World Antibiotic Awareness Week focuses on working together

ESR scientists said today there is an urgent need to develop alternatives to conventional antibiotics for use in the treatment of both humans and food-producing animals.

The World Health Organisation’s Antibiotic Awareness Week which began this week highlights increasing concerns about the emergence of bacterial strains showing resistance to all classes of antibiotics commonly used in human medicine.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is supporting this year’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week theme of ‘Together we can keep antibiotics working’.

Each November, World Antibiotic Awareness Week aims to increase global awareness of antibiotic resistance and encourage best practice to prevent its spread. This year, World Antibiotic Week runs from 12 November to 18 November.

“Antibiotics are a precious resource. These medicines are essential for treating bacterial infections in humans and animals,” said  MPI’s director of assurance, Allan Kinsella.

Because very few new types of antibiotics are being developed, it is important that those we have are used wisely and ensure these life-saving medicines continue to stay effective, he said.

“We need to make sure they are used properly.  

“Last year, New Zealand began implementing a five-year antimicrobial resistance action plan to minimise the impact of antimicrobial resistance to human, animal and plant health. This is part of a global response. The Ministry of Health and MPI are working with a wide range of groups and organisations to implement the plan.”

Animals, like humans, sometimes need antibiotics to fight off bacterial infections. Without antibiotics, animal welfare and health would be severely impacted.

Inappropriate use of antibiotics can lead to resistant bacteria that cause disease in both animals and plants, and potentially in humans via contact with infected animals or contaminated food.

New Zealand has a robust regulatory framework for managing antibiotics and other veterinary medicines, Mr Kinsella pointed out.

MPI must be satisfied that all antibiotics approved for use in animals are appropriate to the animal before it is registered as a veterinary medicine. Antibiotics for therapeutic uses in animals are classed by MPI as restricted veterinary medicines and need a veterinary prescription before use.

“We advise pet owners and farmers to follow the antibiotic dosage and treatment instructions exactly as prescribed by your veterinarian,” Mr Kinsella said. 

“Always give the full course of antibiotics, even if the animal appears to have recovered.

“Everyone has a part to play in reducing antibiotic resistance. It is important we use antibiotics the right way, at the right dose, at the right time, for the right duration.  By using antibiotics carefully, bacteria are less likely to become resistant to them.”  

In a media statement today, ESR scientist Craig Billington said a potential new class of alternative drugs are innovative bacteria-killing enzymes that are likely to be well tolerated by both humans and farms animals.

The enzymes are generated by bacteriophages (phages), which are viruses that specifically infect bacteria.

The potential for using phages to kill bacteria has been recognised for almost 100 years, with early pioneering work being carried out at around the time of the First World War.

However, phage therapy for human disease was not adopted in Western countries and the discovery of antibiotics put an end to the early era of phage therapies.

The emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria has recently stimulated a renaissance of interest in using phage therapy for human and animal medicine.

The research project by Dr Billington and University of Canterbury colleagues looking at developing safe and effective treatment to beat antibiotic resistance has the potential to save lives, reduce healthcare costs and protect New Zealand’s agricultural food exports.

“The application of this research will have many implications across multiple industries, creating new treatment options for infections in the field of medicine, becoming a low-cost solution to on-farm bacteria animal diseases, and being a treatment to eliminate cross-contamination of food that is vulnerable to microbial pathogens,” Dr Billington said.  

The work by ESR scientists supports the Surveillance and Research objective under the New Zealand Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan developed by the Ministry of Health, the Minister for Primary Industries and representative from the human health, animal health and agriculture sectors.

Find out more

Sources:  Ministry for Primary Industries and ESR

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Review finds New Zealand a world leader in climate change research

A government research programme has positioned New Zealand as a world-leader in research into mitigating greenhouse gases from agriculture and adapting to climate change, a recent independent review has found.

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI’s) Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change (SLMACC) research programme supports the generation of new climate change knowledge across New Zealand’s agriculture and forestry sectors.

The independent review found SLMACC has triggered new research, and boosted New Zealand’s understanding of the potential impacts and implications of climate change for a range of primary industries, particularly pastoral farming systems and responding to drought.

“Climate change affects every one of New Zealand’s land-based producers, from farmers, growers and foresters, to the communities that support them,” says Steve Penno, Director Investment Programmes at MPI.

“New Zealand relies heavily on its natural environment and the primary production it supports. A warming planet poses challenges and unknowns, so it’s vital to invest in research to better understand the land-based sector’s future operating environment and, importantly, how a country like ours must adapt.

“SLMACC has contributed heavily towards growing this understanding and enhancing the science capability needed.”

The review found the programme is creating high-quality research, engaging stakeholders and end-users, growing climate change science capability in New Zealand, enabling international collaborations and supporting researchers early in their careers to build their capability and experience.

Several other SLMACC benefits were supported by the review, such as building more accurate knowledge about long-term carbon storage in our forests and providing resources to increase awareness of climate change and practical options for use on-farm.

The SLMACC research programme recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary, marking an investment of around $50 million in more than 150 targeted basic, applied and policy research projects. A number of its projects are showcased in Investing in tomorrow, a booklet released in September 2018.

Investing in tomorrow and copies of the review reports (including a summary of findings) are available on the Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change web page at mpi.govt.nz/funding.

Source:  Ministry for Primary Industries

 

MPI reports encouraging results as bulk milk testing nears final stage

Results from the current nationwide bulk milk testing for Mycoplasma bovis are encouraging after completion of around three quarters of the testing, Ministry for Primary Industries’ Mycoplasma bovis director Geoff Gwyn says.

So far, only three farms have been confirmed with Mycoplasma bovis through the milk testing, he says.

All three properties were already part of the ministry’s tracing programme and all have previously known links to the disease. One of these properties was under surveillance and the other two were about to go under surveillance.

Under the testing programme, milk samples from every New Zealand dairy farm are being taken shortly after calving, when cows are most likely to be shedding the bacterium.

For each farm, the first sample was collected around four weeks from the start of milk supply. Samples are then collected every two weeks, with a total of six samples from each farm.

More than 51,000 of the approximately 70,000 tests have been completed.

Nearly all farms have had three rounds of testing and around 10,000 farms have had four rounds. About 1,500 farms have completed all six rounds.

“The fact that we have confirmed Mycoplasma bovis on only 3 farms, and that all three of them were already on our radar, is encouraging,” Mr Gwyn says.

“It reinforces our belief that we are dealing with a single strain of Mycoplasma bovis, based on the available scientific evidence and our own work in the field.

“While this remains an extremely difficult time for affected farmers, and we still have a lot of work to do, I’m confident we are on the right path in terms of tracking down the disease and eradicating it from New Zealand.”

Full results from the bulk milk testing are expected to be delivered to the majority of farmers in the North and South islands in early December.

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries

Regulation changes allow hemp seed to be sold as food

Hemp seed can be treated as an edible seed under regulatory changes which come into force on November 12.

Announcing this today, Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor hailed the changes as great news for the local hemp industry, which has argued for decades that the production of hemp seed foods will stimulate regional economies, create jobs and generate $10-20 million of export revenue within 3 to 5 years.

Hemp is currently grown under permit and is used for fibre and hemp seed oil.

“Hulled, non-viable seeds and their products will be now be viewed as just another edible seed,” Mr O’Connor said.

Growing, possession and trade of whole seeds will still require a licence from the Ministry of Health.

The Minister said hemp seeds are safe to eat, nutritious and do not have a psychoactive effect, .

The Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006 and the Food Regulations 2015 will be amended to allow the sale of hemp seed as food.

Hemp flowers and leaves will not be permitted.

“We will continue to ease pathways for our farmers and growers to produce the finest food and fibre for the world’s most discerning customers,” Mr O’Connor said.

More information is attached as a Q&A and from the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry of Health.

Source:  Minister of Agriculture

NAIT improvement work is ramped up with launch of consultation

Work to strengthen New Zealand’s animal tracing system to protect our economic base and unique way of life ramps up today, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor said.

The National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme should have worked better during the Mycoplasma bovis response and he was determined to help transform it into an easy-to-use, world-class traceability system to keep our primary sectors and economy safe, he said.

From today, everyone who has an interest in NAIT can have a say on proposed ways to strengthen it for the future.

Earlier this year the long-awaited NAIT Review found several flaws in the system and more than half of users were not recording farm-to-farm movements.

The Government instructed OSPRI to crack on with making operational changes and fixed the NAIT Act 2012 under urgency to bring its search and inspection powers in line with other Acts to ensure compliance officers can do their jobs.

“Now we need to hear from those who use NAIT every day to tell us what changes to the law will make the system both a useful business tool and effective biosecurity tool,” O’Connor said.

“At the heart of these proposals is a shared desire by the Government, farming industries and all New Zealanders to improve NAIT to keep our primary sectors safe and ensure those blatantly disregarding the rules and putting the rest of the sector at risk are penalised.”

The Ministry for Primary Industries launched the regulatory consultation this morning at a technical briefing for farming and industry stakeholders.

It looks at ways to tighten rules around handling untagged animals, improve the use of data, and align penalties with other Acts to reflect the seriousness of non-compliance with NAIT. It also discusses longer term improvements such as including other species and specifying roles for transporters and stock agents.

Read more and submit  here by 19 December .

Source: Minister of Agriculture

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