Bull Pen

November 17, 2008

If like me you’ve been missing Philippa Stevenson’s contributions over at Dig n Stir and Rural Network mourn no more – she’s back on the blogosphere at The Bull Pen.

She’s also freelancing for The Country Channel which screens on Sky (it was free in October but now costs $14.50 a month).

Pip does a weekly segment in their news porgramme, Farmgate, which is an agri-media panel discussion on the ag issues of the week, called The Bull Pen and the blog provides a forum for further discussion.

I’ll confess I rarely watch TV and saw only a few minutes of The Country Channel when it screened last month which is not enough to make a judgement on it. But the concept is a good one and it’s a welcome addition to the sparse coverage of agricultural and rural matters on TV.


Can’t argue about quality

September 19, 2008

The ODT editorial sums up the issue of Fonterra’s handling of the poisoned milk in China:

Quality control where food products are concerned is simply unarguable and the damage done for the lack of it to Fonterra’s good name by this tragic event suggests the company needs to have taken, and to continue to take, a great deal more direct interest in such partnerships.

Fonterra CEO  Andrew Ferrier is right that the poisoning was sabotage and that the problem spread far wider than his company. But there were concerns about Chinese food safety standards so Fonterra should have been far more cautious and rigorous about quality control with Sanlu in which it has a 43% stake.

If it couldn’t have prevented the problem it should have gone public far sooner after it was recognised. If they weren’t able to do that in China they could have done it here so that in spite of the repressive controls on media there the word would have got out.

Public health ought to have been their first priority and if they hadn’t wanted to risk business relationships in China by doing it openly they could have done it quietly then put the blame on our media. But they should have done it as soon as possible after concerns were raised.

Whether that would have saved any babies’ lives and lessened the severity of or prevented illness in others is a moot point. But there would have been no hesitation about a public recall of contaminated infant milk formula here and there shouldn’t have been there.

The only way Fonterra, or any other New Zealand company which goes in to business overseas, can safeguard its reputation, is to ensure that it has the same safety standards and concern for public health there as it does here.

Dig N Stir and Macdoctor have related posts.


Passing on the brillante baton

September 18, 2008

How exciting and heart warming it was to check in to Homepaddock yesterday morning and discover I’d been blessed with a Brillante Blog award.

It was bestowed by Deborah who’s In A Strange Land  where she writes intelligently and thoughtfully on feminism, motherhood, parenting, work,  politics, life . . . and occasionally posts on food with photos that cause weight gain if you look at them too long.

Once you get a Brillante you’re invited to spread the happiness by passing it on to blogs you enjoy.

The rules are simple:

1. Put the logo on your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded it to you.
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4. Add links to these blogs on your blog.
5. Leave a message for your nominator on her/his blog.

So after a day of contemplation my nominees in alphabetical order are:

Annie Fox the nom de blog of Anna Wolf whose posts are warm, witty, passionate, frank, down to earth and full of life which is all the more remarkable because she’s writing about dying.

Phillipa Stephenson at Dig-N -Stir . There is on-going discussion about the difference between journalism and blogging. Pip does both supberbly, writing concise, well researched posts which reflect her knowldege and interest in the subject matter, her ability as a wordsmith and, where appropriate, her wit.

Dim Post for showing you can take a dig without getting dirty; and because every day is improved by humour.

Ex-expat who makes me think with posts that are educational, enlightening and/or entertaining.

Will de Cleene at goNZofreakpower whose posts aren’t frequent but point me to places I wouldn’t find by myself.

Adam Smith at Inquiring Mind  earns the award for the quotes and cartoons of the day by themselves. But there’s more: well reasoned posts on a variety of topics with special mention for not confining himself to New Zealand.

Inventory 2 at Keeping Stock for the quanity, quality, consistency and variety of his posts with extra points for his enthusiasm and sense of humour.

David Farrar at Kiwiblog because I can’t go past the godfather of the NZ blogosphere. It helps that I share many of his views, but even when I don’t, I admire his well written, researched and reasoned posts. He’s open about his bias but never bigoted.

Dave Gee at Life from Right Field because we southerners must stick together and with special mention for originality and pictures.

Macdoctor if he employs the same wit, intelligence, reason and compassion in medicine which he displays in blogging I’d be very happy to be his patient.

Monkeywithtypewriter , not just a token primate, he’s also got perception and a sense of humour.

The team at No Minister because they often amuse, sometimes shock and enable me to feel moderate. They get a special mention for visuals too.

Not PC for the art and architecture.

NZBC goes for quality rather than quantity and gets bonus points for humour and orginality.

Poneke for the quality of posts in which he uses the skills that made him an award winning journalist. Besides, you’ve got to admire a bloke who’s besotted with buses.

Busted Blonde at Roarprawn because she’s upfront, sassy, witty, in the know and shares it with style.

Bernard Hickey at Show Me The Money because he takes numbers and adds words that make sense of them.

Queen Bee at The Hive : she’s got contacts, she gets the facts and she’s the miistress of succinct posts with sting.

The team at Tumeke! for variety and originality. Tim Selwyn deserves an honourable mention by himself for doing the monthly blogosphere rankings.

Well the rules did say at least seven.

P.S. I have an aversion to chain letters or anything resembling them and I can do the maths: if seven people send something to at least seven people who send it …. it won’t be long to run out of blogs which haven’t got it. So should any of you on whom I’ve bestowed a Brillante want to change the rules or ignore them altogether, I won’t be offended, you won’t be courting calamity, your family and pets will be safe and the sky won’t fall in.


Emotion beats facts with food

September 16, 2008

When Aim toothpaste moved its production to India I stopped buying it.

When I read in a newspaper that most of the garlic in our supermarkets came from China I detoured to an organic shop to get my supplies, on the assumption they’d be locally grown.

While chatting to the woman serving me I mentioned why I was there. She replied, “This probably comes from China too.”

Seeing the look on my face she sought to reassure me by saying it would be organic. The reassurance didn’t work because I don’t have strong feelings about the benefits of organic over whatever food that isn’t organic is called (because it can’t be inorganic).

But I do have very strong feelings about food safety and I’m not confident enough about standards in places like India and China to put their produce in my mouth if there’s an alternative.

I say feelings because this is primarily an emotional response not a rational one. I don’t have any facts about the companies which make the toothpaste and grow the garlic to back up my reservations, and I’ve never been to either country.

But it’s not facts that matter here it’s feelings and that should be worrying Fonterra because as Philippa Stephenson points out over at Dig ‘n’ Stir the news of the contaminated infant milk formula has hit the world headlines.

Fonterra said it did everything it could once it found out about the contamination. That will be cold comfort for the families whose babies died or are ill and it won’t wash with consumers who regardless of the facts might feel happier choosing another brand next time.


Meatless days won’t save world

September 8, 2008

The United Nations wants us to eat less meat to reduce our carbon footprint.

People should have one meat-free day a week if they want to make a personal and effective sacrifice that would help tackle climate change, the world’s leading authority on global warming has told The Observer

Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which last year earned a joint share of the Nobel Peace Prize, said that people should then go on to reduce their meat consumption even further.

I hope he knows more about climate change than diet because health professionals are generally agreed that we shouldn’t eat too much meat at all and that three to five small servings of lean red meat a week is enough.

So we should already be having a couple of meat-free days if we want to lower our risk of heart disease and some cancers. But urging us to do it for environmental reasons is more contentious.

Obesity is literally a growing problem for some but others are starving because the world is short of protein and the mad rush to replace fossil fuels with bio fuels is one of the reasons for that. This prescription for meat-free days could also have unforeseen consequences without reducing carbon emissions.

I hope the work on climate change for which the doctor is so highly regarded is more credible than his pronouncement on meat eating because he doesn’t seem to realise that that some people going without meat doesn’t necessarily alter the number of animals being farmed and the total amount of meat being eaten. Farmers might keep the same size of herds and find new markets and customers for their produce.

Also not all meat production is equal. The extensive grasslands production methods used in New Zealand, Australia and Argentina has a much lower carbon footprint than intensive grain fed systems employed in most of Europe – even when you take into account transporting the meat part way round the world to get it to the market.

Crop production and processing isn’t necessarily equal either. While generally producing a given amount of nutrients from crops may result in lower carbon emissions than producing the same amount from meat; some meat production could be more carbon-efficient than growing, harvesting and producing some crops.

The science is not settled on climate change and unscientific pronouncements like these from Dr Pacahuri only add to the questions.

[Bob Edlin has a related post at Dig n Stir.]

Hat tip: Inquiring Mind


Award for rural blog

July 16, 2008

Rural Network  editor Pip Stevenson has won the Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science’s Sir Arthur Ward Award for science communication in recognition of her work on Dig ‘n’ Stir  blog.

NZIAHS president John Lancashire praised Stevenson’s efforts in covering science in the new, online format of the blog. He described it as “communication beyond the call of duty to the wider audience.”

Rural Network and Dig ‘n’ Stir are on my daily-read list and I’m delighted that Pip’s work has been recognised.

I’m also pleased that this award recognises the growing importance of blogs in communications and the media.


Did you see the one about…

June 29, 2008

Picks of the week from Homepaddock:

EFA anti-democratic – Clark

It’s not what you say

Feds chief not out to win friends

Ag & science not mutually exclusive

Porn in the paddock 

And from around the blogosphere:

Another ugly view from inside government & Click here to understand the the power of blogs from Show Me The Money.

Good Lord but he’s out to lunch from Dig N Stir

Some questions about unions from Keeping Stock

The Hive in general, and on the ETS in particular eg Every New Zealander should read

And Bullshit detector rings alarmingly from Poneke


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