A tale of two conferences

February 12, 2015

 

Lincoln University is hosting an international conference on food science and technology:

The overarching theme of the conference is the future of food innovation, nutrition and technology, and it will bring together more than 250 scientists, government officials and industry representatives from more than 50 countries around the globe.

The conference also celebrates the 50 year anniversary of the International Journal of Food Science and Technology (IJFST) – one of the oldest and most established journals in food science and technology in the world.

The conference theme is a highly relevant one, with food science and technology expected to play an increasingly important role in addressing current and future challenges in food production.

A large and rapidly growing global population, deteriorating agricultural soils, increasing demand for water resources, and the need to rapidly modify production methods based on climate change are all providing a serious challenge to the field of food science.

According to Lincoln University Professor in Food Science, Editor-in-Chief of IJFST, and conference chairman, Charles Brennan, the event is a unique opportunity to facilitate an information exchange that brings together industry, universities and research centres.

“The mix of those attending should allow for some good dialogue between both industry and research, which is tremendously important to ensure that tangible and workable projects are undertaken, the right kind of issues are addressed, and new opportunities are identified.

“The conference will also provide a great opportunity to showcase the pivotal role New Zealand plays in the area of food science and product innovation. . .

This conference will highlight the scientific approach to the challenge of feeding the world.

Offsetting Behaviour posts on another conference which provides a stark and unscientific contrast:

A plucky group of scientific outsiders, presenting results outside of the mainstream consensus, hosts its own conference with presentations mostly from those in their heterodox club. They present themselves as providing the truth that is much opposed by big moneyed interests. They’re celebrated in a reception hosted in Parliament by one of the political parties. The media is expected to highlight their alternative take on reality, with perhaps some offsetting commentary from those in the mainstream; the overall effect, though, is to stoke and legitimise popular misunderstandings. . .

This weekend brings GMO-sceptics to Wellington. Presentations include “Pesticides: scilencing the ecosystem and silencing our children” and “Overweight, undernourished, sterile and dying of cancer. Our food is it sealing the fate of humanity?”

And the Greens are hosting them in Parliament: . . .

Imagine the uproar if another party was to host a pseudo-scientific conference in parliament.

A few further notes:

  • The keynote speaker, Gilles-Eric Seralini, found tumours in mice fed GM crops. But his paper was retracted due to concerns like these. It was later elsewhere republished in a friendlier outlet.
  • Vandana Shiva, also there speaking, earned this profile in the New Yorker, which concluded:

    When Shiva writes that “Golden Rice will make the malnutrition crisis worse” and that it will kill people, she reinforces the worst fears of her largely Western audience. Much of what she says resonates with the many people who feel that profit-seeking corporations hold too much power over the food they eat. Theirs is an argument well worth making. But her statements are rarely supported by data, and her positions often seem more like those of an end-of-days mystic than like those of a scientist.

  • On 29 January this year, the American Association for the Advancement of Science released a rather timely survey on scientific support for use of genetic modification techniques in food. Huffington has the summary

    In sharp contrast to public views about GMOs, 89% of scientists believe genetically modified foods are safe.

    That’s the most eye-opening finding in a Pew Research Center study on science literacy, undertaken in cooperation with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and released on January 29.

    The overwhelming scientific consensus exceeds the percentage of scientists, 88%, who think humans are mostly responsible for climate change. However, the public appears far more suspicious of scientific claims about GMO safety than they do about the consensus on global warming.

    Some 57% of Americans say GM foods are unsafe and a startling 67% do not trust scientists, believing they don’t understand the science behind GMOs. AAAS researchers blame poor reporting by mainstream scientists for the trust and literacy gaps.

    The survey also contrasts sharply with a statement published earlier this week in a pay-for-play European journal by a group of anti-GMO scientists and activists, including Michael Hansen of the Center for Food Safety, and philosopher Vandana Shiva, claiming, “no scientific consensus on GMO safety.”

The scientific consensus on GMOs is as strong as the scientific consensus on climate change. Will Browning have to retract this like he had to pull back from endorsing homeopathy for Ebola?

The Greens could play at highlighting the heterodox views on GMOs a couple years ago. But when 89% of scientists say GMO food is safe?

Scientific validity isn’t based on popularity.

But if the Greens decry as deniers those who doubt the high percentage of scientists who support the concept of human induced climate change what are they if they doubt the even higher percentage who say GMOs are safe?

And is parliament the appropriate place for such a conference?

 

 

 

 


A time to oppose and a time to not

November 10, 2014

Last week wasn’t a good one for the Green party.

First they stripped Steffan Browning of his natural health spokesman role after his ill-advised signing of a petition calling for homeopathy to be used against Ebola.

Then they showed why they are a long way from reaching their ambition to be the major party of opposition by totally opposing the government’s plans to offer support in the fight against the Islamic State.

John Armstrong points out that sometimes in opposition parties are better to not oppose:

The next time the Prime Minister delivers a speech on something as fundamental as national security and the potential for Islamic State-inspired terrorism in New Zealand, the Greens should read it carefully, rather than making assumptions about its content and consequently missing or dismissing what he is really saying.

Had they done so, they might have realised the new (and temporary) law to be pushed through Parliament to block New Zealanders going to Syria to sign up with Islamic State (Isis) looks like being far less an infringement of personal freedom than its far lengthier and more prescriptive Australian counterpart.

The Greens might have also realised that contributing to military training in Iraq was about the minimum John Key could get away with without traditional allies such as Australia looking askance.

Labour Party polling is understood to have shown no public appetite for sending combat troops. Even National voters did not like the idea – less than a third were comfortable with that option.

National’s private polling would have produced similar results, and Key is nothing if not poll-driven, so his Government’s contribution to the battle against Isis is very much on the moderate end of things.

But the Greens would prefer to continue to demonise National as persecutors of the poor, environmental dinosaurs and in this week’s case, unfailingly loyal lap-dogs itching for an invitation to sign up to Uncle Sam’s latest military adventure.

It was hardly a surprise that the Greens rejected every initiative in Key’s Wednesday address that was targeted at Isis.

In doing so they have displayed not so much a reluctance to shift on principle as a downright refusal to entertain even the thought of doing so. That is their right.

But it means two things. First, there can be no getting the Greens out of the shadow cast by Labour without compromise or dropping whole swathes of policy as a prerequisite for any move more to the centre of the political spectrum, which would enable the Greens to no longer be hostage to Labour.

It also makes it harder for them to supplant Labour as the dominant party on the centre-left. That is because the politics of Opposition stretch much further than just opposition to policies or ideas.

On occasion – and Wednesday’s speech was such an occasion – the public expects political parties to show some degree of flexibility so they might reach some consensus in the national interest.

This is especially so on foreign policy, defence and intelligence matters.

Labour understands this. The Greens pretend not to understand. . .

No doubt Turei’s rejection of everything in Key’s speech made her and her colleagues feel good about themselves. All they succeeded in doing was to isolate themselves from the mainstream. It was left to Labour to exercise real opposition.

The party accepted the broad thrust of intended legislation to lock those intending to fight for Isis through cancelling passports. But Labour also made it clear that it would endeavour to use select committee scrutiny to iron out details it is not happy about. . .

Labour can thank three senior MPs for the party’s assured and no-fuss handling of the kind of issue where sticking to long-established principles, as the Greens have done, can be of no practical use to anyone. . . .

However, Armstrong’s praise of Labour might be premature because the party’s acceptance of the broad thrust of the government’s plan isn’t accepted by its four leadership contenders:

Prime Minister John Key’s plan to help fight Islamic State in Iraq by sending military trainers has been unanimously voted down by Labour’s leadership contenders. . .

Did they not listen to the three senior MPs who showed Labour taking the responsible path in parliament just a few days ago?

Or is this just another indication of how divided and dysfunctional the party is?

Almost all editorials and commentators have agreed that the government’s response was moderate and necessary.

Labour appeared to agree with that last week but yesterday none of the four would-be leaders were signing from the responsible. government-in-waiting song sheet.

 


Homeopathy vs ebola?

October 31, 2014

Understatement of the year:

Green MP Steffan Browning says giving his support to a call for the World Health Organisation to deploy homeopathic remedies to combat the Ebola epidemic in West Africa was ‘probably pretty unwise’.

Just a little unwise?

Mr Browning this week signed a petition started by Australian Fran Sheffield which calls on the World Health Organisation (WHO) to “End the suffering of the Ebola crisis. Test and distribute homeopathy as quickly as possible to contain the outbreaks.” . . .

Asked whether he thought homeopathy could cure Ebola, Mr Browning said: “It’s not for me to go down that track at all.

The World Health Organisation, world health authorities are doing that.”

“They will be considering I hope absolutely every possible options to this very concerning disease.”

Asked whether that should include homeopathy, he said “Why not?”

“Internationally homeopathy is considered in some places.. I am not an expert but I assume they will look at that as much as a number of other options.” . .

You don’t have to be an expert to know this:
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Green list doens’t rate ag

May 25, 2014

The Green Party has released its list for the upcoming election:

1. TUREI, Metiria   2. NORMAN, Russel  

When you have co-leaders one has to be number one on the list, but I’d be surprised if anyone outside the party would put Turei ahead of Norman.

3. HAGUE, Kevin   4. SAGE, Eugenie    5. HUGHES, Gareth 6. DELAHUNTY, Catherine   7. GRAHAM, Kennedy   8. GENTER, Julie Anne   9. MATHERS, Mojo 10. LOGIE, Jan   11. CLENDON, Dave  12. WALKER, Holly  13. SHAW, James  14. ROCHE, Denise  15. BROWNING, Steffan   16. DAVIDSON, Marama  17. COATES, Barry  18. HART, John 19. KENNEDY, Dave 20. ELLEY, Jeanette  21. McDONALD, Jack  22. MOORHOUSE, David   23. ROTMANN, Sea  24. BARLOW, Aaryn  25. LECKINGER, Richard  26. PERINPANAYAGAM, Umesh  27. RUTHVEN, Susanne  28. MOORE, Teresa   29. LANGSBURY, Dora   30. WOODLEY, Tane   31. PERLEY, Chris   32. GOLDSMITH, Rachael  33. KELCHER, John   34. ROGERS, Daniel  35. WESLEY, Richard  36. SMITHSON, Anne-Elise  37. McALL, Malcolm  38. FORD, Chris  39. HUNT, Reuben

Where a party spokesperson is on the list isn’t necessarily a reflection of the importance placed on the portfolios for which they are responsible.

However, farmers will take some comfort in seeing that the agriculture spokesman, Steffan Browning is the lowest ranked sitting MP.

Given how bad the policy is, the lower priority given to it the better.

The media releases says:

. . . “This is a diverse and balanced list. There are 10 women and 10 men in our top 20, six Aucklanders, four Maori and the first deaf candidate in the top 10 of any party’s list in MMP history. . . .

It’s so much easier to put a stronger emphasis on gender, ethnicity and other factors rather than ability when the chances are high that fewer than half are likely to make it into parliament.


Browning not wanted on Green voyage?

March 17, 2014

Paddington Bear had a suitcase labelled wanted on voyage.

The Green Party initial list  shows their agricultural spokesman Steffan Browning is not wanted on their voyage beyond the election.

He was 10 in 2011 and has dropped to 16 in this list.

The party currently has 14 MPs, they’d need a better vote than they got in 2011 if he’s to return to parliament.

1 Turei, Metiria
2 Norman, Russel
3 Hague, Kevin
4 Sage, Eugenie
5 Delahunty, Catherine
6 Hughes, Gareth
7 Graham, Kennedy
8 Genter, Julie Anne
9 Logie, Jan
10 Shaw, James
11 Walker, Holly
12 Clendon, Dave
13 Roche, Denise
14 Mathers, Mojo
15 Davidson, Marama
16 Browning, Steffan
17 Coates, Barry
18 Hart, John
19 McDonald, Jack
20 Leckinger, Richard
21 Rotmann, Sea
22 Moorhouse, David
23 Elley, Jeannette
24 Ruthven, Susanne
25 Perinpanayagam, Umesh
26 Perley, Chris
27 Moore, Teresa
28 Kennedy, Dave
29 Langsbury, Dora
30 Barlow, Aaryn
31 Lawless, Jennifer
32 Woodley, Tane
33 Goldsmith, Rachael
34 Rogers, Daniel
35 Kelcher, John
36 Smithson, Anne-Elise
37 McAll, Malcolm
38 Ferguson, Sam
39 Ford, Chris
40 Hunt, Reuben
41 Wesley, Richard

The 2011 list was:

 
1 TUREI, Metiria
2 NORMAN, Russel
3 HAGUE, Kevin
4 DELAHUNTY, Catherine
5 GRAHAM, Kennedy
6 SAGE, Eugenie Meryl
7 HUGHES, Gareth
8 CLENDON, David
9 LOGIE, Jan
10 BROWNING, Steffan
11 ROCHE, Denise
12 WALKER, Holly
13 GENTER, Julie Anne
14 MATHERS, Mojo
15 SHAW, James
16 HAY, David

Gareth Hughes and Kennedy Graham have swapped places from 2011.

. . . “The list we are releasing today is by no means final. It is just a useful guide for members all over the country to use when making their own personal selection.”

The initial list is put together by delegates and candidates who attended the party’s February candidate conference. Delegates were able to put candidates through their paces and evaluate their performance. The initial list now goes to party members nation-wide to vote on. The Green Party uses STV voting. . . .

The useful guide clearly indicates that Browning wasn’t rated highly by conference goers.

That view will be shared by most farmers who would not want him anywhere near the primary industries portfolio.

Frequent commenter here, Dave Kennedy is at 28.


Do we still need to feed the world?

September 7, 2012

New Zealand is regarded as a leader in farming but we’re at risk of being left well behind if we don’t adopt 21st century biotechnology.

Crop-enhancing biotechnology is the world’s best hope of feeding a population expected to double by 2050, but scientists at an international conference in Rorotua this week warned NZ is in danger of missing the bus as resistance to genetic modification blocks development. AgResearch scientist Tony Conner said the amount of land planted with GM crops worldwide last year was 6 times the size of NZ. “If we continue to not adopt this technology, we run a huge risk of being left behind..In another decade we could be dealing with yesterday’s crops.”

No GM crops are grown in NZ, despite the vast potential for improved output from homegrown GM pastures, alongside exported products such as tomatoes, capsicum and squash. The loss in not embracing GM has been put at $1.5bn.

The reason we’re not embracing GM is that opposition based on emotion rather than science is dominating the discussion.

Caution with anything new is sensible but the blanket ban on genetic modification is blinkered.

Green MP Steffan Browning who helped lead a protest against the conference contends NZ should rely on organic and traditional means of producing food. “Rather than going for volume we need to be going for best value and not compromise our brand.” A research study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine could find little evidence food produced organically, without artificial fertilisers or other chemicals, is healthier or the vitamin content was any different.

Genetic modification might help farmers reduce the need for artificial fertilisers and pesticides, it would definitely enable us to produce more.

Food security is one of the biggest issues facing the world.

Although we export most of the food we produce, it’s not a lot on a global scale. Genetic modification could enable us to produce more food with better nutritional value.

If we could do more to feed the world, should we, or is it acceptable to keep the blinkers on, worry only about our little corner and let someone else concern themselves with feeding the hungry?


Rural round-up

August 11, 2012

Shanghai Pengxin finally able to get on with its dairy investment – Allan Barber:

After one of the most drawn out sagas of recent times, the Court of Appeal’s ruling at last looks as if Shanghai Pengxin can complete its takeover of the Crafar farms.

The Fay/Maori Purchase Group has announced it will not make any further appeal, but, in Sir Michael Fay’s case, it will go back to business as usual and, in the case of the two Maori trusts, continue to negotiate the acquisition of two farms. However the iwi are still considering an appeal against the latest decision, while negotiations continue.

This sale process has caused much debate and involved very costly court cases which in the end have merely served to review and confirm the original decision and it’s hard to see on what basis a further appeal could expect to succeed. . .

Wintering barns ‘good idea’ not obligatory – Shawn McAvinue:

Wintering barns are a good idea but shouldn’t be made mandatory, says a Western Southland dairy farmer. 

    Dairy farmer Philip van der Bijl said the new winter shed on his Broad Acres farm, near Mossburn, was worth the investment. 

    If Environment Southland forced farmers to build sheds that would take money out of the farming community and only make Australian banks wealthier, he said. . .

Red cattle light up Shannon farm – Jon Morgan:

The late afternoon rain clouds have fled to the Tararua Range and a watery sun casts a soft light across the rolling pastures. In this light, a mob of cattle take on an exotic hue, their velvety, chocolate-red coats radiating a warm, lustrous glow. 

    It would be wrong to say farmer Kelvin Lane is unmoved, but he’s showing off his cows and his eyes are on their straight backs, muscled bodies and calf-bearing hips. 

    It is the dark red colour that first attracted him to the cattle, which are of the uncommon red poll breed. “They’re different, aren’t they?” he says. . .

A Hereford fan for life – Sue O’Dowd:

North Taranaki beef breeder Rodney Jupp is on a mission to introduce “Hereford Prime” beef to the region’s palates. 

    Right now he’s negotiating a deal with a Taranaki butchery, and hopes the meat will be on sale in the province within the next month. 

    “I’m working really hard to get Hereford Prime launched in Taranaki,” he said. . .

Pipfruit Growers Expect Slightly Improved Profitability

Pipfruit growers are expecting a small improvement in profitability this year, due to a lift in prices.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has released an analysis of pipfruit production and profitability as part of its annual Farm Monitoring Report series. The report is based on models of a Hawke’s Bay and a Nelson orchard and an overview of the financial performance of typical orchards, based on information gathered from a sample of growers and industry stakeholders.

A cool spring delayed flowering and harvest by around two weeks this season. Hawke’s Bay also had below-average temperatures and lack of sunny weather over summer. . .

Anti-GM campaigners warn of dangers – Gerald Piddock:

Two Australian farmers are warning New Zealanders to make sure their country remains free of genetically engineered and modified organisms. 

    Allowing GM products to be produced would put at risk New Zealand’s clean green brand, they say. 

    Western Australian farmer Bob Mackley and Victorian farmer and anti-GM advocate Julie Newman are touring New Zealand to deliver their message. With them is Green Party primary industries spokesman Steffan Browning. They were in Ashburton last week. . .

Entries open for 2013 Ballance Farm Awards:

Entries are now open for the 2013 Canterbury Ballance Environment Farm Awards.

The Awards, which have been running in the region for 10 years, celebrate responsible land stewardship and sustainable farm management practices.

Jocelyn Muller, the Canterbury Regional Coordinator for the Ballance Awards, said the awards continue to go from strength – to – strength in Canterbury.

“The Awards recognise and celebrate that best practice on-farm management is good for business and good for the environment.   . .


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