AVA widens test on veggies from Europe

THE Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has gone from flagging only vegetables from Spain and Germany to flagging greens from the rest of the European Union (EU).

The widening of its ‘hold-and-test’ requirement comes on the heels of a deadly E. coli outbreak in Germany, thought to be spread through contaminated cucumbers imported from Spain.

The ‘hold-and-test’ procedure refers to the practice of sending suspected items for tests and withholding their sale until they are found to be free of contaminants.

On Sunday, the AVA had said it would place imported leafy vegetables, cucumbers and tomatoes from Germany and Spain under hold-and-test, but it has since confirmed that cucumbers from Germany, Spain and Denmark are not brought in here.

Some, however, do come in from the Netherlands; between January and last month, 69kg of cucumbers were imported.

Yesterday, the AVA spokesman said: ‘In view of the recent situation, AVA will place imported leafy vegetables, cucumbers and tomatoes from the EU under hold-and-test, should there be such imports.’

AVA widens test on veggies from Europe

Flower bandit filches Cleveland Park blooms

They’ve waged war against deer and battled hungry possums that snatch tomatoes just when they are at the peak of their flavor. But there’s one pest the Newark Street gardeners have been unable to thwart: a certain two-legged rat with a penchant for peonies.

For 10 years, gardeners in this Northwest Washington neighborhood believe the same man has been stealing spring blooms from their plots in the Newark Street Community Garden. Not just a few stems, mind you, but bunches — as many as 30 to 50 at a time.

“He does this every year, starting with the peonies,” said Marcia Stein, one of the flower thief’s victims, who lost a bunch of blooms this month. “Last year, he stole all of my peonies.”

Gardeners say the suspect has expensive taste. He ignores lesser flowers in favor of pricier blooms. (At Johnson’s Florist and Garden Center in Cleveland Park, peonies sell for $8.99 a stem.)

And when he steals them, he’s not gentle: He rips the blooms right out of the ground.

For years, the gardeners kept quiet, fearful that publicity would encourage more thefts.

Hawaiian stilts make comeback in bog

On the red mud of Waipahu’s Pouhala Marsh, a Hawaiian stilt flapped its wings, trying to lure away a potential predator of its young.

The predator, Jason Misaki’s white pickup truck, stopped several feet away. Misaki hopped out and walked a wide circle, looking into patches of vegetation for the stilt’s fledglings.

Earlier that morning, Mi­saki caught three stilt chicks by hand and placed colored bands on the birds’ long legs as part of a survey of the number of stilts born at the marsh.

This year, the number of fledglings at Pouhala is on track to surpass any year since the state began restoring the marsh nine years ago — a sign of its successful recovery.

The 70-acre marsh is the largest wetland in Pearl Harbor and provides an important habitat for the Hawaiian stilt, along with the Hawaiian coot and moorhen, all endangered Hawaiian water birds. Hawaiian stilts number about 1,500 today. About 100 typically feed at Pouhala Marsh at any given time.

Misaki, the state’s wildlife program manager for Oahu, said preserving Pouhala is an important part of saving the stilt, which differs from the North American stilt by having more black on its head and neck.

Misaki said preserving species native to Hawaii is important because “it’s their habitat. These are symbols of Hawaii, a symbol of the people of Hawaii, the landscape and the animals of Hawaii.”

E. coli-infected cucumbers may have been sent to Austria, Hungary, Luxembourg

PRAGUE, Czech Republic — Spanish vegetables suspected of contamination with a potentially deadly bacteria are being recalled from stores in Austria and the Czech Republic to prevent the spread of a deadly outbreak, officials said Sunday.

The death toll from the bacteria rose to at least 10 people, and hundreds across Europe have been sickened.
Continue reading

HC&S: Sugar ‘at the top,’ can anything knock it off?


Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Hawaii will arrive on Maui this summer to work with Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. to study crops, growing conditions and other issues in developing biofuels on the island.

The 130-year-old plantation is working with federal and state partners to help determine not only its own future, but also the future of growing biofuel crops in Hawaii to power both the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet and private vehicles across the state. The end result could be the development of a biofuel refinery for HC&S, said company General Manager Rick Volner Jr.

The goal is to transition HC&S into a leading “energy farm,” and develop the resources to sell commercial jet and diesel fuels to the government and private consumers.

Success could guarantee that the company would continue to employ around 800 people, and perhaps even more, company officials said.

“There are no firm deadlines for this project, but the sooner we can decide, the easier it will be for the board of Alexander & Baldwin (HC&S’s parent company) to fund some of these products, and obviously we will need to make some capital investments,” Volner said last week. “But we’re more interested in making the right decision than when we make it.”

Mackay Sugar secures 30pc in Tully takeover

DISTRIBUTOR and marketer Queensland Sugar has decided to sell its 19.9 per cent stake in Tully Sugar to takeover contender Mackay Sugar for $43 a share, sparking a fresh bidding war from two other interested parties, US giant Bunge and China’s state-owned Cofco.

The news came as Cofco announced the Foreign Investment Review Board had approved its deal to buy a 19.9 per cent stake in Tully and its decision to increase the holding.

On Friday, Mackay upgraded its offer for Tully by $2 to $43 a share (the same price offered by Bunge and Cofco), valuing Tully at $132.9 million.

The combined Queensland Sugar/Mackay holding in Tully now totals almost 30 per cent.

Cofco has a precommitment for a 19.9 per cent stake and Bunge has a small stake.

Mackay’s bid is backed by French-based commodity trader Louis Dreyfus, which has agreed to provide debt funding of up to $102m.

Tully is one of the last independent, grower-owned sugar mills in Australia and also owns residential properties in far north Queensland and other assets.

Mackay is the country’s second-biggest sugar milling company, owning three mills and a refinery in Queensland.

Review of Hawaiian Artists At American Indian Museum and Transformer Gallery

“This IS Hawai’i” may not be a big show, but as an example of crosstown collaboration, it is a big deal. It’s a two-venue exhibit, occupying not only Transformer Gallery’s Logan Circle area storefront but also the National Museum of the American Indian’s Sealaska Gallery. The show features works from four contemporary native Hawaiian artists, but it feels like — and aspires to be — a much larger survey.

In Washington, dialogue between the local art scene and major museums is rare. Transformer Gallery director Victoria Reis bucks the trend, co-hosting programs with the Phillips Collection, the Hirshhorn Museum and the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Reis made headlines in November by leading local opposition to the removal of artist David Wojnarowicz’s video from the National Portrait Gallery’s “Hide/Seek” exhibit. With the Hawaii show, she switches from fighting censorship at the Smithsonian to inserting her programming directly into one of its museums.

Independent curator Isabella Hughes turns in an equally impressive performance. Hughes brings together four artists from the island of Oahu, all focused on struggles between indigenous and invasive — but using sharply divergent materials and methods.

At the National Museum of the American Indian, the works of Carl F.K. Pao and Solomon Enos offer opposing relationships to museum culture. Pao presents institutional critique that would make little sense outside a museum setting. Enos is a comics artist, creating works meant to be seen in print by general audiences.

Axis deer on Hawaii island pose problem for state

State officials are developing plans to remove axis deer in Hawaii County before damage becomes significant to ranch grasslands, farm crops and plants that are vital to maintain watershed areas.

“We will need to take quick and effective action to prevent costly and destructive impacts on the Big Island that will last for generations, perhaps forever,” said William Aila, director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Kahua Ranch Ltd. Chairman Monte Richards said axis deer can cause great damage to Hawaii island’s forest in Kohala and become difficult to remove once they’re established.

“The thing is to get to them early, and you’ve got a chance,” Richards said.

Richards said Hawaii island ranchers successfully fought against the idea of importing axis deer in the 1960s. He suspects the axis deer were illegally shipped to the island in recent years by someone who wanted the animal for game hunting.

State conservation officials working closely with trackers and using game cameras to survey areas in recent weeks have confirmed the presence of axis deer across the island, including in Kohala, Kau, Kona and Mauna Kea.

New Hawaii cases of rat lungworm infection reported

Four probable cases of rat lungworm infection have been detected on the Big Island.

Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Friday the cases are disturbing because the disease is usually found during the winter season.

East Hawaii epidemiological specialist Marlena Dixon says rat lungworm is a parasite that causes a rare form of meningitis and is difficult to diagnose because of a wide array of symptoms.

Symptoms can include severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness and numbness.

In a severe 2009 case former Big Island resident Graham McCumber spent three months in a coma.

Dixon says the disease can be contracted when people mistakenly eat small slugs on the surface of leafy green vegetables.

Slugs and snails become carriers when they eat feces of rats carrying the parasite.

New Hawaii cases of rat lungworm infection reported – Hawaii News – Staradvertiser.com