Rural round-up

March 29, 2016

Rural economy is not all doom and gloom:

All is not gloomy in the agricultural community even though collapsing dairy prices have left a hole at the heart of the sector, New Zealand farming analysts say.

And while dairy problems are having a ricochet effect on other farmers, some areas of the rural economy are doing well and others are booming.

One of the most optimistic sectors is the apple and pear industry. . . 

Not enough mouths – Annette Scott:

Rain has hit the spot for much of the South Island’s parched farmland but with it has come a new challenge – what to do with the feed.

The countrywide shortage of livestock was starting to kick in sooner than expected, Mid Canterbury Rural Support Trust chairman Peter Reveley said.

“We have had some absolutely brilliant rain. . . 

Waikato Lavender Farm owners farewell business after 20 years – Kelsey Wilkie:

After 20 years at the helm, the founders of Waikato’s Lavender Farm are moving on.

Ian and Bev Parlane opened the gates to the Alphra Lavenders farm at Orakau, 8km south of Te Awamutu, 20 years ago.

The purple garden spreads across one hectare.  . . 

Ham-fisted definitely, incompetent possibly – Allan Barber:

Fonterra’s succession of ultimatums to its suppliers smack of ham-fisted bullying and incompetence. The company’s first ultimatum was to push payment terms out to 90 days for a ‘small percentage’ of its New Zealand suppliers in line with its global practice , followed by an invitation to attend Dragon’s Den type negotiating sessions in which it has served notice it will demand 20% price reductions.

There is nothing wrong or sinister about a customer trying to negotiate better terms of trade as a means of increasing efficiency, but in Fonterra’s case the company appears to have completely ignored the value of proper communication and relationships with its suppliers. Many of these will be contractors that have devoted resources and valuable service over a number of years; these contractors will be an integral cog in the life and prosperity of the rural communities they serve and live in. . . 

Political high-fliers win farming award: ‘Cows don’t talk back’  – Gerald Piddock:

Two novices running a dairy farm have taken the title of regional Share Farmers of the Year – and it’s not just their career change that’s gaining attention. 

Matthew Herbert and Brad Markham say they are also the first same-sex couple to win a trophy at the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards.

The former political advisor and journalist crossed the ditch two years ago, swapping talk with Australia’s top politicians to pulling teats on a dairy farm. . . 

These vitamin fortified bananas might get you thinking differently about GMOs – Nathanael Johnson:

In the winter of 2014, students at Iowa State University received emails asking them to volunteer for an experiment. Researchers were looking for women who would eat bananas that had been genetically engineered to produce extra carotenes, the yellow-orange nutrients that take their name from carrots. Our bodies use alpha and beta carotenes to make retinol, better known as vitamin A, and the experiment was testing how much of the carotenes in the bananas would transform to vitamin A. The researchers were part of an international team trying to end vitamin A deficiency.

The emails reached the volunteers they needed to begin the experiment, but they also reached protesters. “As a student in the sustainability program, I immediately started asking questions,” said Iowa State postdoc Rivka Fidel. “Is this proven safe? Have they considered the broader cultural and economic issues?” . . .

New Zealand’s fisheries performing well:

New Zealand’s fisheries continue to perform well, Seafood New Zealand Chief Executive Tim Pankhurst says.

He was commenting on the latest Status of New Zealand Fisheries report published by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

Around 83 per cent of individual fish stocks of known status and almost 97 per cent of landings are above or well above levels where their sustainability would be a cause for concern, he says.

“These figures are the result of a robust process and show that we are as good as or beyond the standard of the best in the world,” he says. . . 


Liberal resistance to science organised, destructive

March 22, 2013

If a large corporation was responsible for the deaths of millions of children it would be an international scandal.

But the actions of the well organised, well funded, liberal left wing political movements have done that through their emotional and non-science based opposition to genetic modification and it hardly gets a mention.

Glenn Garvin writes:

If this column appeared under the headline, “Massive defeat for the anti-science forces,” you would naturally assume I’m talking about some kind of setback for conservative Republicans, right? And you would be completely wrong.

The losers in this case are the Luddite shock troops of progressivism like Greenpeace. And the winners are the children of the Philippines, thousands of whom will not go blind or die because the anti-science wing of modern liberalism finally is getting some pushback.

The Filipino government has finally approved the planting of genetically modified rice that contains vitamin A. “Golden rice,” as the stuff is called, probably won’t make a splash in the United States, but in the Third World, it will be a godsend. Between a quarter-million and a half-million children go blind each year from vitamin A deficiency, the United Nations says, and half of them die within 12 months. Some studies put the figure even higher.

As many as 300 million of the people at high risk for vitamin A deficiency live in countries where the staple food is rice. For them, golden rice will provide a quick, easy and cheap fix: eating just two ounces a day will provide 60 percent of the recommended daily dose of vitamin A.

But that hasn’t stopped Greenpeace and other Luddite-left activists from fighting a scorched-earth war to stop golden rice. For more than a dozen years — or, if you prefer to keep score in the lives of children, 8 million dead — they’ve kept golden rice off the market by calling it Frankenfood and insisting that it will wreck the environment and spread dependence on Western capitalism.

What role does science play in the left-wing opposition to golden rice and other genetically modified crops? None. Study after study has shown no detectable deleterious effects on human health from genetically altered foods. And two studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have shown that golden rice is an even better vehicle for delivery of vitamin A than spinach, the wonder vegetable.

Caution with anything new is advisable, even admirable. The anti-science, anti-business of the luddites is putting politics before health and economic wellbeing.

Every time some lone Republican nut from Hooterville makes a jackass statement about rape or evolution, it’s immediately ascribed as a doctrinal belief of the entire GOP and conservatives in general. But liberal resistance to science is far more organized, far more destructive and far less covered in the media . 

He continues with instances where assertions without science have had a huge impact:

— Millions of American parents refused to have their children vaccinated for diseases like whooping cough and measles after Robert F. Kennedy Jr. published an error-ridden tirade in Rolling Stone and the left-wing website Salon in 2005 linking vaccines to autism and other neurological disturbances.

Six years later, Salon retracted the article, yet many parents remain convinced of the linkage to this day — one of whom now sits in the White House. “We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate,” Barack Obama said during his 2008 campaign. “Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included.” Obama’s spurious worries about vaccines led to manufacturing changes that caused a shortage of flu vaccine in the winter of 2009.

— Virtually no nuclear-power plants have been built in the United States during the past four decades, the result of continuous left-wing scare stories. Australian physician Helen Caldicott has become a folk hero — 21 honorary degrees and a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize — for her anti-nuke campaign, the centerpiece of which is that the explosion at the Soviet Union’s Chernobyl nuclear reactor led to nearly a billion deaths and countless hideous birth defects.

Actual death toll, according the U.N.’s scientific committee on nuclear radiation: less than 100. Actual birth defects: zero. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences says that the chances of radiation-induced changes in human sperm and eggs are so low that it has never been detected in human beings, “even in thoroughly studied irradiated populations such as those of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” There may be good reasons for opposing nuclear power — mainly, that the industry is a bloated corporate welfare tick that cannot survive without massive government subsidy — but science isn’t one of them, which is why a 2009 Pew Research Center survey showed 70 percent of scientists support it.

But scientific consensus, invoked like clockwork whenever lefty activists and their journalist friends talk about global warming, is mysteriously irrelevant when they’re discussing nuclear power or genetically enhanced crops. In 2005, the International Council for Science — a coalition of 140 scientific organizations — reviewed more than 50 studies and declared flatly: “Currently available genetically modified foods are safe to eat.”

There are a few million dead Third World kids who wish that somebody had listened.

Mark Lynas made similar points at the Oxford Farmers Conference about which I posted here.

. . . This was also explicitly an anti-science movement. We employed a lot of imagery about scientists in their labs cackling demonically as they tinkered with the very building blocks of life. Hence the Frankenstein food tag – this absolutely was about deep-seated fears of scientific powers being used secretly for unnatural ends. What we didn’t realise at the time was that the real Frankenstein’s monster was not GM technology, but our reaction against it. . . .

These movements which are anti-science and  anti-business purport to be pro-environment but they use green causes for red political means.

Because emotion usually trumps facts they have been very successful but the sensible, science-based actions of the Filipino government give cause for hope that the tide is turning.


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