How Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Enter the Food Chain in non-GMO Producing Countries

The use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in livestock and crops, as well as trade and consumption of GMOs are highly controversial topics.

Proponents of genetic engineering argue that GMOs represent the only viable solution to food shortages in an ever-growing global population. They claim that the use of GMOs in agriculture and their consumption have caused no harm to livestock or humans so far. Heated debate also persists over GMO food labelling, with food manufacturers in the USA arguing that mandatory GMO labelling hinders the development of agricultural biotechnology, and may also “exacerbate the misconception” that GMOs endanger human health. Continue reading

Five more bird species that can spread Lyme disease identified in USA

By Miroslav Djuric, DVM, CAB International, Wallingford, UK.

Lyme disease or Lyme borreliosis is the most prevalent arthropod-borne disease of animals and humans in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere1. Risk of infection in humans is primarily associated with occupation (e.g. forestry work) or outdoor recreational activities.

BIRDS-LYME

Recent surveys show that the overall prevalence of Lyme disease may be stabilizing, but its geographical distribution is increasing. There are foci of Lyme borreliosis in forested areas of Asia, north-western, central and eastern Europe, and the USA. According to the CDC, Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector borne disease in the United States. It is most commonly diagnosed in the northeast and upper Midwest, especially Wisconsin and Minnesota. However, Lyme disease is spreading geographically, especially into Virginia and the southeastern United States. The CDC estimates that about 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year, afflicting sufferers with flu-like symptoms. If not treated with antibiotics, the infection can cause inflammation of the joints and it can affect the heart and nervous system.

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Limitations of Voluntary Plan for Phasing Out Non-Medical Antibiotic Use in Farm Animals in USA

By M Djuric, DVM

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently issued a guidance document on the use of antibiotics in farm animals. The document notes that excessive use leads to the spread of antibiotic-resistant diseases in both animals and humans. In the document, the FDA proposes that pharmaceutical companies voluntarily change some of their labelling and marketing practices to help phase out the use of certain antibiotics for enhanced food production.

Holstein dairy cattle France 2

All the drugs affected by this plan are antibacterial products, which have long been approved for the treatment, control or prevention of animal diseases.  However, the same antibiotics are often added to the animal feed or drinking water of cattle, pigs, and poultry to gain weight faster or use less feed to gain weight.

The agency is asking animal pharmaceutical companies to notify the FDA within the next three months of their intent to voluntarily make the changes recommended in the guidance document. Based on timeframes set out in the guidance document, companies would then have three years to fully implement these changes.

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Farm Animal Welfare Moves Up Business Agenda

By Miroslav Djuric, DVM, CAB International

 

The second report of the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare has been published with the expertise and support of animal welfare organisations, Compassion in World Farming (CWF) and World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).

Farm animal welfare

70 companies from across Europe and the USA were assessed, representing food retailers and wholesalers, restaurants and food producers and manufacturers. Companies were assigned into six tiers according to their approach to the management of farm animal welfare and across three categories: Management Commitment and Policy, Governance and Policy Implementation and Leadership and Innovation.

The Report showed that 56% of companies have published formal farm animal welfare policies in 2013 (compared with 46% in 2012) and that 41% have published objectives and targets for farm animal welfare compared with 26% in 2012.

 

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Angry and sad at Xmas: victims of adolescent bullying

FACES_Tiny_with_creditThere have been far too many stories recently of desperate teenagers committing suicide, and an unknown number of families today will be reeling from the discovery that their teenager is seriously self-harming because of bullying. Mobile phones and social networking sites have exacerbated an age-old problem so that there is nowhere to hide. 

Poison-pen letter writers are no longer adults in detective stories. They have been brought right up-to-date, and are alive and well reincarnated in teenagers. Incapable of empathy with their victim, remote bullying via texts, phones, videoclips and the internet makes it so easy & so much more devastating, reaching  beyond a school, covering entire towns & counties,  and as its not face-to-face, even less likely for the teenage bully to empathise.

There also seems to be more serious consequences to bullying these days:  beyond loss of confidence, our society is experiencing a rise in self-harming and suicide amongst teenagers. Is it because teenagers these days are so interested in relationships & celebrity, following soaps avidly, that they are posting the minutiae of their lives online for all to see as if they were part of a soap opera?

What is the research evidence available to understand what’s going on?

I took a look and discovered to my horror that being bullied in primary schools can set you up to self-harm when you are a teenager in your next school.  Being Bullied During Childhood and the Prospective Pathways to Self-Harm in Late Adolescence ,  was co-authored at Warwick University, UK. Their press release reveals that 16.5% of 16-17 year olds had self-harmed in the previous year, and 26.9% of these did so because they felt as though they ‘wanted to die’. Those who were subjected to chronic bullying over a number of years at primary school were nearly five times more likely to self-harm six to seven years later in adolescence.[see press

Furthermore, other research shows being both the bully and the bully-victim is linked to an increased risk of suicide or mental illness. I also discovered that self-harming is a very difficult habit to break.

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Chocolate Made in South Africa for homesick Brits?

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This blog is about the weirdness of global trade… and the
lengths (literally) we go for chocolate.

The wrapper on my Marks & Spencer (M&S) valentine chocolates read: “Made with our exclusive British Milk chocolate recipe, Made in
South Africa”.

Incredibly, it seemed that a firm in South Africa (SA) was targeting local people with a taste for British chocolate, and somehow M&S
sourced them for sale in the UK! 

Was this I wondered another example of fuel miles not being
built into food production costs (see “food miles”), like apples  from the Cape or Kenyan flowers at petrol stations?

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Forests on the move

Studies on ‘natural’ and ‘forced’ migration of forests threatened by climate change.

Deciduous forestA multi-European project trying to anticipate the effects of climate change on forests is taking shape. In parts of Europe, established forest trees are showing signs of vulnerability – such as drought stress – as their ‘climate niche’ changes. An ambitious long-term project hopes to work out which species will provide the best natural environments and commercial forestry prospects for the future.

Thousands of trees are being planted at 37 locations on the west Atlantic, covering a length of 1600 miles from the Azores to Scotland. Forest Research (part of the Forestry Commission), the UK partner in the ‘Reinforce’ project, is planting 30 species at various sites in England, Scotland and Wales. The species include familiar trees like English oak, Scots pine, silver birch and sweet chestnut as well as less usual species such as Atlas cedar and Macedonian, maritime and Monterey pines from the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe and California.

As to the time-scale of the project, growth data and responses to climatic variables like temperature and soil water will be collected and analysed regularly, but it could be 50 years before any meaningful data can be gathered for mature trees. With climate change now evident, there’s no time for delay…

Watch a video of the research on the BBC website.

The trial coincides with the findings of a 4-year survey of 15 coniferous species in 34 different ecoregions in western Canada and the USA(1,2). Remote sensing of large areas showed that a huge natural migration of trees has already started across much of the west due to global warming, insect attack, diseases and fire, and many tree species are projected to decline or die out in regions where they have been present for centuries, while others move in and replace them. Forests are reshaping in a visible display of ‘survival of the fittest’.

Existing species are losing their competitive edge and opportunistic species are taking over. More than half of the evergreen species were found to be experiencing a significant decrease in their competitiveness in 6 ecoregions. The study projected that in some cases, once-common species such as lodgepole pine will be replaced by other trees, with perhaps a range expansion of ponderosa pine or Douglas-fir. Other areas may shift completely out of forest into grass savannah or sagebrush desert. In central California, more than half of the species now present would not be expected to persist in the climate conditions of the future (approx. 2-4°C warmer by 2080, drier summers, and wetter spring and autumn seasons).

Some of these changes are already happening quite fast and over huge areas – at a rate fast enough to detect at the landscape level – remarkable for forests.

References

1. Waring, R. H.; Coops, N. C.; Running, S. W. Predicting satellite-derived patterns of large-scale disturbances in forests of the Pacific Northwest Region in response to recent climatic variation. Remote Sensing of Environment (2011) Vol. 115 No. 12 pp. 3554-3566.

2. Coops, N. C.; Waring, R. H. Estimating the vulnerability of fifteen tree species under changing climate in Northwest North America. Ecological Modelling (2011) Vol. 222 No. 13 pp. 2119-2129 [10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2011.03.033]

See also:
Oregon State University news