Outbreak of togetherness
The future of farming as described in the August 25 cover story (“All that’s green is gold”) is encouraging.
After decades of calls to not undermine the “backbone of the economy”, met by other voices asking “what about animal emissions and water quality?”, we are finally seeing something that could be described as reconciliation between town and country.
There are a number of positive signs: a Dairy NZ workshop reportedly “packed” with people looking for answers to climate change; this week’s release of the Productivity Commission report on a low-emission economy; and dairy companies Synlait and Fonterra talking sustainability and zero emissions.
Green Party co-leader James Shaw has been visiting farms, discussing the how-to of changing farming practices. This is in contrast with longheard negative utterances from people in that sector about “greenies” and all they stood for. Perhaps there are fewer people now with that attitude.
And Simon Bridges, to his credit, has found a voice on the subject, saying that there needs to be a bipartisan approach to climate change.
It’s been a long time coming but the divisions appear to be evaporating. We can breathe again. Selwyn Boorman (Waikanae)
Alan Bollard refers to the Reserve Bank’s expanded toolkit (“Situation: fragile”, September 8). Unfortunately, the Open Bank Resolution (OBR) scissors therein give the mainly New Zealand depositors of our mostly Australian-owned banks a haircut without contemporaneously denuding the equity-holders, mostly Australian, of their ownership.
The shorn locks ought to be fashioned by OBR into new, mainly New Zealand-owned, equity. Tony Gavigan (St Marys Bay, Auckland)
SOFT SOAP ON TOXINS
When I was a Green MP, I coordinated the application for the reassessment of triclosan (“Don’t touch the toxins”, September 1), with the backing of overseas studies, scientists at the Cawthron Institute, the Institute of Environmental Science and Research and Plant & Food Research, and a local soap manufacturer.
The Environmental Protection Authority claimed it would cost $50,000-$250,000 to perform the reassessment. That is a core problem. The EPA needs more funding for reassessments, but also a different approach to risk.
If the precautionary principle was applied, the burden of proof would be on chemical producers to prove safety. The EPA fears challenges from the chemical industry. If it needs greater protection, the law should be changed.
The idea that assessing toxic chemicals is about “balance” is unscientific and irresponsible. Chemicals that are ubiquitous in the home need to be a priority and we cannot afford not to protect ourselves and our environment. Catherine Delahunty (Kauaeranga Valley, Coromandel)
A more balanced, credible and informative article about household chemicals would have taken into consideration the basic principles of toxicology. That is, the dose and the route are major factors in determining whether something is toxic or not.
It is also important to consider that although items such as plastics (including can liners), wallpaper and coatings on cookware do contain hazardous substances, these chemicals are “bound”, which makes it difficult for them to leach into the environment and potentially into the body.
The fundamental issue isn’t that chemicals are in such items, but rather the lack of
information on how much may leach and result in lowlevel exposure and what the consequences are over a lifetime, especially in vulnerable populations such as the young. Lynne Clapham (Upper Moutere, Tasman)
HITTING THE BOTTLE
The September 1 Editorial’s attempt to belittle the need for and value of alcohol policy by repeating the alcohol industry’s erroneous claims of lack of effectiveness is out of step with global and local thinking.
Global health actors such as the UN and WHO recommend evidence-based effective alcohol policies: these include increases in excise tax and restrictions on marketing and hours of sale. Such policies are opposed by the industry because they reduce heavy drinking and therefore their profits.
The conference the Editorial referred to asked the question, “Who should pay for all the
harm from alcohol?”, which in New Zealand is put at $7.8 billion a year. Part of the solution was outlined by Australian economist John Marsden: increase alcohol excise tax and the burden falls mainly on the heavy drinker (who reduces his or her drinking somewhat but also pays more); this provides revenue for the government and offsets the economic costs that are otherwise paid for from the taxes of lighter and non-drinkers. Sally Casswell, Director, Social and Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation (SHORE), Massey University The conference the Editorial referred to was not anti-liquor – I was probably one of the few there who does not imbibe. Attendees wish to see something done about the harm that alcohol causes in our community – 1000 deaths a year, for starters. Falling consumption is irrelevant when alcohol harm has increased. Dennis Veal (Timaru)