Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Fencing of waterways an effective tool to combat pollution

Fencing of waterways has proven very effective where it has been used to combat the risks of contamination from agriculture, AgResearch says.

AgResearch’s Professor Rich McDowell, the chief scientist for the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge, was speaking after the publication of a study looking at policies for fencing waterways on contamination loads in New Zealand waterways.

His paper was published in the American Journal of Environmental Quality.

The Ministry for the Environment’s Our Freshwater 2017 report indicates that urban waterways have the worst overall water quality in New Zealand, but much of the public focus in recent years has been on the impact of agriculture – particularly dairy farming – on waterways in rural areas.

“Fencing is very effective at reducing contaminant loads to waterways – by 10 to 90 per cent depending on the nature of the contaminants and local issues,” Prof McDowell says.

“Fencing works especially well for the likes of E. coli or phosphorus contamination that can result from animal wasteor stream bank destabilisation. However, fencing all waterways in New Zealand is impractical and in some places other good management practices may be more cost-effective.”

“A combination of better awareness of the issues and the use of good management practices (including fencing) in the right place is starting to reverse degrading trends in the likes of phosphorus and sediment in the water over the last decade,” Prof McDowell says.

Dairy farmers had invested in a major programme of fencing waterways to the equivalent of nearly 27,000km. They should continue to do so as it is effective at reducing waterway contamination, Prof McDowell says.

“The fact that most of the contaminant load comes from areas not requiring fencing reflects the much greater number and areas occupied by small streams – potentially from steeper country where dairy farming is unlikely to be present. Other work also indicates that a substantial proportion of contaminant concentrations may be from natural sources.”

AgResearch Research Director Greg Murison says there is a big focus by his own organisation and others, including DairyNZ, to support farmers in developing management practices that reduce the risk of water contamination.

“The number of science programmes looking at these issues demonstrates how scientists are being responsive to what is important to New Zealanders.”

You can read the study HERE.

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First new myrtle rust find of the spring is made in Waikato region

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has found a new area infected with the fungal plant disease myrtle rust.

The fungus has been found on two properties in the Otorohanga township – in both cases on a single ramarama tree. These finds are new positive detections of myrtle rust outside of the known established areas in Taranaki and Te Puke.

The ministry’s myrtle rust response incident controller, Dr Catherine Duthie, says the two properties have no  connection with nurseries or other infected properties in Taranaki.  It would appear these are infections that have occurred by wind dispersal from Australia, like the infections in other regions.

“We located these infected plants through our ongoing checks of areas that we’d identified as at-risk due to prevailing wind direction, the presence of host species and climate.

“Along with the Department of Conservation, we’ve been carrying out surveillance for the disease throughout the winter, even though myrtle rust is generally inactive in colder weather and the symptoms are less obvious.

“We had known that a reappearance of obvious myrtle rust symptoms was likely in spring – so while this is disappointing, it’s not unexpected,” Dr Duthie says.

The two properties are being placed under legal restrictions to stop any movement of plant material off the sites. MPI will  remove and destroy the two affected plants within the next few days.

Teams will then be in the area checking all myrtle plants in a 500 metre radius from the two finds. This could take up to a fortnight.

MPI is continuing  to encourage people to check myrtle species plants – for example, pohutukawa, ramarama, mānuka, feijoa, and bottlebrush.

 

New resources promote ways to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research

New booklets to help people replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research have been developed by the New Zealand arm of ANZCCART, the Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching.

The principles of replace, reduce and refine are known as the 3Rs:

Replacement: Where possible, replacing animal use with alternative techniques

Reduction: using the least number of animals possible while still getting useful, reliable data

Refinement: minimising potential suffering and improving animal welfare.

The booklets, which have been produced in collaboration with the Ministry for Primary Industries, will be provided to animal ethics committees, the research community, and to schools around New Zealand.

ANZCCART Committee member and University of Auckland microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles, who co-wrote the booklets, said that under New Zealand’s Animal Welfare Act, animal ethics committees must take the 3Rs into account when they are considering proposals for research, testing or teaching.

“This means that animals should only be used when there are no alternatives, and that any harm to animals must be weighed up against the benefit to humans or other animals, and those harms must be minimised.”

The eight titles set out innovative ways to follow the 3Rs in many areas of scientific research in accessible and non-specialist language.

One booklet explains how to use a chemical analysis technique rather than testing on mice to detect the presence of toxins in shellfish – an example of replacement.

Another outlines how the light produced by fireflies (known as bioluminescence) can be used to non-invasively track the location and numbers of bacteria within infected animals without having to euthanise them – an example of reduction.

A further booklet explains that animal suffering can be reduced by using blood-sucking insects to collect blood from wild birds rather than needing to catch the bird, which is stressful to the animal. The insects can be smuggled into a bird’s nest and then collected later to extract the blood from – an example of refinement.

“We hope the booklets will enable researchers to think creatively about how they can follow the principles of replace, reduce and refine in research they are involved with,” says Dr Wiles.

“We also hope that the booklets will show school children and the wider public the techniques being used to reduce, refine and replace the use of animals in research, teaching and testing.”

The resources are being launched to coincide with the ANZCCART 2017 conference, being held as part of Queenstown Research Week from today until Monday 4 September.

Two international experts will speak on the use of animals in research:

* Dr Helena Hogberg (Deputy Director of the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore MD.

The centre promotes humane science by supporting the creation, development, validation, and use of alternatives to animals in research, product safety testing, and education. It aims to effect change by working with scientists in industry, government, and academia to find new ways to replace animals with non-animal methods, reduce the numbers of animals necessary, or refine methods to make them less painful or stressful to the animals involved.

* Professor Roger Morris (Professor of Molecular Neurobiology, King’s College London).

Professor Morris will be sharing his experiences of the UK Concordat on openness for animal research at King’s College London.

The university has been inviting politicians, journalists, interested non-science members of staff, and one branch of the Women’s Institute to visit their animal houses.

Initially he was one of the few public faces of King’s College speaking on this issue. Gradually, individual scientists have become more confident to speak directly themselves.

Other universities also started to speak up, so his role has diminished as the campaign for the Concordat gathered pace.

ANZCCART is an independent body which was established to provide a focus for consideration of the scientific, ethical and social issues associated with the use of animals in research and teaching. The New Zealand Committee of ANZCCART is a special committee of Royal Society Te Apārangi.

More information on the ANZCCART Conference can be found at https://anzccart.org.nz/anzccart-conference/

The booklets will be available on the ANZCCART website following the launch: https://anzccart.org.nz/

Aust-US research team unlocks secret of an enzyme’s role in cheese-making

A discovery which explains the regulation of an enzyme in the bacterium Lactococcus, which is used as a starter culture in cheese production, has important implications for industrial cheesemaking.

The new knowledge on the inner workings of the bacterium has been reported by researchers at the University of Queensland School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Columbia University and University of Washington. 

UQ Associate Professor Mark Turner said the research provides new insights into the food bacterium.

“Australia produces more than a billion dollars’ worth of cheese each year, and Lactococcus is the most commonly used starter culture,” Dr Turner said.

Two UQ PhD students in Dr Turner’s food microbiology research laboratory – Thu Vu and Huong Pham – found the enzyme known as pyruvate carboxylase was essential for efficient milk acidification, an important industrial trait in Lactococcus starter cultures.

Dr Turner said the enzyme was essential for synthesising the amino acid aspartate, and bacteria defective in the enzyme were unable to produce high levels of lactic acid in milk, which is required for the first stage of cheese making.

The collaboration also found that a recently discovered small molecule in bacteria, called cyclic-di-AMP, directly binds to and inhibits the pyruvate carboxylase enzyme.

“The molecule is essential for growth in a wide range of bacteria, including many human pathogens, and we are only in the early stages of understanding how it controls important processes in bacteria.”

Dr Turner this year won the 2017 Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology Keith Farrer Award of Merit, which recognises achievements in food science and technology in research, industry and education.

The bacterium research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (doi 10.1073/pnas.1704756114).

ArborGen rebuts lobby group’s claims and denies doing research into GE trees in NZ

A GE Free NZ press statement released earlier today was promptly challenged by ArborGen, a company involved in global forestry genetics.

ArborGen says (HERE) the GE Free NZ statement “makes a number of statements that are factually incorrect with regard to ArborGen and its business” and:

“ArborGen does not undertake any research into GE trees in New Zealand. It does not grow GE trees at Te Teko or any of its other New Zealand nurseries. Any research that ArborGen does on GE trees outside New Zealand strictly follows all legal requirements of the particular jurisdiction.”

The statement which provoked this response (HERE) said genetically engineered (GE) tree plantations are a direct threat to the environment, ecosystems, and biodiversity of ecological systems.

GE Free NZ was commenting on the buy out of ArborGen by New Zealand-owned Rubicon (HERE).

It contended this deal “ties New Zealand even more deeply into the biotech tree industry pushing a dangerous and unsustainable programme involving millions of GE trees.”

It further said recent serious biosecurity breaches highlight the fact that the Ministry for Primary Industries is monitoring from its desks and allowing importers and businesses to regulate their own businesses.

“The outcomes of this approach threaten the environment and economy.”

The statement insisted the Environment Protection Agency must demand that all GE tree trials – regardless of whether they are private or public – are transparent, accountable, controlled and contained.

The EPA was urged to immediately enforce controls to ensure secure containment, monitoring, inspection and comprehensive annual reporting at the ArborGen site.

International food safety experts in NZ for Food Integrity Conference

Global experts on how to protect our food systems and build strong food export brands are in Auckland this week for Food Integrity 2017.

Attended by some of New Zealand’s leading food producers, the two-day conference
at the Crowne Plaza, Auckland, today and tomorrow brings together international food experts to help local companies navigate the complex international food export market place, assisting them to understand risks and mitigate against them while building profitable export brands.

The conference will hear from a range of national and international food safety experts.

Food Integrity 2017 Is being followed by a one day Professional Intentional Food Adulteration Course. This will be run by the Food Protection & Defense Institute and hosted by the Associate Director Food Protection and Defense Institute, Dr Jennifer van de Ligt. It will help food producers develop strategies to guard against acts intended to cause wide-scale harm to their consumers and ruin brand reputation.

The 2017 Food Integrity Conference is convened by the Asia Pacific Centre for Food Integrity in association with AJ Park, one of Australasia’s leading intellectual property law firms.

Hamilton student goes to court to battle NZ Govt over climate change policies

A law student from Hamilton is challenging the Government in the High Court over what she claims is a “failure” to properly address climate change.

According to Sarah Thomson, 26, New Zealand’s targets under the Paris Climate Agreement are “unambitious” and fail to reflect scientific consensus on climate change.

The case, the first of its kind in New Zealand, will be heard over three days from today in the Wellington High Court.

Thomson says she has been inspired by climate change litigation around the globe, including the 900 Dutch citizens who filed a case the Dutch Government and a case in the US where 21 young people are suing the Federal Government.

She says she has the backing of several world-renowned climate change experts, including former NASA researcher James Hansen, who is giving evidence in the case.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change author and Victoria University of Wellington Professor James Renwick is also giving evidence.

The lawsuit will ask the Minister for Climate Change Issues to justify the way in which New Zealand’s climate targets have been set.