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Q-fly, scientists on screen and fluoride study questioned

Press Release – Science Media Centre

In the News: What can NZ learn from Japanese earthquakes? In the News: No link found between brain cancer and mobile use Expert Reaction: Water fluoridation and underactive thyroid Expert Reaction: Fruit fly incursionSMC Deadline: Q-fly, scientists on screen and fluoride study questioned

Issue 317, 27 Feb 2015

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In the News: What can NZ learn from Japanese earthquakes?

In the News: No link found between brain cancer and mobile use

Expert Reaction: Water fluoridation and underactive thyroid

Expert Reaction: Fruit fly incursion

In the News: New Chief Scientific Advisor appointed

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Expert Reaction: Latest FSA results from its survey of Campylobacter on fresh chickens

Expert Reaction: Science and Technology Select Committee report on GM regulation

Expert Reaction: Survey of the sugar content of energy drinks

Expert Reaction: Study on dietary emulsifying agents and inflammation in mice

Briefing: Depression and violence

Australian SMC

Expert Reaction: Toxic tuna poisons four city workers in Sydney

Expert Reaction: Cyclone Lam and Cyclone Marcia

Expert Reaction: Tsunami advisory issued for Iwate Prefecture following 6.9 magnitude earthquake off coast of Japan

Media training for scientists

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Fruit fly days numbered
The number of invasive Queensland fruit flies detected in Auckland continues grow, but experts are confident the insects won’t gain a foothold in the city.
The latest update from the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) reports that a total of eight adult Queensland fruit flies have been captured in Auckland. So far, DNA testing has shown all the flies are genetically similar, suggesting they are most likely dealing with a single incursion.

Also know as Q-fly, the species can infest more than 100 kinds of fruit and vegetables and if a breeding population became established in New Zealand it could have significant impact on the horticultural industry.

While the increasing numbers of flies detected are a concern for authorities, experts are optimistic.

Dr Richard Newcomb, Chief Scientist, Plant & Food Research, noted to the SMC this week that most fruit fly incursions are eradicated, citing recent research showing that the success rate sits at 93%, from a total of 198 eradication programmes against fruit flies worldwide.

In the case of the Q-fly he also said that “eradication is aided by the facts that substantial numbers are required to initiate a sustaining population and some peculiar mating behaviour that involves males congregating to attract females. So while the fly is a good traveller it is not always a great coloniser.”

Professor Anthony Clarke, Chair of Fruit Fly Biology and Management, Queensland University of Technology, was also confident the fruit flies would not become permanent residents.

“Population establishment is relatively easy if the fly is not actively controlled, but with prompt action eradication of a small Queensland fruit fly population is technically relatively easy,” he told the SMC.

“New Zealand is probably the best equipped nation in the world to detect and eradicate a fruit fly incursion. The detection of single, or very low numbers flies in New Zealand, should be seen as a sign that the system is working. I am very confident they will eradicate this incursion promptly.”

You can read more expert comments on the SMC website.

SAVVY Express videos
The SMC is launching a new rapid-fire programme to improve scientists’ skills in front of the camera.

Science Media SAVVY Express offers targeted 15 minute sessions for scientists to practice speaking about their research on-camera, with feedback and training from a professional interviewer.

Video interviews take place on-site at a host event’s venue during set time slots over one to two days. We produce a polished 90-second video clip of each scientist using the best content from their session, providing an accessible snapshot of their research.

Participation is open to New Zealand-based researchers attending host events, and is free of charge.

Following a successful pilot with MacDiarmid Institute scientists at their Advanced Materials and Nanotech conference earlier this month, the SMC plans to roll out science video booths at events around the country.

We are actively seeking conferences and scientific meetings that would be interested in hosting SAVVY Express in 2015. Events bringing together New Zealand researchers from a broad cross-section of research institutions and subject areas will be given priority.

For more information, please contact Dacia Herbulock at the Science Media Centre:

Check out the first set of videos from SAVVY Express.
Fluoride claim questioned
Experts are challenging claims that water fluoridation is linked to hypothyroidism.

A new UK study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health suggests water fluoridation — at rates used in New Zealand — is linked to 30 per cent higher than expected rates of under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism) in England.

The authors looked at the prevalence of under-active thyroid, as diagnosed by family doctors, and levels of fluoride in the local drinking water. In areas with fluoride levels above 0.7 mg/l, they found higher than expected rates of hypothyroidism than in areas with levels below this dilution.

In New Zealand, the Ministry of Health recommends fluoride levels in drinking water be adjusted to between .07 and 1.0 mg/L to benefit oral health.

Last year, a joint review from the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Office Prime Minister’s Chiefs Science Advisor, backed these these reccomendations, concluding: “…that water fluoridation continues to provide dental health benefits to the population of New Zealand, with no evidence of serious adverse effects after many decades of exposure.”

Prof David Coggon from the University of Southampton was an external peer reviewer for the New Zealand report. Speaking to the UK SMC he noted that there were many factors that could explain the results of the new study.

“As epidemiological evidence goes, this is about as weak as it gets,” he explained.

“It is quite possible that the observed association is a consequence of other ways in which the areas with higher fluoride differ from the rest of the country. There are substantially more rigorous epidemiological methods by which the research team could have tested their idea”

You can read more expert comment on the study on the Science Media Centre website.

Quoted: Dominion Post

“Too much of a good thing’s a bad thing. You can only have cake so many times before it starts to go to your hips.”

NIWA forecaster Chris Brandolino comments on
Wellington’s dry weather and water restrictions.
Policy news & developments

NHRP funding proposals invited: The Natural Hazards Research Platform announce their contestable round for 2015. Topics will cover a broad range related to natural hazards. Proposals must be submitted by 27 March 2015.

New toolkit to help DHBs in suicide prevention: The Ministry of Health has released a new web resource designed to help DHBs and their communities prevent and respond to suicide.

Old Reefton mines to be cleaned up: New Zealand’s most toxic contaminated site located near Reefton in two old mines are to be cleaned up in a joint funding agreement totalling $3 million between the Ministry for the Environment and the Department of Conservation.

NZ-Japan research to unlock health benefits in food: The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has announced three collaborative research projects with Japan, which will focus on functional foods.
New from Sciblogs

Some of the highlights from this week’s Sciblogs posts:

Digging up the history behind New Zealand’s first dinosaur– Daniel Thomas marks the 40th anniversary of the first dinosaur bone being unearthed in New Zealand by revealing the woman behind the discovery.
Guest Work

The trouble with Net Run Rate – The Cricket World Cup scoring system could be improved, says Seamus Hogan.
The Dismal Science

Blink and its gone – Gareth Renowden shares a spectacular time-lapse of ice retreat at Fox Glacier.
Hot Topic

RIP frank’n’louie, the diprosopic cat – A fish with two mouths gets Alison Campbell thinking about her favourite three eyed cat.
Bio Blog

Paper claiming water fluoridation linked to hypothyroidism slammed by experts – Ken Perrott explains why the research should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Open Parachute

Upcoming events

Please see the SMC Events Calendar for more events and details.

The Kermadecs: an oasis in our ocean – 3 March, Napier. Seaweek Lecture by Anton Van Helden.

Understanding current diagnostic systems – 6 March, Wellington. Lecture on the impacts of changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) by Professor Greg Neimeyer of the University of Florida.

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