Suspected third bird flu case in Co Clare
A wild bird has died on Lough Derg, with initial tests showing bird flu as the cause of death after two previous cases of a deadly strain of the virus were confirmed in recent weeks.

The volunteer group supporting the re-introduction of white-tailed sea eagles in Mountshannon, Co Clare, has announced the death of a female bird of that species known as Saoirse.

"Toxicology reports confirmed avian influenza (bird flu) as the cause of death," the group said on its Facebook page.

The Department of Agriculture has not yet confirmed whether this bird died of the deadly H5N6 strain of the virus, which killed another white-tailed sea eagle in Co Tipperary in January.

The H5N6 strain has been spreading in wild birds in mainland Europe and Britain, and infected one farm in the Netherlands last month.

A second case of the virus was confirmed in Ireland on Friday when a wild buzzard tested positive after being found dead on the Tipperary shore of Lough Derg.

Precautions

All keepers of birds must register with the Department of Agriculture. Poultry farmers and owners of backyard flocks are encouraged to keep farmed and wild birds segregated with netting and separate feed and water supplies. Different species of farmed birds should also be kept separate, especially ducks and geese.

If you come across dead or sick birds, do not touch them and report them to the Department of Agriculture's avian influenza hotline on 076-106 4403 during normal office hours or 1850-200 456 outside of normal office hours.

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Full coverage: bird flu

Cows loose on Meath road
Motorists travelling on the R154 near Kiltale, Co Meath, are advised there are reports of cows loose on the road.

The AA roadwatch has received reports of cows loose along a regional road in Co Meath. The incident has been reported near Kiltale on the Trim/Batterstown road (R154).

The reports were recieved at 8.30am and gardaí are en-route to deal with the situation.

Widespread drop in points for agricultural courses
A number of agricultural science courses across the country have seen a reduction in the 2018 entry points requirement, as students opt for engineering courses.

Agricultural courses have seen a widespread drop in points, as many students opt for construction-orientated courses. Over 50,000 students will receive first-round higher-education offers today after getting their Leaving Cert results last week.

Agricultural courses at UCD, Dundalk IT and IT Tralee all experienced drops. General entry to agricultural science at UCD dropped by just four points, but dairy business and agri-environmental science fell by 20 points. IT Tralee courses had some of the largest drops, with its Level 8 agricultural science course falling by 16 points and its Level 7 equivalent falling by 33 points.

Waterford IT was one of the few colleges to buck the trend, with both Level 8 and Level 7 agriculture courses jumping by 14 points and 18 points respectively. Agricultural engineering at Galway-Mayo IT saw a significant increase of 25 points.

Engineering

The increase in interest in engineering courses was reflected across the board. For general engineering courses at UCD, Trinity and NUI Galway points are up from anywhere between 10 and 30. It is likely this has been driven by the rising demand from industry for people with those skills.

Construction management at Dublin IT increased by 20 points to 346, while project and construction management at NUI Galway jumped a massive 32 points to reach 402.

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Nearly 300 agricultural science students hit top Leaving Cert marks

Hijacking of term ‘sustainable’ by anti-GMO groups misleading – UCC scientists
Scientists from University College Cork have said it is grossly misleading of anti-GMO groups to equate GMO cultivation-free status with green, sustainable food production.

The hijacking of the terms ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ by anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) groups is misleading, according scientists at University College Cork (UCC). The criticism comes in the wake of the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) ruling that organisms obtained by gene-editing are also GMOs.

Earlier in July, the Irish Government also passed legislation that would allow Ireland to opt out of any future GMO cultivation in the EU. Speaking at the time of the announcement, Denis Naughten, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, said GMO free-status was a key part of Ireland’s green reputation.

"I believe it is critically important that Ireland takes whatever steps are necessary to maintain our GMO cultivation-free status, which is a key element of our international reputation as a green, sustainable food producer,” he commented.

Gene-editing

Dr Barbara Doyle Prestwich and Dr Eoin Lettice of UCC have said it is grossly misleading to equate "GMO cultivation-free status with green, sustainable food [production]". They have organised the International Association for Plant Biotechnology’s (IAPB) congress, which is taking place in Dublin this week. It is their hope it will provide an opportunity to demonstrate the scientific evidence on the safety and economic viability of utilising biotechnology, such as gene-editing, in agriculture.

“The next generation of gene-edited crops has the potential to cut climate emissions in agriculture and boost global food security. Such crops are far more ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ than they are given credit for and should be utilised as part of any sustainable food production system, including organic agriculture,” said Dr Lettice.

He added that in 2016 alone fewer insecticide sprays due to the adoption of GM crops resulted in a reduction of 26.7bn kg of CO2 emissions – equivalent to removing 11.9m cars off the road.

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