Data: quality farm soil disappearing + Europe: syphilis up by 70% since 2010

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The soil crisis: Why quality dirt is disappearing from farmland
http://www.bbc.com/future/bespoke/follow...rom-farms/

EXCERPT: . . . The same picture is seen on farms worldwide. Soils are becoming severely degraded due to a combination of intensive farming practices and natural processes. As the layer of fertile topsoil thins, it gets increasingly difficult to grow crops for food. Without altering agricultural practices and urgently finding ways to preserve soil, the global food supply starts to look precarious.

Even in Iowa’s still-fertile fields, the loss of soil is concerning. In just one spring in 2014, Iowa lost nearly 14 million tonnes of soil from its cropland in a series of storms, according to environmental groups. A study of 82 sites in 21 counties by Iowa State University showed that in the 50 years from 1959, soil structure and levels of organic matter had degraded while acidity had increased.

“Erosion from the wind is not as bad as it used to be in the dust bowl era, but in the past 20 years the rainfall pattern has changed,” says Paula Ellis, a farmer in south-east Iowa’s Lee County. “We used to get one to two inches of rain every other week, but now we are getting bigger rain events where six inches fall and that hits the soil on farms.”

The problems facing Iowa are by no means unique. [...] The processes that generate high-quality, fertile topsoil can take centuries. But the world is ploughing through that resource at an alarming rate. About 40% of the world's land has already been taken over by agriculture, while livestock grazing and expanding urban areas are taking further chunks out of what is left over.

At first glance, it might seem that there is no shortage of mud and dirt around the world. But it's the quality that really counts. “Many types of soil degradation are invisible,” says Ronald Vargas, secretary of the global soil partnership at the FAO in Rome. “You just don’t see the loss of organic carbon from soils or pollution building up in it until you try to plant crops there.” Erosion, compaction, nutrient imbalance, pollution, acidification, water logging, loss of soil biodiversity and increasing salinity have been affecting soil across the globe, reducing its ability to support plant life and so grow crops. (MORE - details)



Europe: syphilis notifications up by 70% since 2010
https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/...071219.php

EXCERPT: The number of syphilis cases has been consistently going up across Europe since 2010, mostly affecting men who have sex with men living in urban areas. [...] Between 2010 and 2017, 15 countries reported an increase in the notification rate of more than 15%. However, this varied greatly among countries with rates more than doubling in five countries: Iceland (876%), Ireland (224%), the United Kingdom (153%), Germany (144%) and Malta (123%). On the other hand, Estonia and Romania reported a drop of 50% or more over the same period.

During this period, syphilis diagnoses were consistently higher among men, with rates doubling from 6.1 per 100 000 in 2010 to 12.1 in 2017. Between 2007 and 2017, close to two-thirds (62%, 94 015 of the 152 233 cases where sexual orientation was known) were reported among men who have sex with men. Heterosexual men contributed 23% of cases and women 15%. The proportion of cases diagnosed among men who have sex with men ranged from below 20% in Latvia, Lithuania and Romania to more than 80% in France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The ECDC study looked at more than 60 studies reporting on rising syphilis trends in high-income countries since the early 2000s. "There is a clear relationship between sexual risk behaviour and the risk of syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases", states Andrew Amato-Gauci, Head of the ECDC programme on HIV, STI and viral hepatitis. "The increases in syphilis infections that we see across Europe, as well as other countries around the world, are a result of several factors such as people having sex without condoms and multiple sexual partners combined with a reduced fear of acquiring HIV", Amato continues. "To reverse this trend, we need to encourage people to use condoms consistently with new and casual partners. Regular tests for syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections should also be part of the parcel, especially if there has been a risk of infection."

In addition, response measures should be informed by sound epidemiological data and targeted towards affected population groups taking into account the main determinants of transmission. The response to syphilis outbreaks or programmatic control should include a combination of:

case finding, including screening of at-risk groups, partner notification and surveillance activities,
case management with appropriate treatment following diagnosis,
educational activities directed at the general population, those at-risk of syphilis infection, and at healthcare providers. (MORE - details)
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