11.5 years, or around 7100 times.

Anything less than that won’t offset the fact that manufacturing these types of bags creates 606 times as much water pollution as making a plastic bag, the study reports.

Todd Myers, who is the environmental director of think tank Washington Policy Centre, told Vice people should not “ignore the far more damaging, but less obvious impacts of cotton bags”.

In comparison, according to the study, a paper bag needs to be reused 43 times to offset the environmental impact – but if you’re using a paper bag 43 times you’re taking better care of it than me. Still, reusing and recycling them afterwards is a much better option than its cotton counterpart.

Or even, dare I say it: Continue to reuse plastic bags which we all know are not single use at all.

And what about the plastic-lined reusable jute bags I got from the Farmers Market?

I suspect they’re no better for the environment either.

Sigh, it’s yet another case of green virtue signalling where feeling trumps the science.


How much does Minister know?

19/02/2019

Conservation Minister Eugene Sage has ruled out genetic modification in the fight against pests:

 Predator Free 2050 aims to rid New Zealand of the most damaging introduced predators by 2050, and has a number of government agencies involved in the plan including the Department of Conservation and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

But Predator Free 2050 is forbidden from carrying out any research which could lead to the use of genetic modification or gene editing, a letter written by Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage shows.

The letter of direction to Predator Free 2050 obtained by lobby group Life Sciences Network said its primary tasks were to invest in breakthrough scientific research, but not to research into genetically modified organisms and technologies or gene editing, and to raise funds for co-investment by other (non-government) parties, in landscape scale projects and breakthrough science, excluding any science involving genetic modification.

“Gene technologies are problematic and untested and have significant risks.” . . 

This directive counters officials’ views that GE could be an alternative to 1080:

“It could be efficient and much more cost-effective method of pest control than conventional approaches.

“For potential application to replace knockdown tools such as aerial 1080, they would be most effective for short generation pests such as rodents, and less effective for longer generation pests such as stoats and possums, due to their requirement to spread over generations.” . . 

The minister’s refusal to permit sciencetific exploration is rank stupidity.

It’s also hypocritical coming from a member of the party that exhorts everyone to accept the science on climate change.

But how much does the minister know about the science when the strongest opponents of GM food know the least and think they know the most?

The most extreme opponents of genetically modified foods know the least about science but believe they know the most, researchers have found.

The findings from public surveys in the US, France and Germany suggest that rather than being a barrier to the possession of strongly held views, ignorance of the matter at hand might better be described as a fuel.

“This is part and parcel of the psychology of extremism,” said Philip Fernbach, a researcher at the University of Colorado and co-author of the 2017 book The Knowledge Illusion. “To maintain these strong counter-scientific consensus views, you kind of have to have a lack of knowledge.” . . 

Is the minister’s decision based on a lack of knowledge or just politics and emotion trumping science?

Whichever it is, a minister should not be shutting the door on scientific exploration.


Rural round-up

09/08/2018

Long-serving dairy scientist Harjinder Singh gains international recognition – George Heagney:

After 30 years of research in the dairy industry, a distinguished service award was well deserved for Harjinder​ Singh.

The Massey University distinguished professor has won a lot of awards for his work, but last month became the first New Zealander to win the American Dairy Science Association distinguished service award at Knoxville in the United States.

The gong, which Singh joked was a lifetime achievement award, was for outstanding contribution to dairy science and work improving the industry. 

Singh, 60, is a food scientist and major figure in the development of dairy science research, having started working at Massey in 1989. . .

TDC hopes Provincial Growth Fund will plug $18m hole in Waimea dam plan – Cherie Sivignon:

Tasman District Council has applied to the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund to plug an $18 million hole in funding for the proposed Waimea dam, undaunted by an apparent exclusion for water and irrigation projects.

A guide to the fund called Powering Up Aotearoa-New Zealand’s Regions is available on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website.

On page 5 of that guide under the headline “Fund exclusions”, it says: The following are not eligible for PGF [the Provincial Growth Fund] as they are funded by other means:
* Housing (unless it is a core part of a broader project and would not otherwise be required)
* Water and large-scale irrigation
* Social infrastructure (such as hospitals and schools) . .

Four does go into one – Sonita Chandar:

Teamwork is the secret to success for the Southland farm judged the best dairy business in the land. Sonita Chandar reports.

Despite three of the four partners living in the North Island the success of a Southland farming business can be attributed to exceptional teamwork and good clear lines of communication.

Each partner brings strengths to the table but no one is above the others. They are all equals, make decisions as a group and share in the spoils of their collective success. . .

Tradition lives on – Sonita Chandar:

The threat of Mycoplasma bovis might ruin an annual tradition that is a firm favourite on the agricultural calendar.

Calf club days around the country are being put on hold or cancelled because of fears of spreading the disease, which has seen cattle banned from some A&P Shows.

However, a group of Waikato farmers has come up with a failsafe idea that carries zero risks and allows children to enter calf clubs and compete against others without having to leave the farm.

On a Facebook page farmers suggested running an online club. . .

Sniffing out a new industry – Nigel Malthus:

At up to $250 retail for a well-shaped 80-90g black perigord truffle, growing the gourmet delicacy has its obvious rewards.

But it is also a high-risk business, says Amuri Truffiere’s Gavin Hulley. The truffiere is based on a 2ha hillside plot overlooking the North Canterbury township of Waikari.

Run as a joint venture with the landowner and another investor, it was planted out in 1997 as one of the first truffle farms in New Zealand. . .

A2 Milk shares rated both ‘outperform’ and ‘sell’ as views on outlook diverge – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Views on the outlook for The a2 Milk Company, the best performing stock on the S&P/NZX 50 Index last year, are widely divergent with one broking house this week reinstating an ‘outperform’ rating based on its potential for future global growth, while another downgraded it to ‘sell’ saying excess product is starting to build in Australia.

A2 Milk, which markets milk with a protein variant said to have health benefits, has had a meteoric rise in recent times, cracking a major milestone in February when it became the largest listed company in New Zealand by value, as its infant formula in China and liquid milk in Australia surged in popularity. At today’s price it is valued as the fourth-largest New Zealand listed company although opinions on its future are mixed. . . 

Fonterra and Future Consumer Limited JV to provide high value dairy nutrition in India:

Fonterra has announced a joint venture partnership with one of India’s largest consumer companies, Future Consumer Ltd, to produce a range of consumer and foodservice dairy products that will help meet the growing demand for high-quality dairy nutrition in India.

Lukas Paravicini, Fonterra’s Chief Operating Officer Global Consumer and Foodservice, said the partnership, under the name Fonterra Future Dairy Partners, will enable Fonterra to establish a presence in India. . . 

New Zealand’s newest farmer-owned foor company challenges  Virgin Australia to bet on an underdog:

Farmer-owned food company, Hinterland Foods, has launched an online appeal for support to have its meat products served on Virgin Australia flights.

It follows an invitation by the airline to the country’s meat companies, in response to rival Air New Zealand’s plant-based Impossible Burger, which has caused a stir in local rural communities.

To help rally support, Hinterland’s Taihape-based team produced a short video to better acquaint ‘the Aussies’ with rural New Zealand life and make a case for why the company’s products should be chosen.  . .

DryNZ, a boutique freshly dried food ingredients business clinches major international export order:

DryNZ, a start-up wholesale freshly dried fruit and vegetable business has won a major international export order, supplying dried fruit for an international company based in Europe.

DryNZ Managing Director Anne Gibson says the deal is a major coup for the Waiuku based business, situated adjacent to the Pukekohe food-bowl supplying apple, peach, blackcurrant, kiwifruit and lemon dried food pieces. . . 

Farmer Tim says ENOUGH IS ENOUGH to farmer suicides #ILiveBecauseYouFarm – The Bullvine:

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! I need your help. Five times in the last week I’ve received messages about farmers taking their lives. It is getting way too close to home for me now. Last week agriculture lost an amazing soldier. Her passion and compassion for all things farming was contagious. Anyone who had the privilege to meet her instantly became inspired to be a better person. I do not want to needlessly lose another friend, farmer, neighbour or agvocate. We need to do something.

So many people suffer silently and I know that we can’t help them all but sometime even a small gesture can have a huge impact on someone’s life. . .


Rural round-up

21/07/2018

Crop biotech 3.0: a farmer’s perspective – Craige Mackenzie:

Here in New Zealand, we did not participate in the GE Gene Revolution. Farmers like me see an advantage in making sure that we do not miss the next one. 

You’ve seen the statistics. Farmers around the world have planted and harvested billions of acres of genetically engineered crops. Not long ago, we used to talk about GMOs and conventional crops as if they belonged in different categories. Increasingly—and especially in North and South America—GMOs are the new conventional. They’ve become an ordinary part of agriculture. 

Some nations, of course have resisted the use of GMOs, starting with members of the European Union. New Zealand has taken its own wait-and-see approach, turning it into a sort of permanent delay. The science on GMOs safety to human health and our environment may be settled but my country has wanted to preserve its clean-green image in food production, in the belief that this gives us a competitive advantage as we market ourselves to the world.  . . 

Eradicating cattle disease M. bovis in New Zealand may be costly, even impossible, but we must try – Riachard Laven:

In May this year, the New Zealand government decided that it would attempt to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis, a bacterial disease that affects cattle.

A phased eradication means that an additional 126,000 livestock will need to be culled, at an estimated cost of NZ$886 million.

Here’s what we know, what we don’t know and what’s at stake.

How do we know this is a new incursion?

M. bovis causes mastitis and arthritis in adult cattle and pneumonia in calves. It is found around the world, but New Zealand was one of the last disease-free countriesuntil the detection of infected cows on a dairy farm in July 2017.  . .

Career path judged correctly – Sally Rae:

Brooke Flett never intended a career in farming.

But now, settled on the family dairy farm at Scotts Gap in Southland, it was “working out all right”.

“Most of the time, I love it,” she laughed.

Miss Flett (26), who is chairwoman of Thornbury Young Farmers Club, was recently named Young Farmers national stock-judging champion.

She grew up on the farm and boarded at Southland Girls’ High School before studying at Victoria University for a bachelor of arts in education.

But it “never really clicked” and she did not pursue a career in that area. .

Farm sales and prices ease on year June but horticulture farms shine –  Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Farm sales fell 7 percent on the year in the three months to June and the median price per hectare was down 16.3 percent although horticulture farm prices continued to push higher, according to the Real Estate Institute.

Overall, 427 farms were sold in the three months ended June 30 from 459 farms in the same period a year earlier. Some 1,480 farms were sold in the year to June, down 17 percent on the year. . .

Software to keep containment’s out:

Fertiliser co-op Ballance will commercially launch a new farm environment planning tool, MitAgator, by spring.

Developed by Ballance and AgResearch, MitAgator measures the loss of four main farm contaminants — nitrogen, phosphorous, sediment and E. coli.

New Zealand-wide trials are pointing to a launch by late September. . .

Deer velvet looking good in Asia

Long-term prospects for NZ velvet in the major Asian markets are looking positive says Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) Asia manager Rhys Griffiths.

“There has been an explosion in consumer demand for consumer-ready velvet-based products in Korea. Ten years ago this product category didn’t even exist,” he says.

“In the past six months, 23 new velvet-based healthy food products have been launched in Korea; the majority of them using NZ velvet. . .

Importers snap up cheap U.S. soybeans as China stops buying – Karl Plume:

China’s retaliatory tariffs on U.S. soybeans, threatened for weeks and enacted Friday, have driven down prices and triggered a wave of bargain shopping by importers in other countries stocking up on cheap U.S. supplies, according to a Reuters analysis of government data.

Chinese buyers have so far this year accounted for just 17 percent of all advanced purchases of the fall U.S. soybean harvest – down from an average of 60 percent over the past decade, the analysis found. They are instead loading up on Brazilian soybeans, which now sell at a premium of up to $1.50 a bushel as U.S. soybean futures have fallen 17 percent over six weeks to about $8.50, their lowest level in nearly a decade. . .

The rise of soil carbon cowboys – Peter Byck:

Ranching is a rare occupation. Rarer still are the ranchers pioneering new ways to graze cattle, transforming their ranches and farms into vibrant ecosystems, producing black ink for their bank accounts and giving their incredibly robust animals a great life (with the exception of one bad day).

These new grazing methods have many names — mob grazing, managed intensive grazing, holistic management. Our group of scientists and ranchers call it Adaptive Multi-Paddock (AMP) Grazing.  . .


<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: