Mānuka honey definition research is published in international science journal

Research undertaken and led by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to develop a scientifically robust definition for mānuka honey has just been published in a leading international scientific journal.

The paper, Using chemical and DNA marker analysis to authenticate a high-value food, mānuka honey, has been peer-reviewed and published in npj Science of Food.

Npj Science of Food is an online open access journal that publishes high-quality papers on food safety, security, production and packaging, and the influence of food on health and wellness. It is part of the Nature group, one of the world’s most prestigious scientific publishing groups.

“The work carried out by MPI to develop a scientific definition for mānuka honey is a worldwide first and very important for New Zealand’s reputation as a producer of high-quality food,” says Bryan Wilson, head of New Zealand Food Safety at MPI.

“This reputation is based on a track record of producing food that stands up to the expectations of local and overseas markets.  All mānuka honey for export has to be tested against and meet MPI’s definition.

“Publication of this research in npj Science of Food is further endorsement of the 3 years of scientific work that went into developing the definition.

New Zealand’s export markets, including consumers, could be confident the New Zealand mānuka honey they buy is authentic, Mr Wilson says.

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23 NAIT improvements will begin today but some await new regulations

Work will start immediately to improve New Zealand’s animal tracing system, says Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor.

After securing the release of the year-late report on the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) system last month, officials have worked through the 38 recommendations and advised 23 can be implemented promptly by the management agency OSPRI, he says.

“NAIT has let us down in a time of great need as we manage the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak.

“The hunting down of Mycoplasma bovis has been slowed by the poor uptake of NAIT. For the minority of farmers who fully complied with NAIT, the tracing of animals for Mycoplasma bovis has been smooth.

“This is why it’s crucial we fix the system. NAIT is hard to use and farmers have not been told of the benefits of compliance.”

The 23 changes include:

• The NAIT number will be assigned to a particular location – not a person

• The NAIT interface will be improved to make it easier to enter information and a mobile app will be developed for use in the field

• The performance of accredited agencies will be better managed, particularly those providing information to NAIT on behalf of farmers.

“I’ve asked officials to take a tougher approach to NAIT compliance and the Ministry for Primary Industries will work with OSPRI to do this.

“As an interim measure, MPI’s animal welfare officers will carry out NAIT enforcement as part of their regular farm visits. Farmers need to play their part by ensuring they meet their legal NAIT obligations, especially with moving day upon us.

“MPI will also work with OSPRI to identify appropriate performance targets that will allow regular monitoring and evaluation of the scheme’s performance.”

Most of the remaining 15 recommendations require regulation or legislation change to implement.

Officials will consider whether transporters should have a formal role in the NAIT scheme and the timing for bringing in other animal species.

There will be consultation before moves are made on the remaining recommendations.

Source: Minister of Agriculture and Biosecurity

$9.3m in Budget to strengthen biosecurity and protect the foundations of NZ’s primary sector

The Coalition Government’s biosecurity initiatives receive $9.3 million in new operating funding in Budget 2018 over the next four years to improve offshore biosecurity systems and  better manage the risks posed by imports.

Further investment in biosecurity is needed as New Zealand’s global trade and tourist numbers increase, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says in a press statement

When he took up his portfolio six months ago, the Ministry for Primary Industries had several biosecurity responses under way, including Mycoplasma bovis, myrtle rust, Bonamia ostreae and kauri dieback.

Furthermore, ships carrying the brown marmorated stink bug have been turned back.

Besides the new funding, the Government will speed up the review of import health standards.

“Our plan makes sure the exotic pests and diseases that could devastate our economy and wildlife have less chance of making it here in the first place, giving growers and farmers greater certainty about the health of their crops and animals,” Mr O’Connor says.

“This Government’s leadership will improve the resilience of our primary sector. We moved quickly this year to put up $85 million new operating funding in 2017/18 for the frontline response to Mycoplasma bovis in partnership with the primary sector.”

An update will be provided in coming weeks on the next steps of the plan to deal with Mycoplasma bovis, a disease which Mr O’Connor described as a regrettable example of why biosecurity in New Zealand must be properly funded.

Another concern had been the underfunding of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) during a time of increasing workload, he said.

“Budget 2018 addresses this with new operating funding of $38 million over two years for MPI to ensure our primary sector is well supported by Government initiatives as we work together to grow New Zealand’s reputation as the most trusted source of sustainable and premium natural products in the world.”

The Government is already reorganising MPI to house four business units so officials can concentrate on their core responsibilities of biosecurity, food safety, fisheries and forestry.

People around the world increasingly were buying products that align with their values, Mr O’Connor said.

New Zealand has a natural advantage, with a good record of animal welfare, grass-fed stock and brand recognition and the Government is determined to help this continue by properly funding MPI and the  critical biosecurity system.


Science boost for Overseer farm management tool

The Coalition Government and the primary sector will work together to boost the science behind the valuable Overseer farm management tool, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Environment Minister David Parker announced in a Budget press statement.

Overseer is a tool used by a range of primary industries and regional councils to help measure nutrient use and greenhouse gas emissions.

“Well-used, it can assist farmers to minimise waste and maximise profits,” says Mr O’Connor.

The Budget includes an investment of $5 million of operating funding over the next four years to enhance it.

The extra funding for Overseer will enable:

• quicker adoption of environmentally friendly farm practices

• the inclusion of a wider range of land types and farming systems

• a more user-friendly interface.

“All farmers and growers want to keep their fertilisers on their paddocks and crops, and they want the best tools to manage their environmental responsibilities,” Mr O’Connor says.

Mr Parker says the extra funding in the Budget opens up opportunities for farmers to trial new technologies, techniques and tools that would otherwise be too risky or expensive to try.

“We need practical, science-backed tools to achieve this Government’s goals to improve land use, achieve a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050, and help clean up our rivers so our kids can swim in them without getting crook.”

The Ministry for Primary Industries, AgResearch and the Fertiliser Association of New Zealand each hold one-third stakes in the Overseer intellectual property.


Ministries consult on regulatory changes needed to bring hemp seed standard into force

The Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry of Health have opened public consultation on amending regulations to allow the sale and use of low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) hemp seed as foods in New Zealand.

In April 2017, the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation voted to approve a new trans-Tasman standard to allow the sale of hemp seed as food. However, in order for hemp seed to be allowed in food products in New Zealand, amendments need to be made to both the Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006 and the Food Regulations 2015, which are the focus of the consultation.

Public consultation on the proposed amendments is open until 5pm on Wednesday 20 June 2018. People are encouraged to learn more about what’s being proposed and provide feedback to MPI.

This consultation is also an opportunity to review the Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006, which set out the licensing requirements for cultivation and production of hemp products. Further information can be found on the Industrial hemp page.

More information about the consultation can be found on the Ministry for Primary Industries website.

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries

New strain of rabbit calicivirus confirmed in New Zealand

A new strain of the rabbit calicivirus has been confirmed in a single wild rabbit found on a Marlborough farm.

The strain – called RHDV2 – is widespread in Europe and Australia, but this is the first time it has been found in New Zealand, says Ministry for Primary Industries response manager John Brightwell.

The virus affects rabbits and the European hare, he said.

It has no impact on human health or other animals, but a potential risk to pet rabbits can not be ruled out.

“We understand this will be worrying news for many rabbit owners, and we want to give people as many tools as possible to minimise the risk to their animals,” Mr Brightwell said.

“As a precaution, we began work at the end of last month to import the latest vaccine for the strain from France. We expect the first 1,000 doses to be in the country next week and are working with importers to secure a long-term supply.”

The testing programme has identified only one wild rabbit but the virus spreads quickly.

“At this stage, we don’t yet know how widespread it is, or how long it has been in the country,” Mr Brightwell said.

“We are working to answer both those questions but our key focus right now is to minimise the risk in front of us and support rabbit owners to take the right precautions, including making a vaccine available.

“Because of the difficulties involved in pinning down a virus, we may never know exactly how it came into New Zealand and where it came from. However, we know that the strain was not brought in from Australia because it is sufficiently different from the RHDV2 strain prevalent there.”

The ministry is not ruling out that the new strain came in with the RHDV1-K5 strain which was released nationwide in a planned rollout through March and April because of extensive testing at the time.

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries

Consultations opened on national organic standard for NZ

The Government has opened consultations on a proposal for a national organic standard.

New Zealand now has a range of voluntary standards to be met by organic producers who want to label their food ‘organic’.

Officials have advised Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor that a single set of rules may help boost consumer confidence in organic products and place New Zealand’s organics regulatory system on the same footing as many other countries, potentially increasing sales of organic products.

“The organics industry is a passionate one that offers consumers a valuable product backed by a brand focused on sustainable use of our natural resources,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Productive growth for our primary industries is about getting more from what we do now – not just doing more.

“A consultation launched today gives producers and consumers a say on whether New Zealand needs a single set of rules for organics production, what that may look like and what costs or other factors need to be considered.”

The Ministry for Primary Industries will seek views from producers, consumers, processors, retailers, importers, exporters and the public through meetings and online.

Submissions can be emailed to OrganicsConsultation@mpi.govt.nz by 5pm on 11 June.

Find out more here.

Source: Minister for Agriculture