Assumed safety of pesticide use is false, says top government scientist

Assumed safety of pesticide use is false, says top government scientist

This article appeared in The Guardian. Damning assessment by one of the UK’s chief scientific advisers says global regulations have ignored the impacts of ‘dosing whole landscapes’ and must change Damian Carrington  Environment editor@dpcarrington Fri 22 Sep 2017 12.23 BSTFirst published on Thu 21 Sep 2017 19.00 BS   Shares 6,809   The assumption by regulators around the world that it is safe to use pesticides at industrial scales across landscapes is false, according to a chief scientific adviser to the UK government. The lack of any limit on the total amount of pesticides used and the virtual absence of monitoring of their effects in the environment means it can take years for the impacts to become apparent, say Prof Ian Boyd and his colleague Alice Milner in a new article. The damning assessment of pesticide regulations that are meant to protect the global environment follows a growing number of highly critical reports including research showing farmers could slash their pesticide use without losses and a UN report that denounced the “myth” that pesticides are necessary to feed the world. “The current assumption underlying pesticide regulation – that chemicals that pass a battery of tests in the laboratory or in field trials are environmentally benign when they are used at industrial scales – is false,” state the scientists in their article published in the journal Science. Boyd is chief scientific adviser to the UK’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, where Milner also works on secondment, but their criticism reflects their own views. “The effects of dosing whole landscapes with chemicals have been largely ignored by regulatory systems,” the scientists said. “This can and should be changed.” They contrast this situation with pharmaceuticals, for which there is a system of rigorous global monitoring after a drug is approved in case adverse effects emerge. “Vigilance on the scale that is required for medicines does not exist to assess the effects of pesticides in the environment,” they said. They cite the UK as an example of one of the most developed regulatory systems: “Yet it has no systematic monitoring of pesticide residues in the environment. There is no consideration of safe pesticide limits at landscape scales.” The scientists’ article also criticises the widespread use of pesticides as preventive treatments, rather than being used sparingly and only when needed. Farms could slash pesticide use without losses, research reveals Read more Milner told the Guardian: “We want to start a discussion about how we can introduce a global monitoring programme for pesticides, similar to pharmaceuticals. It can take years to fully understand the environmental impact.” “Any chemical you put into the environment has the potential to be widely distributed,” she said. “We’ve known this for decades, particularly through the early work in the 1960s – the Silent Spring,...

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Plants are capable of complex decision-making

Plants are capable of complex decision-making

 Earth Matters > Wilderness & Resources They might not have brains, but that doesn’t mean they’re dim-witted. BRYAN NELSON December 29, 2017, 4:51 a.m.   Are plants smarter than we think they are? (Photo: brewbooks/Flickr) Have you ever had the distinct feeling that your houseplants know more than they’re letting on? Well, your intuition might not be far off. We already know that plants are capable of learning and adapting to their environment, just like any organism. But a new study out of Tübingen University seems to suggest that plants can do more than just adapt. They can actually make decisions, and fairly complex decisions at that. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Plants might be rooted, but their environments can be intricate, and the contexts where they’re situated can change. In fact, researchers discovered that competition and a dynamic environment are what really pushes plant decision-making to its limits. For instance, when vying with competitors for limited sunlight, a plant is faced with having to choose among a number of options. It can attempt to outgrow its neighbors, thus gaining more access to light. It can also attempt to go into a low-light survival mode, if it doesn’t deem an arms race to be worthwhile. The plant might also need to determine which way it should grow to best maximize its resources. “In our study we wanted to learn if plants can choose between these responses and match them to the relative size and density of their opponents,” said Michal Gruntman, one of the study’s researchers, in a press release. In the experiment, whenever plants were presented with tall competitors, they would go into shade-tolerance mode. Conversely, when plants were surrounded by small, dense vegetation, they would attempt to grow vertically. But there were also subtler decisions built into each of these scenarios, too. For instance, plants in shade-tolerance mode would make their leaves thinner and wider (to capture as much light as possible) relative to the level of their competition. “Such an ability to choose between different responses according to their outcome could be particularly important in heterogeneous environments, where plants can grow by chance under neighbors with different size, age or density, and should therefore be able to choose their appropriate strategy,” said Gruntman. All of this essentially means that scientists are beginning to look more closely at how plants work through their decisions. Obviously plants don’t have nervous systems, so more research will be needed to see exactly how these decision-making mechanisms operate within our flora friends. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications. Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click...

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Christmas Lunch at Totties.

Christmas Lunch at Totties.

My apologies for the delayed posting of this wonderful event that we had in early December.  I had a very stupid accident injuring my index finger.  Seven stitches and one month later I have some function back! The gallery below is a testament of a happy gathering, wonderful companionship and delectable food. A big thank you to Dirk van der Zeyden for the lovely pics.   Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new...

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February Meeting: The art of the indigenous tree

February Meeting: The art of the indigenous tree

“Over the years, while cutting the logs, I witnessed some of nature’s most breathtaking pieces of art.  Lifting the plank from the log is the moment the grain reveals itself in all its splendor.  A canvas, hidden away for centuries, flaunting its beauty.  My father personified a tree.  He said, trees are like humans.  Through the years I formed my own analogy.  To me trees are work of art.  I am comparing the characteristics of some of the well knows indigenous trees, like yellowood, with well known artists like Da Vinci.” ~ Dalena Wolmerans We are delighted to announce that Dalena Wolmerans will be our speaker at our February meeting which will take place: Venue: Leisure Isle Bowling Club Date: 2nd February Time: 10.00 am Visitors are welcome – R20.00 per person.  Please note that our AGM will take place before the talk, this formality will only take a few minutes. Subs are due for the ensuing year – R120, please bring cash or you can  do an EFT transfer: INVESTEC BANK Name: Gardening @ Leisure CCM: Call Money Fund Account Number: 50010447101 Branch Code: 580105   THE LIFE OF A WOODCUTTER Dalena Wolmarans gave a thought-provoking talk during the Knysna Timber Festival on Friday, October 9. Photo: Fran Kirsten. KNYSNA NEWS – “As a toddler I remember my father buying blackwood at the local timber auctions,” said Dalena Wolmarans (née Stander) in her Knysna Timber Festival talk. Wolmarans was one of ten speakers sharing their timber knowledge with festival-goers. She compared her life to that of the alien blackwood tree. “Not withstanding its alien status, the blackwood has played a critical role. She had the audience captivated as she told several anecdotes about her father, Adam Stander. One such story was that her father had two birthdays, the date on which he was born and the date on which his birth was registered. Wolmarans said that her father would insist on celebrating both. “He loved the confusion and would use it to his best advantage.” Her love for her father was evident throughout her talk. “As a boy he had to negotiate between school and work in his father’s woodcutting team. Reaching standard six, he left school and became a full-time member of the team, cutting indigenous trees in the Knysna Forest. They provided products, like sleepers, to the local timber merchants, merchants who, the stories go, changed their orders the moment they saw what was on the ox-wagon.” According to Wolmarans the timber merchants of those days showed little respect to the woodcutters, always beating down the agreed price. “Grateful for any payment, the woodcutters often accepted a ‘good-for’ (a list of basic goods they were allowed...

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Streetlights could be replaced by glow-in-the-dark trees after scientists create plants that shine like fireflies

Streetlights could be replaced by glow-in-the-dark trees after scientists create plants that shine like fireflies

  Experts injected specialised nanoparticles into the leaves of a watercress plant This caused it to give off a dim light, that lit up the pages of a book, for 3.5 hours  The enzyme involved, luciferase, is created by fireflies in their fluorescent glow The team hopes to develop a way to paint the nanoparticles onto plant leaves This would allow them to create much larger lights out of trees and bigger plants  By Tim Collins For Mailonline PUBLISHED: 10:19 GMT, 14 December 2017 | UPDATED: 11:47 GMT, 14 December 2017 Roads of the future could be lit by glowing trees instead of streetlamps, thanks to a breakthrough in creating bioluminescent plants. Experts injected specialised nanoparticles into the leaves of a watercress plant, which caused it to give off a dim light for nearly four hours. The chemical involved, which produced enough light to read a book by, is the same as is used by fireflies to create their characteristic shine. Scroll down for video Roads of the future could be lit by glowing trees instead of streetlamps, thanks to a breakthrough in creating bioluminescent plants. Experts created a watercress plant which caused it to glow for nearly four hours and gave off enough light to illuminate this book HOW DOES IT WORK? Luciferases make up a class of oxidative enzymes found in several species that enable them to ‘bioluminesce’, or emit light. Fireflies are able to emit light via a chemical reaction in which luciferin is converted to oxyluciferin by the luciferase enzyme. Some of the energy released by this reaction is in the form of light. The reaction is highly efficient, meaning nearly all the energy put into the reaction is rapidly converted to light. Lighting accounts for around 20 per cent of worldwide energy consumption, so replacing them with naturally bioluminescent plants would represent a significant cut to CO2 emissions. To create their glowing plants, engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) turned to an enzyme called luciferase. Luciferase acts on a molecule called luciferin, causing it to emit light. Another molecule called Co-enzyme A helps the process along by removing a reaction byproduct that can inhibit luciferase activity. The MIT team packaged each of these components into a different type of nanoparticle carrier. The nanoparticles help them to get to the right part of the plant and also prevent them from building to concentrations that could be toxic to the plants. The result was a watercress plant that functioned like a desk lamp. Researchers believe with further tweaking, the technology could also be used to provide lights bright enough to illuminate a workspace or even an entire street, as well as low-intensity indoor lighting. Michael Strano, professor of chemical engineering at MIT...

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