Call for culling of the NZ dairy herd is among responses to IPCC report on climate change

NZ Herald science writer Jamie Morton has followed up on the just-released UN report on climate change and reported on its big implications for agricultural New Zealand.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – he writes – has released its wide-ranging special report, Climate Change and Land, after two years’ work.

Its key takeaways include:

• The temperature over land has risen considerably more than the global average, rising 1.53C since pre-industrial times compared with 0.87C globally.

• Farming, forestry and other land-use activities combined accounted for around a quarter of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

• Since 1961, the consumption of meat has more than doubled, while emissions of methane from cattle and manure had increased by 1.7 times in the same period.

The Summary for Policymakers of the Special Report on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL) is available here.

A Fact Sheet and Headline Statements are available at

NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions profile is here. Continue reading

Link between fatal pig disease and bats highlights value of monitoring viruses

A fatal disease that killed over 24,000 pigs in China last year was caused by a virus that originated in bats, a study published online this week in Nature suggests.

The study, published in Nature (HERE),  underscores the value of monitoring viral infections in bats and, more generally, wildlife to veterinary health, public health and global economies.

Four farms in China’s Guandong Province were affected by the disease, which causes Swine Acute Diarrhoea Syndrome (SADS), resulting in diarrhoea, vomiting and death in infected piglets.

Zheng-Li Shi and colleagues have pinpointed the cause, a newly discovered coronavirus called SADS-CoV, whose genome is 98% identical to that of a coronavirus that was isolated from horseshoe bats in 2016 in a cave close to the pig farm where the outbreak originated.

Bats are an important reservoir for emerging viruses. Horseshoe bats were the reservoir for the SARS coronavirus that killed more than 700 people around 15 years ago.

The recent swine disease outbreaks occurred relatively close to where the first case of SARS is thought to have occurred. This highlights the unique nature of southern China as a hotspot for novel emerging diseases.

With the outbreak ongoing, the study highlights the importance of understanding the diversity of viruses that are harboured by bats and other wildlife.

Source: Springer Nature

A new generation of GM crops might fend off Frankenfoods fears

The next wave of genetically modified crops is making its way to market—and might just ease concerns over “Frankenfoods”, according to a report in Nature reproduced in Scientific American (here).

Anastasia Bodnar, a biotechnologist with Biology Fortified, is quoted as saying that when the first genetically modified (GM) organisms were being developed for the farm, they were promoted as futuristic, ultra-nutritious crops that would bring exotic produce to supermarkets and help to feed a hungry world.

But the technology so far has bestowed most of its benefits on agribusiness, largely through crops modified to withstand weed-killing chemicals or resist insect pests. This has allowed farmers to increase yields and spray less pesticide than they might have otherwise.

Some of the new generation of GM crops now making their way from laboratory to market will tackle new problems, from apples that stave off discoloration to ‘Golden Rice’ and bright-orange bananas fortified with nutrients to improve the diets of people in the poorest countries.

Other next-generation crops will be created using advanced genetic-manipulation techniques that allow high-precision editing of the plant’s own genome.

Continue reading