SMC Science Deadline: Conservation conflicts & trans-Tasman IVF success

By Sciencemediacentre.co.nz received 3 years ago

Categories: Science
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Issue 344,  11 Sep 2015

In this issue:

IVF in NZ Policy updates
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Expert Reaction: ‘Abandoning’ our farms to the market   Expert Reaction: Potential human transmission of Alzheimer’s   Reflections: Dr Christina Riesselman awarded Women in Science fellowship   Expert Reaction: Bee disease and novel virus in invading ants   In the News: New melanoma drug in the headlines
The SMC network
Expert Reaction: Evidence for human transmission of amyloid-Beta   Briefing: Cancer immunotherapy   Expert reaction: E-cigarette use in US adolescents   Expert Reaction: Potential molecular test for biological ageing   Expert Reaction: Prescription thresholds and statins
Australian SMC
Breifing:  Drugged and depressed: Mental health in country Australia   Expert Reaction: NSW flooding and Jerrara Dam evacuation

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Top news from scimex.org  the Science Media Centre's news sharing platform.

Invasive NZ ants found to carry novel virus

A cold heart beats slower

Why it's so smart to be lazy

Penguins opt for long distance relationships

Cash for conservation urged

Paying farmers to reduce their impact on the environment is working overseas, but 'cash for conservation' schemes are too often undercut by massive government subsidies to boost agricultural production, argue authors of new research.

In an article published in the journal PLOS Biology this week, researchers from Cambridge University and Landcare Research examine the balance between incentive schemes for farmers to protect the environment and government subsidies intended to boost agricultural production.
New Zealand farmers receive one of the lowest levels of government support in the developed world for either production or conservation, essentially "abandoning the agricultural sector to market forces" the article states. It goes on to argue that this "laissez-faire approach to the agricultural sector does little to safeguard the environment."
An accompanying media release from Cambridge University highlights the case of New Zealand as a country "where there are no subsidies or mitigation schemes, and much of the country has been transformed into a massive dairy farm for China as a result."
Environmental Defence Society Senior Policy Analyst Dr Marie Brown comments that the article, “contains some valuable lessons for New Zealand, “ holding the country up as “an example of an agricultural economy with a commodity focus, that has failed to adhere to environmental bottom lines.”
She says, “such bottom lines are not negotiable -- nature decides where they are! We choose how to address them. … The future of our agricultural industry will depend on solutions that navigate past pitting economic growth and environmental protection against one another and align those often divergent interests.”
"What the authors have termed a 'laissez-faire' attitude to the environment has resulted in the expenditure of almost a billion dollars in the last few years fencing waterways, planting natives and upgrading effluent systems,” comments Professor of Agribusiness Jacqueline Rowarth, University of Waikato.
“Certainly other countries have been 'removed' from market forces by Government subsidies - but the NZ farmer has responded to domestic and international signals to the benefit of the country in economic growth and the benefit of the environment through adoption of new technologies as they have been developed.”
Dr Suzi Kerr, Senior Fellow, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, comments: “In many places expressed public concern suggests we don’t have the balance between local economic benefits and local environmental impacts right. That means we need to have stronger and better designed regulations. That doesn’t necessarily involve any subsidies to farmers, though in some cases carefully targeted payments for specific actions could be part of the tool set used by Regional Councils.”
The Science Media Centre rounded up expert commentary on the article, which can be read here.

Policy news & developments

Wilding pines: Five groups tackling the major problem of wilding conifers have received $345,000 from the Community Conservation Partnerships Fund as part of the War on Weeds initiative.
Maternity report: The Ministry of Health has released the 2013 The New Zealand Maternity Clinical Indicators report assessing the quality and national consistency in the delivery of maternity services.
Nut beverages: Food Standards Australia New Zealand is calling for submissions on an application seeking permission to voluntarily add vitamins and minerals to nut- and-seed based beverages.

IVF success never been better

Australia and New Zealand is the safest region in the world for women undergoing IVF treatment, and success rates for IVF using frozen embryos have caught up with treatments using fresh embryos, according to the latest trans-Tasman data.
The Assisted Reproductive Technology in Australia and New Zealand 2013 report, released yesterday, shows in the five years to 2013, fresh embryo IVF cycles that resulted in a baby remained stable at around 23 percent.
However, there has been a more than 25 percent increase in the birth rate for frozen embryo transfers in the last five years, rising from 18 percent to 23 percent.
The rate of multiple deliveries in Australia and New Zealand has fallen by a third over the last five years, from 8.2 percent in 2009 to 5.6 percent in 2013 - a welcome trend as multiple births can carry extra complication for mothers.
By comparison, the IVF multiple delivery rate is around 26% in the US and 16% in the UK.
Associate Professor Mark Bowman, President of the Fertility Society of Australia, said in a media release that the results show Australia and New Zealand is the safest region in the world for women to have IVF.
“Australia and New Zealand have the lowest IVF multiple birth rates of any region in the world and yet also maintain consistently high success rates,” Associate Professor Bowman said.
Fertility Associates' Auckland medical director, Dr Simon Kelly, was not surprised. Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, he said New Zealand had been a leader in single embryo transfer and reducing multiple pregnancies and clinics here had had "excellent" birthrates from frozen embryos for many years.
NZ IVF By the numbers:

5,373 IFV treatment cycles were performed in New Zealand in 2013, representing a 3.8 percent increase from 2012 numbers. A total of 1,302 babies were born following IVF treatment in New Zealand clinics in 2013 and 2014. 95% of cycles in 2013 were autologous cycles (where a woman intended to use, or used her own eggs or embryos)

Read more on UNSW’s National Perinatal Epidemiology and Statistics Unit (NPESU) website.

Quoted: New Zealand Herald

"They would have been a sort of slow-cruising vacuum cleaner for krill."
  Dr Robert Boessenecker from the University of Otago describes a newly discovered ancient species of whale.

New from Sciblogs

Some of the highlights from this week's Sciblogs posts:
When did the Anthropocene start? - Where should we draw the line to mark the start of this epoch in which human activity dominates over natural processes? Helen Bostock wants your thoughts.
Guest Work
Why the internet annoys chemists – Ken Perrot explores just a few of the web-based bugbears that raise the ire of chemists. Fact one: Everything is made of chemicals!
Open Parachute
A co-regulatory approach to protecting children from junk food marketing - Does it have to be black or white, mandatory or voluntary, asks Amanda Wood.
Public Health Expert
Surviving the flupocalypse! A deadly global virus threatens an isolated community in a sci-fi/civil defence crossover on Great Barrier Island. Siouxsie Wiles explains.
Infectious Thoughts

Upcoming events

Please see the SMC Events Calendar for more events and details. 2015 Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators Conference - 9-11 September, Auckland. Australasia’s Medical Administrators will come to together to share information and research, innovative practices and evidence based practice case studies.
Expert analysis of climate change impacts on Southern Ocean – 15 September, Wellington. Dr Stephen Rintoul will give the 2015 S.T Lee Lecture in Antarctic Studies, presenting the latest evidence on how the Southern Ocean is changing.
Coasts & Ports 2015 - 15-18 September, Auckland. Conference bringing together engineers, planners, scientists, stakeholders and researchers to focus on the technological, scientific, policy, planning and design issues related to our diverse and developing coasts.

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