MPI reminds consumers of the risks when they drink raw milk

The Ministry for Primary Industries is reminding consumers to take care when drinking raw unpasteurised milk because raw milk is a high-risk food.

The ministry was aware of several recent recalls of raw milk,  the ministry’s director animal and animal products, Dr Paul Dansted, said.

It was important that consumers remember and understand the risks with drinking raw milk, which is milk that has not been pasteurised (heat treated) to kill harmful bacteria such as CampylobacterListeria and toxin-producing strains of E. coli (STECs) which  potentially are present in the milk.

In 2014, the ministry introduced rules which require farmers selling raw milk to meet food safety requirements.

But consumers still needed to take care when drinking raw milk, Dr Dansted said.

“Some people who drink raw milk may not always fully understand the risks and don’t realise that there is the possibility of getting sick from the harmful bacteria in the milk.

“Pregnant women, young children (particularly babies), the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems should not drink raw milk as they are at greatest risk of getting sick and the consequences for them can be more severe, and in some cases can lead to death,” says Dr Dansted.

“No matter how carefully the animals are milked, there is always a risk that harmful bacteria can get into the milk. There is no way of telling by taste, sight or smell if the milk you are drinking contains harmful bacteria, so we recommend that people heat their raw milk until just boiling (or to 70°C for one minute) before drinking it.”

Keeping raw milk refrigerated (4°C or less) also reduces the risk of any harmful bacteria in the milk growing to levels which make people sick when they drink it.

Consumers are advised to discard the milk if it has been left out of the fridge for two hours or more and drink it by its use-by date.

People who choose to drink raw milk should make sure they are getting their milk directly from the farmer and are only buying it for personal and household consumption, Dr Dansted said.

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries.


Annual bee colony survey finds losses comparatively low

Bee colony losses in New Zealand continue to be significantly lower than many other countries, according to the Ministry for Primary Industries’ third annual survey on bee colony losses.

Annual hive losses were reported at 9.84% overall.

Dr Michael Taylor, the ministry’s biosecurity surveillance and incursion investigation (aquatic and environment health) manager, says this loss rate is low, compared to international results, which consistently show rates well over 10%.

“Many of the pests and diseases that negatively impact beehives overseas are not present in New Zealand, and we have a robust biosecurity system to prevent them from coming into the country and deal with them if they do,” Dr Taylor said.

The ministry contracted Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research to conduct the New Zealand Colony Loss Survey,  which looks at the state of New Zealand’s honey bee colonies and the challenges beekeepers face.

More than 2,060 beekeepers completed the 2017 survey, representing 30% of production colonies in New Zealand.

The reported rate of losses in this country has stayed relatively stable from 2016, when the survey recorded 9.78% of beehive losses but this was down from 2015, when the loss rate was 10.73%.

The leading reported causes of hive loss in 2017 included:

  • Queen problems (such as death, disappearance, or not laying eggs).
  • Suspected varroa mite.
  • Suspected starvation of bees (weather and other causes).
  • Wasps (killing bees, eat pupae and steal honey).

Losses to American foulbrood disease, natural disasters, Argentine ants, and theft were also contributing factors, but these were less commonly reported.

Dr Taylor says the Bee Colony Loss Survey provides baseline information for monitoring managed honey bee colony loss and survival over time.

He said the information from the survey was a valued resource for ongoing work the ministry undertakes with the beekeeping industry to promote good colony health and bee-keeping practice as well as the Bee Pathogen Programme, which addresses the prevalence of honey bee diseases and parasites already in New Zealand.

Find out more

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries



Maori company teams up with Crown to breed unique berries for global markets

A joint venture company has been established to breed and develop new unique berry varieties to be marketed exclusively by a Māori-owned firm, Miro Limited Partnership (Miro).

Government-owned Plant & Food Research and Miro signed a 50:50 joint venture agreement today at an event hosted by Ngati Haua at the iwi’s Rukumoana Marae in Morrinsville.

The agreement provides the new company with access to Plant & Food Research berry genetics for the development of proprietary new varieties. The joint venture partners will create a breeding programme for new high-value berry varieties.

Miro will grow, market and sell the berries in New Zealand and globally with support from BerryCo NZ Limited.

The joint venture is a milestone in horticultural entrepreneur Steve Saunders’ vision for Miro, to create a step-change in both the New Zealand berry industry and the regional Māori economy for current and future generations.

Miro chair Rukumoana Schaafhausen said Miro is owned by over 20 Māori trusts, iwi and entities from the top of the north to the top of the South Island, from the East Coast to Taranaki.

“We came together because we wanted jobs for our people, higher returns on our land, and to own IP and a global business that would secure a future for our mokopuna. We’re so excited about the opportunities ahead of us and we would love for more Māori landowners to join in.

“In simple terms, Miro is aiming to build a business every bit as successful as Zespri. It represents a high-value, market-led, vertically integrated berry export business. There’s no reason why berries can’t be the next billion dollar New Zealand horticulture industry, and we’re proud to partner with Plant & Food Research to create that future.”

Plant & Food Research chief executive David Hughes says the joint venture is aligned with the science company’s mandate to use research innovation to add value to fruit, vegetable, crop and food products and their industries.

“In Miro we have a partner with global ambitions matched by scale and capability in New Zealand,” said David Hughes.

He expects the deal to open up fresh innovation challenges for the Crown research institute’s scientists and described it as a welcome addition to its diverse range of commercial activity.

Source: Plant & Food Research.

AI farm assistant and plant proteins go on show at field days

Massey University is showcasing a prototype of a virtual farm assistant at Central Districts Field Days this year and wants the public to put it through its paces.

Field Days crowds can also try some plant-based proteins that Massey is developing, with some meat patties that look and taste like meat, but are made from soy.

Yoghurt made from coconut milk and bread made from nut and cricket flour will be available, too.

The three-days field days – New Zealand’s largest regional agricultural event – kicked off at Manfeild Park, Feilding, today with over 550 exhibitors.

Artificially intelligent systems that can clean the house, manage heating for cheaper power and provide surveillance of the family home are developing every day.

Massey engineers have been developing a screen-based prototype to help on the farm that could be used from anywhere – the home, the ute, even on an overseas holiday.

Still in its early stages of development, the system involves users speaking to a computer-generated avatar, who answers farm-related questions and puts forward data-driven solutions based on the information it has.

The system is designed to tap into sensors on the farm that give real-time information to farm managers about what is happening. It can compare that to what has happened in the past, and recommend options for what to do next, based on the data available.

The questions can be wide-ranging – from the levels of milk solids in the cow shed vats, how that compares to the same time last year, what’s the pasture cover and where everyone is currently located on the farm.

Professor Johan Potgieter, of the Massey Agritech Partnership, is leading the project with Massey master’s student Hayden Wilson doing the development.

The development team wants to know from farmers what they would use it for and how it could help them. They are keen to have farmers involved with the development.

The system will be able to absorb historical data from the farm and be capable of linking with on-farm systems to analyse data to help farmers make better informed decisions, as well as helping with the day-to-day running of the farm.

The tool is not just designed to optimise productivity, but every aspect of farm life, for example in the identification of animal illness. These may include spore count data on certain paddocks to let farmers know which paddocks might be contributing to facial eczema. The system would automatically flag these paddocks and let the farmer know so they can efficiently manage the farm based on the information the system provides.

Source: Massey University.

New partnership to drive innovation in perennial fruits

Agtech solutions company Autogrow and Plant & Food Research have signed a Memorandum of Understanding confirming their intention to collaborate in the development of protocols to maximise yield and enable continuous production of perennial fruits.

The agreement was signed in Auckland by Autogrow chief executive Darryn Keiller and Dr Kieran Elborough, General Manager Science – New Cultivar Innovation for Plant & Food Research.

“We are incredibly excited to be working with Plant & Food Research and see collaborations like this as fundamental to furthering our industry, ultimately benefiting both growers and consumers,” said Mr Keiller.

“Plant & Food Research are responsible for some of the best cultivars to come on to the global market and their science expertise combined with our knowledge of controlled environment agriculture will take perennial fruits to the next level.”

Autogrow’s Director of Plant Science and Agronomy, Dr Tharindu Weeraratne, will head Autogrow’s team as part of the arrangement.

Speaking at the signing, Dr Elborough said working with a global company like Autogrow had the potential for Plant & Food Research to match new breeding strategies with future growing systems that deal with numerous horticultural challenges such as climate change, sustainable food production and reducing land availability.

Source: Plant & Food Research.

Submissions are called for on international climate change guidelines

The Government is inviting input as it sets the priorities for New Zealand at international climate change negotiations.

Agriculture is among the areas on which New Zealand has focused.

In Paris in 2015, 174 countries plus the European Union committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global temperature rise this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius.

At the end of this year (2-14 December), international negotiators will meet in Katowice, Poland, for the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The purpose of COP24 is to work out the guidelines for how countries work together to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

From today, New Zealanders are invited to have their say on what they think New Zealand’s stance on those guidelines should be.

“Tackling climate change is the greatest environmental challenge of our time,” says the Minister for Climate Change James Shaw.


“I’ve been clear that New Zealand will show leadership on climate change on the world stage, which is why we want to refresh our approach to international climate negotiations, and to hear from you about what you think is important in those negotiations.


“We need to lead by example at home and we also need to be clear about what we’re working towards at the international negotiating table.”

Having signed up to the Paris Agreement, the next step is to agree on guidance for countries as they go about implementing their national contributions to reducing greenhouse gases and limiting temperature rise, and that is what will happen in Katowice in December, Mr Shaw says.

“There are a number of areas New Zealand has focused on already, including transparency, effective mitigation, integrity of carbon markets, agriculture, as well as gender and indigenous people’s issues,” he says.

Public submissions can be made by clicking here for more details.

Submissions are due by 3 April.

Source: Minister for Climate Change

Soil and Health seeks community support for a GE-free New Plymouth

The Soil & Health Association is encouraging the New Plymouth District Council to adopt precautionary provisions in the New Plymouth District Plan for any genetically engineered (genetically modified) organisms that may be trialled or used commercially.

The Proposed Draft New Plymouth District Plan, which is open for public feedback, makes no mention of GMOs.

Soil & Health is calling on New Plymouth district residents to make submissions by 5pm Friday 16 March.

“We want to ensure that the Council adequately protects the district from the significant adverse effects posed by GMO use by including strong precautionary or prohibitive GMO policies and rules into its District Plan,” says Soil & Health National Council member Marion Thomson.

“We call on the New Plymouth District Council to follow the lead of the other councils around New Zealand that have already adopted precautionary provisions and banned the outdoor release of GMOs via their local policy statements and plans.”

Auckland Council, Far North District Council and Whangarei District Council have prohibited the outdoor release of GMOs and made field trials a discretionary activity with performance standards regarding liability and the posting of bonds.

Ms Thomson claims GMOs threaten the economic sustainability of a wide range of agricultural activities that benefit from having GE-free status, including dairy, honey, forestry and horticulture.

“No matter how carefully conditions are crafted, there inevitably remains a risk that they may be breached by poor management, human error, natural events such as severe storms or even sabotage,” says Ms Thomson.

Current laws are inadequate to properly protect communities from the potential adverse effects of GE, she said, citing the lack of provision under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act for financial liability for GMO contamination resulting from the release of an approved GMO. This means those people or companies responsible for causing harm may not be held liable.

But under the Resource Management Act, requirements for bonds for remediation and to cover the costs of contamination can be included in district plans if local councils choose to implement them.

Submissions can be made to by 5pm Friday 16 March.

Soil & Health’s submission can be viewed HERE. 

Source: Soil and Health Association.