News by Professionals 4 Professionals

Thousands expected at Notting Hill Carnival grand finale

Thousands more partygoers are expected to head to the second and final day of the Notting Hill Carnival. Monday will mark the Grand Finale of the west London event’s 50th anniversary, which has this year hosted 60 bands and 38 sound systems. On Sunday, families gathered in fancy dress and face paint to watch the parades dedicated especially to children.

Simo Lagnawi, from Morocco, attracted a large crowd as he performed along the streets with his band Gnawa London. He said: “The origin of our music is in slavery. It’s very powerful. We go everywhere we can to play our music and show what it’s about.

“We always have a great time wherever we play.”

But it was still a day of hard work for the emergency services as the London Ambulance Service said it had treated a total of 411 patients and taken 74 to hospital. They include a man who was left fighting for his life following one of four reported knife attacks.

Scotland Yard said it had arrested 105 people over the same time for a variety of alleged offences. These included four alleged sexual offences, 74 drugs offences, 24 counts of possession of offensive weapons, nine counts of actual bodily harm, two of grievous bodily harm, two alleged thefts and nine counts of public disorder. Officers also seized more than 150 canisters of nitrous oxide – with a street value of over 2,000 – from Wormington Road, Kensington and Chelsea.

Metropolitan Police licensing officers also seized over 500 cans of lager from a man engaged in illegal street trading in Westbourne Park Road. The man was selling the drinks out of a wheelie bin. There were no arrests but both investigations have been referred to Trading Standards.

A heavy police presence will continue into Monday as the Met has introduced advanced security measures, including a facial recognition system.

Post-Brexit funding gap ‘will threaten impartiality of university research’

Scientists have raised concerns about the increasing privatisation of academic research once the UK leaves the European Union, after it emerged two multinational pesticide manufacturers have given millions of pounds to universities. The firms, Bayer and Syngenta, which both sell neonicotinoid insecticides linked to harmful effects on bees, gave a combined total of 16.1m to 70 British universities to fund a range of research projects between 2011 and 2016, according to figures obtained under Freedom of Information Act by Greenpeace. Of this, about 2.6m was spent on plant sciences, including research into pesticides. Leading bee scientists expressed concern that such private funding could create a conflict of interest for academics and warned that after Brexit a potential shortage of public money for science could force universities to seek more finance from the private sector.

Neonicotinoids were once thought to have little or no negative effects on the environment because they are used in low doses and as a seed coating, rather than being sprayed. But evidence has been mounting that the chemicals do harm bees important pollinators of food crops with one recent study linking their use to large-scale population extinctions 1. As a result, neonicotinoids have been banned by the EU although they can still be used under licence.

However both firms deny there is evidence to show the pesticides cause a significant problem for bees. According to Bayer s website2, academics who reviewed 15 years of research found no adverse effects to bee colonies were ever observed in field studies . And Syngenta says3: Many years of independent monitoring prove that when used properly as they consistently are neonicotinoids do not damage the health of bee populations.

Between 2011 and 2016, the figures obtained from the 70 universities about half the total in the UK show Bayer gave 9m to fund research, including more than 345,000 on plant sciences. Syngenta spent nearly 7.1m, including just under 2.3m on plant sciences. Ben Stewart, of Greenpeace UK s “Brexit response team”, said the decline in bee populations was a major environmental and food security concern .

Its causes need to be properly investigated to give us a chance to stop it, he said.

But for this research to command public confidence, it needs to be independent and impartial, which is why public funding is so crucial. You wouldn t want lung cancer studies to be heavily reliant on funds from tobacco firms, nor research on pesticides to be dependent on the companies making them.

He called on the Government to ensure scientists had access to the same level of funding after Brexit.

As Brexit threatens to cut off vital public funds for this scientific field, our universities need a cast-iron guarantee from our Government that EU money will not be replaced by corporate cash, Mr Stewart added. Dr Christopher Connolly, a Dundee University neurobiologist who studies pesticides effects on bees, said there was nothing wrong with working with industry especially in medicine . But he said he was concerned that the independence of British academics could be undermined if private money became all important to universities, particularly after Brexit.

Brexit protest: Thousands march in London

The opportunities will be greater for industry as the loss of EU research funding will be crippling to the UK, he said.

If that was the only major source of research funding that was coming, it wouldn t be long before we ended up like the US, where they are very heavily dependent on industry relationships. The UK doesn t fund enough research so researchers have to rely on industry and it s getting worse and worse. He was scathing about Bayer and Syngenta s claims that neonicotinoids did not harm bees.

People say it s a controversial area, but it s not really, Dr Connolly said.

Independent scientists tend not to disagree. It s industry that tends to be saying they are safe. Professor Dave Goulson, a Sussex University biologist who specialises in bumblebees and is the author of the best-selling book A Sting in the Tale, also said there were plenty of examples where it was good for industry to work with academics.

But clearly there are instances where it is not appropriate, particularly if the funding is coming from industry and it s to study the safety of their own products, products they may be making literally billions from selling, he said.

If you do get money from industry, you are kind of under pressure to keep them sweet so they will give you more money. You will inevitably feel under some pressure to please them, to give them what they want. It creates a conflict of interest.

Professor Joyce Tait, a social scientist at Edinburgh University who studies agriculture and other issues, carried out a study into regulation of the agrochemical industry in 2013, funded by the Government s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Syngenta. She told The Independent she had received 20,000 from each. Professor Tait said the resulting report discussed how the EU dealt with genetically modified crops, which Syngenta makes.

It wasn t biased in favour of Syngenta but it was at the end of the day critical of the political biases that were very clear within the EU regulatory system against GM crops, she said, adding that EU politicians had ignored expert advice from the European Food Safety Authority.

She stressed the ESRC would not have tolerated a report that was skewed in favour of Syngenta.

If there was any obvious bias, they the ESRC would have wanted to pick it up, she said. Syngenta didn t have any say in what we reported. They weren t pressuring us to bring it out in their favour. Professor Tait added that she believed the balance of the evidence is now shifting more towards, yes, the neonicotinoids do have an impact on at least some bee species and we probably need to do something about that . Syngenta did not respond to a request for comment by The Independent.

Dr Julian Little, of Bayer, said he did not have the total figure for the firm s spending on research in the UK, but said it had given more than 1m to fund research into neonicotinoids effects on bees by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) in Oxfordshire. It was also involved in 40 different projects with 23 universities and tended to be funding 12 to 15 PhD students at any one time, he said. Dr Little, who said the CEH research would be published later this year, stressed they were only interested in the best science even if it found evidence that might cause the company a problem.

I ve not met too many academics who say what result would you like , he said.

We want to work with the best people, the ones that really know their stuff.

The people we work with are the best people and they are fiercely independent.

I cannot believe for a moment any one of them would go oh I better not say that, just in case the company doesn t like it .

Post-Brexit Funding Gap 'will Threaten Impartiality Of University Research'Reuse content4

References

  1. ^ with one recent study linking their use to large-scale population extinctions (www.independent.co.uk)
  2. ^ Bayer s website (beecare.bayer.com)
  3. ^ Syngenta says (www3.syngenta.com)
  4. ^ Reuse content (www.independent.co.uk)

Six-week road closure for water main upgrade

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