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Farming

GM crops backed by new study

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PH270516_Page_37_Image_0003THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, America’s most prestigious scientific institution has published a that finds that GM crops are safe, but need to be used in agriculture with care.

Following a systematic review, the Academy has published a 407 page report which pulls together experts with diverse backgrounds, took public comment, and solicited input from a wide range of interests. They decided specifically not to rely on any previous review, but to conduct their own review of the primary literature.

The report gives this summary of its findings regarding the health risks of GMOs (for which the report uses the synonym “genetically engineered/GE”):

The design and analysis of many animal-feeding studies were not optimal, but the large number of experimental studies provided reasonable evidence that animals were not harmed by eating food derived from GE crops.

Additionally, long-term data on livestock health before and after the introduction of GE crops showed no adverse effects associated with GE crops.

The committee also examined epidemiological data on incidence of cancers and other human-health problems over time and found no substantiated evidence that foods from GE crops were less safe than foods from non-GE crops.

The report’s findings show that there is no particular reason to believe that currently available GM crops pose any health risk or that they are different with regard to their safety and nutrition from their conventional analogues. There is also nothing about the current processes used to generate GMOs that would theoretically pose a unique health risk.

It is especially compelling that over the last two decades, animals and humans exposed to GMOs have not experienced any relative increase in any major disease.

The report also finds that the introduction of available GMOs has generally had a positive effect on farmers and the environment. They write: ‘The available evidence indicates that GE soybean, cotton, and maize have generally had favourable economic outcomes for producers who have adopted these crops’.

However, the report also notes that outcomes have been variable ‘depending on pest abundance, farming practices, and agricultural infrastructure’.

The report finds that while GMOs have been a useful tool to increase profits for farmers and can be very beneficial to the environment, yhey have to be used correctly and are not a panacea.

The NAS committee found that the introduction of Bt varieties (which incorporate a natural pesticide) reduced overall pesticide use, reduced pest populations (and therefore benefited even non-GMO crops), and increased insect diversity.

Likewise, the use of herbicide-resistant crops has resulted in a small increase in yield without any decrease in plant diversity.

In both cases, however, the report also notes that if these technologies are overused then pesticide and herbicide resistance will become a problem. They recommend, as have many previous experts and reviews, that Bt and herbicide-resistant crops be used as part of integrated pest management.

The report’s authors argue that current regulations are based upon a false dichotomy, between conventional and genetically modified organisms. They point out that emerging technologies are increasingly blurring the lines.

Gene editing is not quite genetic engineering, and genetic technologies are being used to guide crop breeding, for example: ‘Emerging genetic technologies have blurred the distinction between genetic engineering and conventional plant breeding to the point where regulatory systems based on process are technically difficult to defend.

‘The committee recommends that new varieties – whether genetically engineered or conventionally bred – be subjected to safety testing if they have novel intended or unintended characteristics with potential hazards’.

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Farming

Appeal for dog walkers to keep pets under control during lambing season

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THE LAMBING season is upon us and with many public paths crossing fields of sheep, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority is appealing to dog walkers to follow best practice when out in the countryside.

While walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail and other public footpaths and bridleways:

Always keep dogs on a short lead and under close control when sheep or any other livestock are present.
Clean up after your dog; bag it and bin it wherever you can or take it away –please do not leave poo bags in the countryside.

National Park Authority Public Rights of Way Officer, Meurig Nicholas said: “If your dog is out of your sight or left out of control, it may chase after, attack or worry sheep. Worried and stressed pregnant sheep can miscarry or abort their lambs.

“Young lambs are also very vulnerable at this time, and can get distressed and even die if they are separated from their mothers or abandoned after being chased by dogs.”

There have also been incidents where dogs have had to be rescued from cliffs because they were not kept under close control.

Mr Nicholas added: “These situations have resulted in emergency services such as the Coastguard and RNLI having to retrieve and rescue dogs. These incidents are avoidable and add unnecessary pressure to our busy emergency services.”

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Farming

Plan for ‘collaborative approach’ to tackling rural crime issues

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THIS week (Mar 9) Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn chaired a strategic meeting with key stakeholders to identify collaborative opportunities to tackle rural and wildlife crime in the Dyfed-Powys area.

Following a meeting with the Farming Unions in Wales earlier this year, Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn is keen to establish a Strategic Partnership Working Group with key stakeholders that will aim to identify ways of working collaboratively to tackle some of the rural and wildlife crime issues in Dyfed-Powys.

Dyfed-Powys Police have recently appointed a Sergeant for the Rural Crime Team, and the Police and Crime Commissioner has been keen to consult with key stakeholders to gain an input from partners to support the development of a new Rural Crime Strategy for the Force.

Key Stakeholders that were invited to be part of the strategic group include both NFU Cymru and FUW unions, as well as local authorities, National Parks, RSPCA and many others.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn said: “I had positive discussions with representatives from both unions earlier this year to highlight some of the rural crime issues in the Dyfed-Powys area.

“One of the priorities identified was the need to take a collaborative approach to tackling rural and wildlife Crime, and the meeting with several key partners today was an opportunity to develop discussions and ideas further”.

Earlier in March, PCC Dafydd Llywelyn published a Rural Crime bulletin, which highlights some of the work that has taken place recently in the Dyfed-Powys area, and cross border collaborative initiatives.

PCC Dafydd Llywelyn noted that this multi agency partnership will aim to build on some of the great work that is already happening, and said;  “This meeting today comes a year on from the successful St. David’s Day Conference focusing on Rural Crime that I held at Police Headquarters last year. The last 12 months have been like no other but sadly crime and incidents affecting the rural community have continued.

“Today’s multiagency Strategic meeting was an opportunity to present the new Sergeant for the specialist team, and to discuss a new website that we are developing in partnership with North Wales Police to provide key crime prevention messages to the agricultural industry – the Future Farms Cymru initiative.

“I’m grateful to all partners who attended the meeting today, and I now look forward to take all comments on board as we look to re-energise and refocus the work of the Dyfed Powys Rural Crime Team.”

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Farming

NFU Cymru ‘responds robustly’ to WG

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NFU CYMRU has said that many proposals within the Welsh Government and Defra’s Welfare in Transport consultation will cause significant disruption to livestock transportation in the UK.

In a robust response to the joint Welsh Government / Defra consultation, the union has stressed the significant impact the proposals would have on the livestock and poultry sectors, and raised concerns that if the proposals are implemented, they will fail to deliver any meaningful benefit to animals’ welfare.

Wyn Evans, NFU Cymru Livestock Board Chairman said: “In order to ensure the best possible welfare outcomes, the main priorities should be the animal’s fitness to travel, loading and unloading, driver training and experience, rather than the length of the journey or the external temperature at the time of transport.

“We firmly believe that the current regulations for domestic transport already deliver high welfare, as a result of the standards, cleanliness and adaptability to different weather conditions of transport boxes in the UK. But as an industry, we want to strive for even better. We believe that in order to do that there should be more focus on certified training and providing clearer, sector-specific guidance, particularly during loading and unloading rather than what is proposed in the consultation. Good welfare and healthy livestock go hand in hand; safe arrival at a destination, be that at market or abattoir, must be and is a priority.

“The transporting of livestock is an integral part of UK food production. The suggested changes to journeys based on duration and weather conditions would cause serious delays and disruption, potentially damaging welfare outcomes, while changes to vehicle requirements would add significant costs. It will also lead to many more journeys being made, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, which work against both farming’s and the government’s net-zero targets.

“Turning to the part of the consultation on live exports, we have inputted our views into a proposed NFU assurance scheme, which is detailed in an appendix in the response. This would be extremely effective in delivering welfare outcomes at the same time as maintaining this trade, as assessing the animals’ health and reporting back to producers is a fundamental part of the scheme.”

Richard Williams, Chairman of NFU Cymru’s Poultry Group said: “Looking at the month of January for example, over the last three years on average there were 10 days where temperatures were five degrees or less. If the proposals were implemented to stop transport at this temperature, no broilers could be collected off-farm in those days. If we had a prolonged cold snap; this would have a massive effect on the food chain.

“With any policy developments government makes, it is essential they are based on the latest evidence.  We have an industry to be proud of, with world-leading standards, and that includes our current transportation requirements for all farmed livestock.”

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