Newsletter Digest: Clean streams, factory farming and Gardasil

Black spots in clean streams report

The fact that the disappointing results outlined in the Clean Streams Accord report were so widely reported today demonstrates how highly we value our environment.

The report paints a grim picture for many parts of the country – “significant non-compliance” with council rules among dairy farmers is at 15 per cent, up from 12 per cent in 2007 – 08. Full compliance rates with effluent disposal requirements fell overall – from 64 per cent in 2007/08 to 60 per cent in 2008/09 season.

When approached by the SMC for his reaction, Dr Mike Joy, Director of the Centre for Freshwater Ecosystem Management at Massey University, said the Clean Streams Accord simply wasn’t working.

“The answer is emphatically no and nor is it likely to be given that the accord is too weak, it targets the easy-to-fence larger streams and ignores the small feeder streams that would really make a difference.  Recent reports on native fish and water chemistry have shown significant and increasing declines in the state of waterways in farming catchments despite the implementation of the clean streams accord.”

‘Factory farming’ proposal fizzles

Plans for cubicle dairy farming operations in MacKenzie Country that would have housed 18,000 cows under cover for much of the year have stalled after the farmers involved balked at the cost of pursuing effluent applications that had been “called-in” by the Government.

Many of those who lodged submissions opposing the plans will be relieved the contentious scheme is off the table for the time being. Indeed, independent research in the wake of the feedlot furore may shed greater light on the environmental impacts of lot-fed dairying compared to traditional farming ahead of potential future feedlot applications.

HPV debate rages on

Following recent media reports questioning the safety of the HPV vaccine Gardasil, the Immunisation Advisory Centre sent Sciblogs a guest post explaining why these type of reports perpetuate “fear and confusion” .

A lively discussion started, and still continues, in the comments section on Sciblogs. So if, as the experts writing on Sciblogs claim, the Gardasil vaccine has an “excellent safety record”, why is the media repeatedly running stories that raise questions about its safety?

Part of the reason lies in the compelling and heartbreaking stories of people like Sciblogs reader Chrissy, who claims her daughter has suffered a series of adverse effects following her receiving the Gardasil vaccine.

Writes Chrissy: “Try proving what has actually caused her extreme fatigue, migraines, aches and pains, pins and needles, cold sweats, a very sore arm from the jab, fevers, extreme mood swings, depression, suicidal thoughts and… the list just goes on.”

And her daughter herself [name withheld] followed up with:

“I am 16 turning 17 and my life has changed dramatically ever since i took the first vaccine.

“I am now struggling to keep myself together and not lose it, I am struggling to keep my motivation towards netball and all my favourite sports and hobbies that I am good at and love doing. It’s not easy.”

Such stories tick all the boxes for the media – emotion, children, health scares – but by elevating individual cases in the way they do, they make it appear as though there is widespread concern about a vaccine’s safety. In the case of Gardasil, the good safety record is backed up with extensive research.

As Dr Nikki Turner and Helen Petousis-Harris of the IAC note:

“Nothing has changed recently regarding the safety profile of Gardasil, the vaccine used in the HPV immunisation programme.  It has an excellent safety record, is used in over 100 countries across the world, with tens of millions of doses delivered and not one death attributed to the vaccine.”Across the Tasman, research has recently focused on the carbon footprint of Australian red meat production in feedlots compared to having cows grazing on pasture. The paper Red Meat Production in Australia noted: The increasing proportion of lot-fed beef in Australia is favourable, since this production system generates lower total greenhouse gas emissions than grass-fed production, the additional effort in producing and transporting feeds is effectively offset by the increased efficiency of meat production in feedlots”

The paper, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology also noted:

“A recent Swiss study compared pasture and feedlot beef production systems and concluded that the differences between the two systems are relatively minor, except for the considerably different ecotoxicity impacts for the feedlot system resulting from greater fertilizer use.”

Contact the SMC if you would like a copy of the paper.