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SMC Heads-Up: Climate concerns, fruit fly, milk

SMC Heads-Up: Climate concerns, fruit fly fears and a spot of milk debate

Issue 273 5-11 April 2014


Ready or not, its happening - IPCC
The latest report released by the UN International Panel on climate Change (IPCC) this week paints a stark picture of a warmer future - one which we are ill-prepared for, according to the authors.

After lengthy talks, scientists and government representatives meeting in Yokohama released the final version of IPCC's Working Group 2 report - Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.

The authors of the report say the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans. The world, in many cases, is ill-prepared for risks from a changing climate. The report also concludes that there are opportunities to respond to such risks, though the risks will be difficult to manage with high levels of warming.

"Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,'' IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri told the press conference at the launch of the report.

The IPCC reports represent the largest assessment of evidence on climate change and impacts. A total of 309 coordinating lead authors, lead authors, and review editors, drawn from 70 countries, were selected to produce the WGII report. They enlisted the help of 436 contributing authors, and a total of 1,729 expert and government reviewers.

The SMC rounded up comments from NZ lead authors and experts:

Dr Andrew Tait, NIWA Principal scientist Climate and NZ lead author of the Australasia chapter comments:

"The Working Group 2 report is a chance to restate and re-emphasise the climate change vulnerability and adaptation issues that we already face, and to remind ourselves that global and local impacts of climate change need to be addressed and are not going away. It provides a comprehensive understanding of the current state of science in relation to climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation, and has been written so that decision-makers at every level of society can have access to a reliable robust scientific assessment."

Professor Tim Naish, Director of the Antarctic Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, comments:

"Building on the statement that 'the human influence on the climate system is clear', this latest report makes it quite clear that New Zealand is under-prepared and faces a significant 'adaptation deficit' in the context of the projected impacts and risks from global average warming of +2 to 4°C by the end of the century...

"Extreme weather events, such as droughts and flooding will become more frequent as the wet regions in the west of New Zealand can expect more rainfall and the already dry regions of Canterbury the far North and the East Cape become drier with significant implications for water resources, increased risk for our climate sensitive primary industries such as agriculture and horticulture and challenges for hydro-electricity generation.

Prof Alistair Woodward, School of Population Health, University of Auckland, is a lead author of the WGII report. He comments:

"Some scenarios project warming of 4-7°C (on average) over much of the global landmass by the end of the 21st century.

"If this change happens, then the hottest days will exceed present temperatures by a wide margin and increase the number of people who live in conditions that are so extreme that the ability of the human body to maintain heat balance during physical activity is compromised for parts of the year and unprotected outdoor labour is no longer possible."

You can read extensive commentary from experts based in New Zealand, Australia and the UK on the Science Media Centre website.

Fruit fly find fuels biosecurity worries
The discovery of solitary male fruit fly in Whangarei has biosecurity authorities on high alert and prompted a lockdown on the movement of fruit and vegetables in the area.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is investigating a new find of asingle male Queensland fruit fly in a surveillance trap in the Parihaka area of Whangarei.

Although the fly was found just 400m from the spot where another fly was trapped in January this year, MPI says all information at this stage indicates that this detection is a new find and not related to the January incident.

According to MPI, the Queenslandfruit fly is one of the most damaging fruit fly pests. It infests more than 100 species of fruit including avocado, citrus, feijoa, grape, peppers, persimmon, pipfruit, and stonefruit.

Following the discovery, biosecurity officials have put in place a Controlled Area Notice, encompassing a 1.5km circular area around the location of the find, taking in parts of Parihaka, Riverside and central Whangarei.

Whole fresh fruit and vegetables (except for leafy vegetables and root veges) cannot be moved outside of the Controlled Area.It is expected the restrictions will be in place for at least a couple of weeks.

HortNZ chief executive Peter Silcock, was pleased with MPI's response but expressed concern over the repeated incursions.

"We have confidence in our system to detect any fruit fly at a very early stage and this system is critical for maintaining international market access for our products," he said.

"But we do have to urgently look at how we are managing the biosecurity risk, so we don't keep finding this pest in our traps."

"This is a pest that we don't want because it will impact on our ability to grow things, export produce and on the 50,000 jobs this industry provides across New Zealand.

More information about the Queensland fruit fly and the restrictions in Whangarei can be found on the MPI website.
On the science radar this week...

Saturn moon's hidden lake, robo-tattooists, spit-powered generator, moonwalking flies, schizophrenic scarves and the weight benefits ofmorning light.
Quoted: New Zealand Herald

"I'm not saying we are perfect, but what we report is an accurate reflection of what is happening in our system. We don't think that's happening in other countries,"

Auckland obstetrician Dr Sue Belgrave on NZ 'shigh death rate for women in pregnancy and childbirth

A2 milk animal study stirs debate
The long running A2 vs A1 milk conflict in New Zealand was given a top-up this week with the publication of a new study suggesting A1 - but not A2 - milk slows digestion and increases bowel inflammation.

A2 milk comes from cows which produce a particular version of thebeta-casein protein in their milk.

The A2 corporation maintains that this 'A2' version of the protein is healthier than the version found in most milk in Australasia, A1 beta-casein. Their argument hinges on the fact that A1 beta-casein produces a small protein fragment believed to cause inflammation and negative health effects.

Now a new study in rats, undertaken by AgResearch in collaboration with the A2 corporation and published in International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, has added weight to this hypothesis.

The researchers found that rats fed A1 milk had slower digestion and increased markers of bowel inflammation compared to rats fed A2 milk. The researchers were also able to show that A1 milk's effects were mediated by opioid receptors in the bowel.

Lincoln University's Prof Keith Woodford, a co-author of the study and an independent adviser to A2 Corporation, wrote on his blogthat the findings back up earlier research indicating that the small protein fragment produced by A1 beta casein acts on the bowels in a similar fashion to opioids such as codeine (of which constipation is a known side effect).

"This finding of slower food transit provides strong support for the existing observational evidence that A1 is associated with digestive discomfort, bloating, and constipation relative to A2."

Regarding the inflammation he wrote: "This has important implications for both sub clinical inflammation in humans and potentially for inflammatory bowel syndrome, and once again complements observational evidence in humans."

Human research needed

Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, Fonterra chief technology officer Jeremy Hill said the claims needed to be validated in human trials - a move predicted by Prof Woodford who wrote on his blog:

"This paper will be seen as threatening by the mainstream dairy industry and so it is inevitable they will attack it. Their key argument is likely to be that the work was done with rodents rather than humans."

However Dr Woodford hinted that further research in humans is underway, saying, "these findings are also going to underpin some forthcoming clinical evidence relating to digestive effects in humans."

According to the Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry, Curtin University in Australia is registered to be undertaking a human trial in which participants consume three glasses of A1 or A2 milk a day for two weeks, after which several measures of digestive health are recorded.

You can read more about the animal study in coverage from the New Zealand Herald and nzfarmer.co.nz.

Science Media SAVVY is coming to Wellington 22-23 MAY


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Policy news and developments

Data Futures: The New Zealand Data Futures Forum is seeking input and discussion on policy regarding data use.

Suicide media: Law Commission has released a report reviewing the rules that govern how the media report on suspected suicides.

National Science Challenge: The government has announced details on the first National Science Challenge, the High Value Nutrition Challenge.

Avacados: The Avocado Industry Council announced this week it will partner with the Ministry for Primary Industries in a new Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme.

Qfly: MPI has placed controls on the movement of fruit and vegetables out of partof Whangarei after a single male Queensland fruit fly was found in a surveillance trap.
New From the SMC

Experts Respond:

Tsunami risk: Australian experts comment on tsunami risk in the wake of the Chilean 8.2 quake on Wednesday.

Ebola: Experts respond to news of an outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa.

IPCC: Experts from NZ and around the global contribute to the discussion around the latest IPCC climate report.

Circumcision: A Kiwi paediatric surgeon slams a new reviewpromoting circumcision as a health intervention.

Reflections on Science:

Genetic Engineering debate: Watch video from the Kim Hill presented debate, 'Should Genetic Engineering play a part in NZ's future?'.
Sciblogs highlights

Some of the highlights from this week's Sciblogs posts:

Did Sea Shepherd do more harm than good? Peter Griffin examines the real impact of activists on the recent Japanese whaling decision.
Griffins Gadgets

'Fire engine envy' + time = sales - Reliable, well designed fire engines are what makes Lower Hutt's Fraser Engineering a success, writes Peter Kerr.
Stick

Future Learning Spaces - Attending the New Generation Learning Space Design conference gets Michael Edmonds rethinking the classroom - and the academic office.
Molecular Matters
Climate change and cherry blossom - Prof Alistair Woodward, a lead author on the health chapter of the most recent IPCC report relates his experiences and findings.
Public Health Expert

Research highlights
Some of the research papers making headlines this week.

Cutting edge 'tweezers' pick apart atom clouds: University of Otago physicists have pushed the frontiers of quantum technology by developing a steerable 'optical tweezers' unit that uses intense laser beams to precisely split minute clouds of ultracold atoms. The principle investigator described the precise control as "like being able to pull a delicate snowflake into two clean halves with your bare hands." Video available.
Optics Letters
Origins of a superbug: Genome sequencing of a multidrug resistant strain of E. Coli found in Australia, Canada, India, Spain, the UK and New Zealand, responsible for a high proportion of urinary tract and bloodstream infections, reveals that it arose from a single common ancestor prior to 2000, according to Australian research.
PNAS
Dino chase: Using photos and hand drawn maps of dinosaur foot prints excavated 70 years ago, scientists have reconstructed a 45m sequence left by a dinosaur chase. Using specialised computer software, scientists were able to reconstruct and view the entire footprint sequence in 3D for the first time since food prints were unearthed and removed to museums. Video available.
PLOS ONE
iPhone heart check: Australian researchers have developed an electrocardiogram (ECG) test which can be taken using a modified iPhone. The test is quick and accurate, and can quickly and cheaply diagnose unknown atrial fibrillation (AF), a common abnormal heart rhythm that causes a third of all strokes and doubles the chances of premature death.
Thrombosis and Haemostasis
Techniques to reduce dolphin by-catch ineffective: Current methods to reduce the rates of by-catch in the Pilbara Trawl Fishery aren't working as well as expected, according to Australian research. The study found that the use of Bycatch Reduction Devices, which allow dolphins to escape trawler nets, and acoustic deterrents, or 'pingers', are not reducing the level of interactions between bottlenose dolphins and the trawlers.
PLOS ONE


Upcoming sci-tech events
For these and more upcoming events, and more details about them, visit the SMC's Events Calendar.
MOTAT Science Street Fair - 6 April, Auckland.
Trade and Industrial Waste Forum - 2014 - 9-11 April, Hamilton.
Food Safety Summit - 9-10 April, Auckland.
NZ Farm Forestry Conference - 11-15 April, Marlborough.

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