Stop Colony Trafficking
New findings from a study by University of California Berkeley and Exeter University biologists on the spread of the deformed wing virus, which is affecting European honeybee colonies around the planet as well as wild bee populations, point to human transport and trade of bees. The virus becomes a problem when carried by the Varroa mite that infests many European honeybees, Apis melliferis. To determine the course and source of the virus’s spread around the globe, a UC Berkeley researcher Michael Boots, professor of integrative biology, collaborated with colleagues at Exeter University in the UK to analyze the genomes of viruses collected from around Europe, Asia, Australia and North America.
They determined that most of the viruses can be traced to European honeybee colonies. The finding suggests that the pandemic is manmade rather than naturally occurring, with human trade and transportation of bees for crop pollination driving the spread. The main spreaders are colony traders in Europe and North America, the researchers found.
To reduce the negative effects of the deformed wing virus on beekeeping and wild pollinators, the researchers urge tighter controls, such as the imposition of mandatory health screenings and regulated movement of honeybees across borders, with every effort made to maintain the current Varroa-free refugia for the conservation of wild and managed pollinators.
60 Per Cent of Europe Engaged in European Biotech Week
EuropaBio recently announced the outcomes of European Biotech Week 2015. Created three years ago with the objective of fostering dialogue and information sharing in the scientifically complex and often misunderstood area of biotechnology, the event also offers all stakeholders including industry, academia, public and private institutions as well as individual citizens the opportunity to dialogue, raise awareness and debate about the science, the products and the benefits that biotechnology brings in areas as diverse as healthcare, agriculture, food, energy and industrial processing.
According to Nathalie Moll, EuropaBio secretary general, this year saw a record 15 countries participating to organise over 100 events across Europe. “Our members are committed to developing tools and solutions for some of the world’s main challenges and we have a responsibility to share what we know and to facilitate an open discussion among all stakeholders to accompany these developments.”
The 100+ initiatives organised this year by a myriad of biotech associations, universities, cultural and research centres, government institutions, schools, large and small biotech companies and science museums involved thousands of Europeans in a much needed effort to unravel the complexities of this revolutionary science and how it is harnessed for the benefit of society. All these events were also covered live on social media, contributing to the success of the #biotechweek campaign which reached nearly 17,000 impressions and a 19 per cent growth in followers over two weeks and inspired new organisations to get involved.
Shedding light on the outcomes of the European Biotech Week, EuropaBio has also recently release a magazine, which contains photos, and short reports for each of the many events and initiatives that took place last year. You can find it online at: www.biotechweek.org/2015-biotech-week-magazine-now-online.
License to Farm
Consumers are more interested than ever before in knowing where their food comes from – how it was grown, produced and processed – and a new Canadian documentary film encourages farmers to step up and join the conversation.
License to Farm, which premiered January 2016, encourages farmers to talk about every aspect of their business, from technology to food safety, science to the environment. The 30-minute documentary, presented by SaskCanola and produced by Berteig Imaging, features conversations with farmers, scientists, professors, consumers and environmentalists.
Janice Tranberg, Executive Director of SaskCanola, says the documentary project arose from the organisation’s mandate to support producers via advocacy and outreach. She says the project was ultimately the vision of the SaskCanola Board of Directors, who are all producers themselves.
“We want License to Farm to kick off a genuine, fact-based dialogue around the very important questions consumers have about their food,” says Tranberg, based in Saskatoon. “We know that farmers have a lot to say about the ways in which innovation and progressive techniques in agriculture have allowed us to not only protect soil quality and reduce environmental impacts, but produce an abundance of quality and nutritious food at the same time. Farmers can’t let their silence take away their social license to farm.”
Joe Schwarcz, Director at McGill University’s Office for Science and Society, says in the film that consumers are bombarded with information about food, but much of it is simply not based in fact.
“These days, when there is so much controversy about many nutritional issues and many farming issues, people are confused and they don’t know who to listen to,” he says. “A lot of the activists who promote what I consider illegitimate fears about our food, they do it very well. They come out with very romanticise arguments, not scientifically based.”
Ian Epp, a master’s student at the University of Saskatchewan, comments in the film how fewer Canadians today have a direct connection to farming and agriculture, whereas a hundred years ago almost every Canadian lived on or near a farm.
“The vast majority of the population is so far removed from agriculture, for the first time ever there is this huge disconnect,” Epp says. Closing the gap will take a concerted effort by both farmer and consumer to have a real conversation.