New study links common herbicides and antibiotic resistance

A new study finds that bacteria develop antibiotic resistance up to 100,000 times faster when exposed to the world’s most widely used herbicides, Roundup (glyphosate) and Kamba (dicamba) and antibiotics compared to without the herbicide.

This study adds to a growing body of evidence that herbicides used on a mass industrial scale, but not intended to be antibiotics, can have profound effects on bacteria, with potentially negative implications for medicine’s ability to treat infectious diseases caused by bacteria, says University of Canterbury scientist Professor Jack Heinemann, one of the study’s authors.

“The combination of chemicals to which bacteria are exposed in the modern environment should be addressed alongside antibiotic use if we are to preserve antibiotics in the long-term,” he says.

An important finding of the new study was that even in cases where the herbicides increase the toxicity of antibiotics they also significantly increased the rate of antibiotic resistance, which the study’s authors say could be contributing to the greater use of antibiotics in both agriculture and medicine.

Previously these researchers found that exposure to the herbicide products Roundup, Kamba and 2,4-D or the active ingredients alone most often increased resistance, but sometimes increased susceptibility of potential human pathogens such as Salmonella enterica and Escherichia coli depending on the antibiotic.

“We are inclined to think that when a drug or other chemical makes antibiotics more potent, that should be a good thing. But it also makes the antibiotic more effective at promoting resistance when the antibiotic is at lower concentrations, as we more often find in the environment,” Professor Heinemann says.

“Such combinations can be like trying to put out the raging fire of antibiotic resistance with gasoline.”

‘Agrichemicals and antibiotics in combination increase antibiotic resistance evolution’ was published online in the peer-reviewed journal PeerJ on 12 October.

Source: University of Canterbury


New programme to brew unique hops and craft beer from New Zealand

A new joint craft beer and hop breeding programme launched today aims to develop unique super-premium hops for exceptional craft brewers and uniquely New Zealand craft beer for top-tier markets.

Hāpi Research Ltd has partnered with the Ministry for Primary Industries to deliver Hāpi – Brewing Success, a $13.25 million, seven-year Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme.

Hāpi Research Ltd is a joint venture between Garage Project, a leading Wellington craft brewer, and Freestyle Farms, a leading Nelson hop farm. While the programme was initiated by Garage Project and Freestyle Farms, it will grow as more like-minded businesses and research partners join the industrywide efforts.

“Our programme will pursue research to enhance and differentiate super-premium hop and craft beer markets and boost the growth of both industries,” says Freestyle Farms director David Dunbar.  “By collaborating across industries we’ll accelerate development of unique Kiwi hops, promote uniquely New Zealand craft beer, and open up new areas to hop growing.”

Hop growing will be supported by research on new precision agriculture practices and processing methods, and licensing for the hops will be limited to New Zealand growers.

Tom Greally, chief executive officer for Garage Project, says the programme intends to support entry into new markets for New Zealand craft brewers and enable new grower and brewer business models.

“We want to create a sustainable point of difference for New Zealand grown hops and craft beer,” says Mr Greally.  “Through the programme, we want to understand the unique chemical compounds of our hops that produce New Zealand flavours, and how to best accentuate them in finished beer.”

Garage Project co-founder Jos Ruffell says the aim is to develop the resources and tools for domestic and export success along the lines of the wine industry’s achievements – elevating New Zealand craft beer to a sustainable global brand that commands premium pricing across all markets.

The ministry’s director-general, Martyn Dunne, says the Hāpi – Brewing Success PGP programme will create a cross-industry research and development programme that’s commercially viable, sustainable in the long-term, with strong commercialisation pathways driven by the market.

“The collaborative efforts will strongly support development of high-value, premium products from regional businesses.”

The programme would help growers and brewers to explore new possibilities for our hop growing and craft beer industries.

Hāpi Research Ltd is contributing $7.95 million (60%) and the ministry is contributing $5.3 million (40%) over the term of the Primary Growth Partnership programme.

If successful, the programme expects hop revenue to grow to $132 million a year by 2027, which is $89 million higher than the revenue forecasted without the programme.  In addition, the programme expects craft beer revenue to grow to $98.5 million a year by 2027, which is $82 million higher than the revenue forecast without the programme.

The growth in both hop and craft beer would be driven by exports.

The co-investors expect 835 new jobs to be created across the hop growing and craft brewing industries if the economic goals are achieved.  A key aspect of the programme is that the intellectual property and expertise it develops will be retained in New Zealand.

The programme has five inter-related projects:

  • Project 1: Hop Breeding.  This project is a mixture of classical breeding methods combined with new molecular techniques to improve the speed and efficiency of the programme.  The primary goal is to commercialise 3 new premium varietals and support the release of 3 royalty-free varietals.
  • Project 2: Precision Farming and Hop Processing.  Research on optimal growing, harvesting and processing strategies to deliver unique flavours and aromas from the field to the glass.  This workstream will also explore the impacts of regional terroir on flavour and aromas.
  • Project 3: Hop Varietal Market Development. Creation of new licensing models for premium hop varietals with new and existing growers, combined with developing quality standards for hop processing to deliver quality and consistency into markets that supports premium pricing.
  • Project 4: Uniquely New Zealand Craft Beer. This project aims to create a unique, category-defining New Zealand craft beer by understanding and maximizing the unique New Zealand flavours achievable through New Zealand grown hops.
  • Project 5: Combined Hop and Craft Beer Industry Growth.  Creating opportunities to enhance and connect the New Zealand industry participants to markets.  Market development efforts including events connecting New Zealand craft brewers to international distributors and New Zealand growers to international craft brewers.

Hāpi – Brewing Success was one of nine business cases for new PGP programmes in the pipeline prior to the announcement of the Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures Programme.

Find out more about  Hāpi – Brewing Success HERE,

Source:  Ministry for Primary Industries

Recovery package unveiled for farmers getting back to business after Mycoplasma bovis

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor today set out a recovery package to help farmers get back to business more quickly after being cleared of Mycoplasma bovis.

The recovery package, rolled out by the Ministry for Primary Industries and response partners DairyNZ and Beef+LambNZ, includes:

  • DairyNZ and Beef+LambNZ Compensation Assistance Team
    • DairyNZ and Beef + LambNZ have put together a team of rural professionals who understand both farming and the compensation process who can sit down and work with farmers on their claims. The $400,000 cost is funded through the response.
  • Improved compensation form and guide
    • Set to be released this week, the simplified form will be easier to follow and the supporting guide will make clear what documents need to be submitted to ensure prompt payment of compensation claims.
  • Online milk production losses calculation tool
    • An online tool for farmers to easily estimate their milk production losses, to speed up compensation claims, will shortly be released.
  • Rural Support Trust boost
    • MPI has now completed training 80 Rural Support Trust members to provide crucial welfare support.
  • Regional Recovery Managers, in addition to the Acute Recovery Team
    • The Regional Centres in Invercargill, Oamaru, Ashburton and Hamilton will each have a regional recovery manager. They are being nominated and seconded by DairyNZ and Beef+LambNZ and will help farmers develop a tailor-made recovery plan.

Ms Ardern and Mr O’Connor made the announcement on Bryce and Julie Stevenson’s beef farm in Wairarapa as the couple restock after eradicating Mycoplasma bovis.

Mr O’Connor said the response is making good progress in its world-first eradication attempt.

It was important to remember that confirmation of newly identified properties did not mean the disease was spreading, he said.

“It means we are tracing historically infected cattle and milk movements, many of which occurred before the disease had been discovered.

“Working closely with our farming industry partners, the Government remains confident eradication is on-track and we have a good chance of success. I thank all farmers who have helped get us to this point,” Damien O’Connor said.

Of New Zealand’s 24,000 farms, 74 have been infected to date with 36 subsequently destocked and cleared of Mycoplasma bovis.

Source:  Minister of Agriculture

The Govt’s freshwater agenda – media centre gathers expert reaction

The Science Media Centre quickly gathered expert comment on the policy document Essential Freshwater: Healthy Water, Fairly Allocated.

The document accompanied the blueprint for the Government’s freshwater agenda, which sets out key objectives for improving water quality over the next two years.

The policy objectives are:
– to stop further degradation and loss
– to reverse past damage
– to address water allocation issues.

These comments have been posted on the SCM website:

Professor Troy Baisden, Professor in Lake and Freshwater Science, University of Waikato:  

“Today, the Government has set out its Essential Freshwater programme, including the establishment of a cross government Task Force. Key steps on the agenda include an ambitious timeline for reform of key legislation, the Resource Management Act (RMA), and the National Policy Statement that gives it effect nationally.

“The 24-page document gives enough detail to spell out the complexity of managing water. Here, complexity makes it frustrating to ask these simple questions: what’s most important and how do we fix it? Unfortunately, unlike greenhouse gases which cause climate change after mixing into the global atmosphere, threats to freshwater vary widely from catchments to catchment.

“It’s fair to say that controlling nitrate matters most in many places, but that pathogens, sediment and phosphorous are more critical in other places. Newer threats, such as microplastics and endocrine disrupters may also deserve serious attention. Last week’s release from LAWA showed us that we have improving data nationally, but that most New Zealanders will still struggle to understand what to fix where.

“It appears to me the success of the Task Force will depend on three interrelated expert groups to sort through the complexity. The biggest single question I have is, how will the Task Force do better than the Land and Water Forum? As the MfE document states (p. 14), the Land and Water Forum “could not resolve the tension between existing users and owners of underdeveloped land, including Maori.“

A March 2016 analysis of the Land and Water Forum’s implementation of recommendations shows the scope of the challenge the Task Force’s experts will face. There were 218 recommendations across 4 Land and Water Forum reports, yet only 21 were fully implemented – less than 10%. Worse, over 50% of recommendations were not implemented at all.

“So what will be done differently? Perhaps the best hint is given in the press release, putting NGOs and Māori ahead of other stakeholders in the process, including industry and regional councils. A big challenge will be ensuring NGOs and Māori have access to the same quality of information and analysis as better resourced representatives from industry, councils and central government. If this is successful, and the information is transparently available to the public, that will be progress.

“Cost will limit action for farmers, but also councils. This leads to a question of whether legislative reform can enable better alignment of flood protection schemes, water quality and management of climate change risks.

“Farmers in many areas are keen to innovate and try new solutions, but can we get systems in place to prioritise the prospects in each area? And can improved monitoring quickly show if they work? Given the timeframe, success will require innovation more than new science.

“It will help greatly if this process takes a hierarchical approach. Local steps that seem small may add up to a lot if there are many. I’m hopeful the Task Force can succeed where the LAWF didn’t, if it can encourage innovation by helping people visualise a process they can understand and trust at a range of scales.”

Conflict of interest statement: Funded as the Bay of Plenty Regional Council Chair in Lake and Freshwater Science.

Dr Scott Larned, NIWA Manager, Freshwater Research:

Note: This comment is limited to the new work streams in the Essential Freshwater programme, and does not address other government programmes that are listed under ‘Related work’.

“In my view, the most newsworthy aspects of the Essential Freshwater programme are:

1. Addressing Maori rights and interests
2. The immediate focus on stopping degradation in at-risk catchments
3. Initiating work on contaminant-discharge allocation systems
4. Greater regulatory control of land-use practices that are likely to affect water quality (e.g., winter grazing)
5. The commitment to a ‘noticeable improvement in freshwater quality’ in five years.

“Success in each of these areas will take a lot of collaboration with communities, councils and the primary sector, research to underpin the policies, and relationship building with iwi.

“The first work stream focuses on at-risk catchments. I understand that a project within this work stream is underway at MfE, with input from regional councils. The Essential Freshwater document does not provide a specific definition for at-risk catchments, and there is insufficient detail for commenting. The last Land and Water Forum report noted that inconsistent criteria are being used to identify and manage at-risk catchments and that developing consistent criteria is a priority.

“The second work stream is a new (or amended) NPS-FM [National Policy Statement – Freshwater Management]. Most of the components of this work-stream align with recommendations in the last Land and Water Forum report (e.g., requirements for good management practices, resolving exceptions to national bottom lines). Those components are sensible and should help with NPS-FM implementation. There are also several references to the “Sheppard principles” set out by the 2008 Board of Inquiry. However, there is no indication of which Sheppard principles are now under consideration, or how they will be incorporated in the amended NPS-FM.

“The third work stream is a NES for Freshwater Management. As with the amended NPS-FM, most of the components of this work stream align with recommendations in the last Land and Water Forum report (e.g., mechanisms for managing intensification, including consent reviews). Those components are also sensible. In addition, the proposed NES includes a provision for default ecological flows and levels. Those defaults were an important component of the draft NES on Ecological Flows and Water Levels (2008), which has been in abeyance for several years. It is good to see that work resurrected.

“The fourth work stream is on RMA amendments. There is insufficient detail in the Essential Freshwater work programme for detailed comments, although ‘reduced complexity, improved certainty and improved public participation’ are hard to argue against. More detail about the elements of this work stream are needed.

“The fifth work stream is on the development of an equitable and efficient contaminant discharge allocation system. Developing such a system is predicated on knowledge of four different processes: contaminant losses from land, surface and subsurface transport of contaminants from source areas to water bodies, contaminant loading and mixing in those water bodies, and environmental effects of the contaminants on freshwater values. A substantial amount of research and modelling work is required to ensure that a contaminant allocation system will have predictable, beneficial outcomes. This work should be included in the “Investment in Solutions” element of the “Freshwater Policy Future Framework” on page 23.”

Conflict of interest statement: I participated in the Land and Water Forum Small Group that prepared the report to the Minister referred to in the Essential Freshwater document.

Source: Science Media Centre

International global warming report lays out the critical challenge

A special report on global warming, released today, has laid out a strong case for countries to make every effort to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, says the Minister for Climate Change James Shaw.

The special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that a host of climate-related risks – from sea level rise, to food and water supplies, security and health issues – will be worse if global temperatures rise to 2 degrees rather than 1.5 degrees.

The report also warns that the next two decades are crucial in limiting global warming to 1.5deg as opposed to 2deg.

The IPCC says it is likely that global warming will reach 1.5deg between 2030 and 2052, if warming continues at the current rate.

“The good news is that the IPCC’s report is broadly in line with this Government’s direction on climate change and it’s highly relevant to the work we are doing with the Zero Carbon Bill,” Mr Shaw said.

“The report shows the clear global benefits of maintaining efforts to limit global warming to 1.5oC.

“It says the goal is challenging but achievable but it also says that the pace of transition to low-emissions needs to step-up and be far reaching.”

Bronwyn Hayward, Associate Professor in Political Science at Canterbury University, was a Lead Author for the report.

Andy Reisinger, Deputy Director of the NZ Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre is a member of the IPCC Bureau.

New Zealand Government departments have reviewed drafts of the report.

A New Zealand delegation was present at IPCC talks on the report in South Korea last week.

Science advisory group is among the Govt’s plans to improve water quality

The Government today announced its next steps to improve the state of our waterways, promising a noticeable improvement in water quality within five years.

The establishment of a Science and Technical Advisory Group is among the initiatives.

Mr Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor released the Government’s blueprint to improve freshwater quality along with a new approach to the Māori/Crown relationship that will acknowledge Māori interests in fair access to water to develop their land.

New rules will be in place by 2020 to stop the degradation of freshwater quality – a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and a new National Environmental Standard, he said.

The rules would  include controls on the excesses of some intensive land use practices to better protect remaining wetlands and estuaries.

“We will drive good management practices on farms and in urban areas,” Mr Parker said.

“We are also amending the Resource Management Act to enable regional councils to more quickly implement water quality and quantity limits.

“We know Māori share the same interests as the rest of New Zealand in improving water quality and ensuring fair access to water resources.”

The Government’s approach to solving these issues entails engaging leading New Zealanders who care about freshwater – “environmental NGOs, Māori, farming leaders, scientists, Regional Council experts and others”.

This looks much the same as the consultative approach taken under the previous government.

Mr Parker said:

“Already, we are working with the primary sector and regional councils in the most at-risk catchments. I recently visited the Aparima River in Southland where the farming community is leading a project to get all 600 land managers in the catchment following better farming practices.”

This seems to be a reference to a project which began in 2013, when some farmers in the Balfour area formed an environmental  cleanup group.

Damien O’Connor said the primary sectors are crucial to an environmentally sustainable, high-value economy that supports the wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

“This is why we must grow a sustainable and productive primary sector within environmental limits.

“Many in the sector are already working hard to protect the natural resources they depend on, and recognise the importance of enhancing our reputation as a trusted producer of the finest food and fibre products. The workstreams set out today recognise the importance of accelerating this good work.”

The documents Essential Freshwater and Shared interests in Freshwater can be read on the Ministry for the Environment website at:

The Government said the work programme will deliver:

Targeted action and investment in at-risk catchments, including accelerating the implementation of Good Farming Practice Principles and identifying options for tree planting through the One Billion Trees programme.

A new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management by 2020, to ensure all aspects of ecosystem health are managed, and address risks, for example by providing greater direction on how to set limits on resource use, and better protection of wetlands and estuaries.

A new National Environmental Standard for Freshwater Management by 2020, to regulate activities that put water quality at risk, such as intensive winter grazing, hill country cropping and feedlots.

Amendments to the Resource Management Act within the next 12 months to review consents in order to more quickly implement water quality and quantity limits; and to strengthen enforcement tools for improving environmental compliance.

Decisions on how to manage allocation of nutrient discharges, informed by discussion and engagement with interested parties.

Involvement of interested parties in testing and advising on policy options through a network of advisory groups; Kahui Wai Māori, the Science and Technical Advisory Group, and the Freshwater Leaders Group.

Members of Kahui Wai Māori, to bring a broad Māori perspective, are Kingi Smiler (chair); Dr James Ataria; Mahina-a-rangi Joy Baker; Riki Ellison; Traci Houpapa; Dr Tanira Kingi; Paul Morgan; Millan Ruka; Prof Jacinta Ruru; Hon Dover Samuels; Annette Sykes.

The Freshwater Leaders Group, “appointed because of their personal experience and commitment, not as representatives of any organisations”, are John Penno (chair); Mandy Bell; Alison Dewes; Graeme Gleeson; Traci Houpapa; Stephanie Howard; Tom Lambie; Bryce Johnson; Corina Jordan; Allen Lim; Dr Hugh Logan; Marnie Prickett; Dr Marc Schallenberg; Lees Seymour; Prof Nicola Shadbolt; Gary Taylor.

The Science and Technical Advisory Group will ensure science is accurately interpreted and incorporated into the policy process.  Its members are Ken Taylor (chair) Dr Adam Canning; Dr Bryce Cooper; Dr Clive Howard-Williams; Dr Chris Daughney; Dr Bev Clarkson; Graham Sevicke-Jones; Prof Ian Hawes; Prof Jenny Webster-Brown; Dr Joanne Clapcott; Dr Jon Roygard; Dr Marc Schallenberg; Dr Mike Joy; Professor Russell Death.


Mycoplasma bovis survey of calf rearers under way

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and its farming industry partners have taken the next step in the phased eradication of Mycoplasma bovis by starting a survey of about 200 calf rearing properties across the country.

The test involves a simple one-off nasal swab on calves at the property.

National controller Geoff Gwyn emphasised that the properties selected are not suspected of having Mycoplasma bovis.

 “The identified properties have no connection to other properties which are being tested or at risk of having M. bovis,” he says.

“In fact, if properties are connected to M. bovis properties they are being discounted from this survey as we will already be testing them as part of the response.

“This will give us some indication about the prevalence of M. bovis in beef herds.”

Both animal movements and milk supply, the two high-risk pathways of infection, would be captured.

“By targeting around 200 farms which source calves from at least five different locations, we are actually targeting at least 1,000 farms as the source farms will also have some assurance they are M. bovis free,” Mr Gwyn says.

Find out more about Mycoplasma bovis HERE. 

Source:  Ministry for Primary Industries