Sunday, 6 January 2019

Ruiteren & Mennen ragwort nonsense

There has been some discussion on social media promoting the website of a Dutch foundation called Ruiteren & Mennen whilst at the same time attacking the reputation of ragwort expert Esther Hegt. Esther runs an excellent website on the issue . She is an intelligent and knowledgeable person who has worked with a large number of experts on the issue as can be seen from the list of co-contributors on her site.  The same cannot be said for the anonymous author of the Ruiteren & Mennen article which I am discussing here.

Regular readers of this blog will not be in the least surprised to learn that Ruiteren & Mennen are talking complete and utter nonsense. We know from clinical psychological research that people who obsess over the cuddly wuddly image of animals too much, often do not have as clear a perception of what is actually factually accurate. So this may actually be the problem here but there does seem to be a deliberate attempt  to misrepresent things.
I should say that I do not really speak Dutch. I would describe myself as a dabbling linguist. If I go to a country I learn some of the language first. I have got rather a knack with languages so it isn't too difficult for me. It is useful for example if you arrive at a Polish train station and are confronted  with 2 trains that have just pulled in going in opposite directions and quickly need to ask which one is going the way you want to go.

 The total number of languages I have studied comes to around a dozen, but I wouldn't claim fluency in most of those and also with some I have probably almost forgotten them, but I have visited The Netherlands so I know some of the language and also I studied German in school and there is a level of broad similarity which helps. It is rather in the way in which my school French helps with the other Latin derived languages. ( I also know some Latin.) I am relying on this basic knowledge some discussions with a native Dutch speaker and machine translations. I shall be using these translations below, but I will be applying my own knowledge to improve them,change to the correct word order etc,

Let's get started. I can't cover all the nonsense but these are some main points. They make this well-known false claim about the law.

In England, landowners are obliged to combat ragwort and prevent spread. If one remains in default, one can even count on a fine of no less than £ 5000.00 or 2 years imprisonment.
This is nonsense. You are not obliged to control the plant by law. You may be ordered to control it but it isn't compulsory and the claim that there is an automatic minimum fine of £5000 is of course wrong!

Claims like this this have led to advertisements being stopped after action by the Advertising Standards Authority ASA.

Incidentally, they also get their geography wrong. England is not the same as the United Kingdom. I am a British citizen with a British passport, but I am not English and a lot of my time I even speak another language indigenous to these isles.

Then there is this piece of nonsensical exaggeration.

The first year ragwort has a rosette-shaped growth, in the second year the flower stalks will form 150,000 to 200,000 fluffy seeds.
An advert claiming that just the lower of these two figures for seed production has been banned by the ASA too.

As you can see there is a pattern of nonsense emerging. Then there is a silly list of supposedly confirmed cases of ragwort poisoning. The person writing this stuff for Ruiteren & Mennen simply does  not know the science. You cannot, I repeat cannot, have a confirmed case of ragwort poisoning unless you actually saw the poisoning taking place, and even then care is needed.  There is no test which can confirm ragwort poisoning 100%.    There are other things that cause indistinguishable changes in the liver.

Then we have some ridiculous nonsense about bees.

  1.      Excessive consumption of PAs may lead to physical attenuation and premature mortality in bees 
   2.      Bees are forced to feed their queens and larvae with pollen and nectar that contains an overdose of PAs. It is unknown whether this leads to premature death of the larvae or the eventually occurring bees. PAs may cause bee disorientation for bees. 
   3.      Insects, but also insect eaters, are potentially hampered by the excessive toxins in their reproduction. PAs can damage the DNA

Oh dear! This completely misunderstands the biochemistry. PAs (Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids) aren't poisonous in themselves.  It is breakdown products produced in the vertebrate liver that are the problem.There is no evidence that this happens in invertebrates like bees!. Indeed the evidence is to the contrary. The author of this tripe ridden rant from Ruiteren & Mennen has used Friends of the Earth as a reference and their document on ragwort makes it clear that there are even bee species that specialise in using yellow flowers like ragwort.

Then, in my honest opinion, the writer of this awful post from Ruiteren & Mennen confirms their lack of understanding of the scientific method in a spectacular way.

In 2005 my then neighbor, for 2 days, removed manually standing ragwort in bloom from  a horse meadow   of an acquaintance When I met him at the end of the 2nd day, he graciously showed his green hands and forearms and said "Oh what a job, maybe I should have worn gloves anyway".
He was dead two years later. Died of cancer of the lungs and liver. A healthy, vital 70-year-old man, who suddenly got serious fatigue symptoms, became ill and died.  

Oh my goodness me! What a load of claptrap! Surely anyone with knowledge of science , logic and critical thinking knows you cannot make an argument like this and be taken seriously? Just because one event happened and another one followed doesn't mean they are connected. The thinking here seems positively  medieval.

Incidentally, you get liver cancer or lung cancer. It is not usual to get the two together and it would be most usual for it to start in the lungs and spread. The liver being a common place for it to spread to.

All in all the Ruiteren & Mennen stuff seems to be complete nonsense written by a person showing great ignorance of logic and science.  The problem is that a lot of people will believe this stuff because they themselves don't have the skills to spot that a long scientific sounding post full of fancy language  is actually "bovine excretion". If anyone repeats this stuff beware they are using scaremongering nonsense!

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