Study finds no sign of health or nutrition problems from GMO livestock feed

A scientific review from the University of California, Davis, reports that the performance and health of food-producing animals consuming genetically engineered feed, first introduced 18 years ago, has been comparable to that of animals consuming non-GE feed.

The review study also found that scientific studies have detected no differences in the nutritional makeup of the meat, milk or other food products derived from animals that ate genetically engineered feed.

The university says the review, led by UC Davis animal scientist Alison Van Eenennaam, examined nearly 30 years of livestock-feeding studies that represent more than 100 billion animals.

Titled “Prevalence and Impacts of Genetically Engineered Feedstuffs on Livestock Populations,” the review article is now available online in open-access form through the American Society of Animal Science. It will appear in print and open-access in the October issue of the Journal of Animal Science.

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LUCI is helping with land management and in keeping waterways clean

A computer modelling programme designed by a Victoria University of Wellington academic is helping ensure that farming practices are as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible.

Dr Bethanna Jackson, from Victoria’s School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, has developed a land management decision support framework and software package called LUCI. It analyses impacts of changes in the way land is used across a range of ecosystems, and identifies where trade-offs or co-benefits might exist.

“LUCI looks at the way land management can affect a variety of things such as water quality, flood risk, agricultural productivity, greenhouse gas emissions, erosion, or sediment,” says Dr Jackson.

“It looks at everything in a holistic manner—the impact of all those cumulative changes in the way land is managed on a whole variety of different environmental, social and economic functions.

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Potential biocontrol agents against Tutsan are settling into containment

Landcare Research scientists are investigating two small European insects as potential biocontrol agents against the pest plant Tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum).

Tutsan is a significant pest in parts of the Central North Island because it forms extensive patches that take over agricultural, production and conservation land. It is unpalatable to stock, hard to kill, and shade tolerant and is particularly prevalent in areas where the land has been disturbed by the likes of forestry – much like gorse and broom does.

It can be spread by birds and possibly possums as well as soil and water movement and common seed sources include roadsides, farms, wasteland, old gardens, and even roadside mowing. It has been estimated that the cost to land values and cost of production losses due to Tutsan is up to $30 million each year.

Hugh Gourlay from Landcare Research recently travelled to Georgia in Europe to collect specimens of a leaf-feeding beetle (Chrysolina abchasica) and a fruit, leaf and stemfeeding moth (Lathronympha strigana) that are known to attack Tutsan.

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Govt announces $139m investment in new research programmes

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce has announced that $139 million over six years will be invested in new science research programmes.

The 48 research programmes receiving funding in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s 2014 science investment round are in the biological industries, high-value manufacturing and services, energy and minerals, environmental, and health and society sectors.

“Science and innovation have crucial roles in achieving high-quality outcomes for New Zealand. The goal of the Government’s science investment is to produce excellent science with the highest capacity to benefit New Zealanders,” Mr Joyce says.

“The projects announced today will help to boost the productivity and competitiveness of our economy and generate knowledge that will help us make informed decisions as a society.”

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Environmental risk assessment regime to apply to Otago dairy farms

The Otago Regional Council will move to a new risk-based system of dairy farm inspections in 2014-15 as part of the implementation of new water quality rules for the Otago region.

The council’s director of environmental monitoring and operations, Jeff Donaldson, said the new regime will result in a shift from the annual dairy inspection for every farm to a risk management approach.

“Every farm will be assessed on their environmental risk and decisions made about how often they need to be inspected based on that risk,” Mr Donaldson said.

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Another step forward in research to reduce methane emissions from sheep

AgResearch scientists and US researchers have identified microbial differences in the rumens of sheep with high or low methane emissions.

Part of a Global Partnerships in Livestock Emissions Research project, the work has been carried out by the Rumen Microbiology team at AgResearch Grasslands in Palmerston North and at the US Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute in San Francisco.

Methane belched from sheep and other ruminants accounts for around 28% of global methane emissions from human-related activities. It is produced in the rumen by microbes called methanogens and the work targeting these organisms is aimed at reducing methane emissions from ruminants.

The results have just been published in the top-ranking journal Genome Research, according to a media statement from AgResearch.

AgResearch scientist and project leader, Dr Graeme Attwood says they are one of the first major findings of the four-year project.

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High value fungi may offer new industry for NZ

Scientists could open up new opportunities for the New Zealand forestry industry following recent research into the cultivation and commercialization of two edible fungi crops: saffron milk cap (Lactarius deliciosus) and Bianchetto truffle (Tuber borchii).

Plant & Food Research’s Alexis Guerin and Hon. Associate Professor Wang Yun have been investigating the high-value delicacies on a farm in Lincoln with successful and tasty results.

Their work was the subject of a media release this week from Plant & Food Research.

“These crops could be the next innovative gourmet export food product for New Zealand” say Dr Guerin.

“Elsewhere in the world they are highly regarded for their potential health benefits and even support a dedicated truffle-tourism industry”.

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