Tuesday, 1 August 2017

New Studies Show - Goals of Paris Climate Accord Unlikely to be Achieved. by Larry Powell

Wildfires in Portugal. Wikimedia Commons.
Two new studies paint a sobering picture for the future of the Earth in a changing climate.

One report by a team of American scientists estimates there’s only a five percent chance that global warming can be kept below 2 degrees celsius by 2100. On the other hand, there’s a 95 percent likelihood the increase will be more like 2 to 4.9 degrees! That upper range would generally be considered by many experts as catastrophic for life on earth. And it would clearly represent a failure of the Paris Climate Accord. 

That agreement, signed last year, commits almost 200 member countries, including Canada, to limit the increase to “well under 2 degrees” above pre-industrial levels. Achieving that goal, adds the study, “will require carbon intensity to decline much faster than in the recent past.”

The second study (done jointly by a researcher with the Max Planck Institute in Germany and another from the University of Colorado), makes similar findings. Future warming, which “will likely exceed 1.5 degrees” is inevitable even in “the unreasonably optimistic scenario of an abrupt halt to fossil-fuel emissions.” That’s because of carbon dioxide emissions already in the atmosphere from our long-standing reliance on oil, gas and coal. And neither the ability of the ocean to absorb excess heat, nor the presence of aerosols in the air, will be enough to offset that net increase in temperature. Aerosols are tiny, manmade particles which tend to cool the planet. In that unlikely event of a sudden end to fossil fuel burning, those particles would quickly wash out of the atmosphere. But the C02 would remain. 

A leading US environmentalist, Bill McKibben told CNN, "These studies are part of the emerging scientific understanding that we're in even hotter water than we'd thought. We're a long ways down the path to disastrous global warming, and the policy response - especially in the US has been pathetically underwhelming."

Both studies were published this week in the prestigious journal, “Nature - Climate Change.”

Monday, 31 July 2017

Two Weeks with No New PED Cases in Manitoba Cause for Optimism

Farmscape for July 31, 2017

New tools being used in Manitoba appear to be helping bring the spread of PED in the province under control.
Since the end of April almost 60 swine production sites in Manitoba have been confirmed infected with Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea.
On Thursday Manitoba Pork hosted a PED information session in Steinbach to update producers on the situation.
George Matheson, the Chair of Manitoba Pork, says there have been no new cases since July 14.

Clip-George Matheson-Manitoba Pork:
We're organizing a manure management group for the infected farms.
Of course equipment can become infected and we don't want a positive farm infecting a negative farm just by the transfer of manure equipment and spreading must be done soon.
Lagoons get full.
That's one approach we're taking.
Manitoba Pork has decided to employ a Swine Health Officer, a full time position, just to manage the situation with the help of the Manitoba CVO.
We've had three staff members, Mark Fynn, Arne Thorlacius and our General Manager Andrew Dickson who have been extremely busy for the last three months trying to get control of the situation.
We've decided that we need a new employee for this.
Also there has been a vaccine developed by VIDO out in Saskatchewan and it will be used on a trial basis.
It won't prevent it but it will reduce the symptoms and make things more manageable for an infected farm.
Those are three tools that we're using to get control of the situation.

Matheson says there have been no new cases in over two weeks and the hope is that we're looking at the start of a trend.
For Farmscape.Ca, I'm Bruce Cochrane.

       *Farmscape is a presentation of Sask Pork and Manitoba Pork

A New and More Virulent Hog Infection Invades Manitoba

Dr. Blaine Tully - Canadian Association of Swine Veterinarians
Farmscape for July 28, 2017

The President of the Canadian Association of Swine Veterinarians says swine veterinarian in Manitoba have stepped up their focus on addressing a new more virulent strain of Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome.

A new more virulent strain of PRRS, a viral infection that affects pigs of all ages and stages of growth, has been identified in Manitoba.
Dr. Blaine Tully, the President of the Canadian Association of Swine Veterinarians and a partner with Swine Health Professionals in Steinbach, says genetic sequencing to determine whether it's related to strains experienced in Manitoba or other parts of the country have shown that its kind of a lone wolf.

Clip-Dr. Blaine Tully-Canadian Association of Swine Veterinarians:
We have about 12 or 15 farms, the majority of which are in southeast Manitoba but we do know there's farms in the Interlake and out into central Manitoba that have been infected.

At this point the swine veterinary community has joined together and is somewhat dovetailing in with our PED response and we're looking at doing a lot more epidemiological evaluation of farms that are infected with this new strain of PRRS, where they're located, how related the new strains are, because once PRRS infects a pig and starts replicating the nature of the virus is to mutate slightly each replication and so we get variations within strain families.

So we're looking at relatedness of viruses by sites and trying to map out potential transmission routes or events.

Dr. Tully says pork producers and the veterinary community have been in a heightened biosecurity awareness mode for many months due to PED and fortunately all of the safeguards being put in place to protect farms from PED apply to reducing the risk of introducing PRRS.
For Farmscape.Ca, I'm Bruce Cochrane.

       *Farmscape is a presentation of Sask Pork and Manitoba Pork

RELATED: "Mystery hog disease to become common on Prairies: vet"

ONE WEEK left to stop the Bayer-Monsanto merger. Please Donate!

Larry, we just got a special deal to buy EVERY SINGLE AD on the Politico.eu homepage every day until European regulators make their decision about the Bayer-Monsanto merger next week. Politico is the major news source read by EU decision makers.
We’ve only got ONE WEEK left to stop the Bayer-Monsanto merger, Larry. We just found out that if we can raise $10,000, we can buy every single ad on the Politico.eu homepage, the news site read by EU insiders, EVERY SINGLE DAY until European regulators make their decision about this nightmare merger next week.
 Can you chip in to make it happen? Donating just takes a moment – use Paypal or your card.
Thank you so much. 

Thanks to climate change, forest fires will likely become more common and widespread in Canada.

Environmental Research Letters

Control fire -- NWT, Canada. (USDA Forest Service photo.) 
As summer weather becomes increasingly drier and warmer, the risks of forest fires increase and their manageability decreases. A new study has modelled the key forest fire factors in boreal forests within the framework of changing climate models, and the results aren't hopeful: future forest fires will likely rage stronger and be much more difficult to contain than ever before. Researchers looked at three main predicting factors in forest fires: forest fuel types (in other words, what burns up in a forest fire: species of trees in the forests, type of forest and shrub cover, presence of lichens, wood chips or mosses on the ground surface); weather scenarios for the next 80 years; and fire behaviour (how the fire will spread, how fast it will travel, how intense it is, etc.) Their findings showed that the proportion of days in fire seasons with the potential for unmanageable fire will increase across the Canada's forest, more than doubling in some regions in northern and eastern boreal forest.

Friday, 28 July 2017

More evidence on link between antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance


Health Authorities in Europe are concerned about the impact of use of antibiotics on the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The report presents new data on antibiotic consumption and antibiotic resistance. Story here.
Hogs in a "confined animal feeding operation." Feed for such animals often contains antibiotics, not to treat sickness, but to promote growth and add value at market time. Wikimeida Commons photo. 

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Industrial hog production is leading to devastating issues for Manitoba

Vicki Burns and Janine Gibson.
For the last three decades, hog production in Manitoba has become increasingly industrialized with the number of pigs per barn jumping to the thousands and the number of actual pig producers dropping from over 14,000 in 1971 to a mere 200 today.
The pigs that are the basis of this industry are often referred to as animal units. The production system is under constant pressure to produce more piglets at less cost, resembling an industrial assembly line.
The pigs never see the light of day or have the opportunity to root in straw or breathe fresh air.
How far we have moved from family farming to this industrial model, where thousands of animals are kept inside buildings with minimal human contact, feed is automated and they must live above pits of their own feces and urine.
This industrial hog production that dominates the Manitoba landscape is resulting in devastating issues that are in the headlines now.
Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) has now infected more than 50 barns in Manitoba, caused the death of thousands of piglets and is creating fear about how widespread this epidemic will become.
The intense confinement of thousands of animals in barns closely located to each other is a significant part of the problem.
The hog barn fire near New Bothwell in June killed 3,500 pigs, bringing the total number of pigs killed in barn fires over the past decade to 64,000.
But instead of seeing this as a problem to be solved, the Pallister government — with Manitoba Pork’s support — has reduced the fire-safety regulations in the barn building codes to require fewer fire alarms, fewer smoke detectors and cheaper firewalls.
The use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics in hog production is part of a growing worldwide problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA.
Small amounts of antibiotics are fed to the pigs to allow them to grow in industrial conditions.
T. Khanna, R. Friendship, Dewey and J.S. Weese in 2007 showed MRSA is common in pigs and provides further support to concerns about transmission of MRSA between pigs and humans.
Other studies are demonstrating the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in manure lagoons and nearby groundwater (J.C. Chee-Sanford, et al.).
The pigs are not the only things that suffer in industrial production.
The environmental impacts are very real, as evidenced by the declining water quality of many lakes, most notably Lake Winnipeg.
Phosphorus and nitrogen in the animal manure, which is spread on fields as fertilizer, runs off and gets into waterways that end in Lake Winnipeg.
These nutrients feed the sometimes toxic blue-green algae blooms that occur each summer. The phosphorus and nitrogen causing the algal problems also come from human sewage and chemical fertilizers, but there is a correlation between the expansion of the hog industry in Manitoba from two million to eight million pigs per year in the 1990s and the doubling of the phosphorus in the lake from 0.05 mg/l to over 0.10 mg/l (Bunting, L., P.R. Leavitt, et al.) in that time period.
Since the closing of the single-desk marketing system for pigs in the mid-’90s and the resulting vertical integration, the hog industry has seen many ups and downs financially.
In 2008, Canadian hog producers were actually paid $50 million to decrease their sow herd size as the market price had dropped so low.
There are other models of hog production, similar in some ways to the family farms of decades ago.
One such model is organic management, which is good for the animals, good for the environment and good for people.
In Quebec, organic hog farming has taken hold and now accounts for 10 per cent of the industry with revenues of $25 million annually.
In Manitoba, we still have a few small-scale hog farmers who are feeding the growing public desire for humane and organic meat, a market that is expanding every year.
The Canadian Organic Trade Association has verified that more of the income from organic production remains in local communities, providing healthier direct agricultural employment (Crowder, D; Reganold, J.P. Financial Competitiveness of Organic Agriculture on a Global Scale, 2015).
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, in their 2017 report The Future of Food and Agriculture, states "Business as usual is not an option."
The industrial model of hog production is simply not sustainable and Manitoba would do its hog industry a favour by pushing for more ethically, environmentally and economically sustainable methods.
Vicki Burns and Janine Gibson are members of the Hog Watch Manitoba steering committee.

Beyond Covid 19. Are we risking yet another pandemic if we continue to embrace "assembly-line" livestock production into the future?

by Larry Powell No one would argue that Covid 19 demands our undivided attention. Surely,  defeating this "beast" has to be &...