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World Rugby criticises call for scrum and tackle ban in school sport

World Rugby has criticised the claims in a study calling for tackling and scrums to be banned in school sport.

Allyson Pollock and Graham Kirkwood from the Institute of Health at Newcastle University argued in the British Medical Journal that most injuries in youth rugby occur due to the collision elements of the game.

The pair called for “harmful contact” to be prohibited on school playing fields. Removing collision from school rugby is likely to “reduce and mitigate the risk of injury” in pupils, they said.

However, in a statement, the sport’s governing body questioned the data on which the claims were based.

“World Rugby and its member unions take player safety very seriously and proactively pursue an evidence-based approach to reduce the risk of injury at all levels,” the statement said.

“These claims are not based on like-for-like injury statistics and the conclusions are not supported by the available data.

“It is well documented that, for most sports, injury rates increase with age, but the quoted research mixes 9-12 with 18-20 age groups.

“Indeed, within the published studies where injury has been properly defined and monitored, suggest the risk for pre-teens is not unacceptably high compared to other popular sports.”

Pollock and Kirkwood called on the UK chief medical officers to advise the British government to remove harmful contact from the game.

In 2016, the nation’s most senior medics rejected a call for a ban on tackling in youth rugby.

But Pollock, who has been researching injuries and rugby injuries for more than 10 years, and senior research associate Kirkwood said that under United Nations conventions, governments have a “duty to protect children from risks of injury”.

“We call on the chief medical officers to act on the evidence and advise the UK government to put the interests of the child before those of corporate professional rugby unions and remove harmful contact from the school game,” they wrote.

“Most injures in youth rugby are because of the collision elements of the game, mainly the tackle.

“In March 2016, scientists and doctors from the Sport Collision Injury Collective called for the tackle and other forms of harmful contact to be removed from school rugby. The data in support of the call is compelling.”

That call was rejected by a range of former players and officials working within the game as well as World Rugby, however.

Nigel Owens MBE (@Nigelrefowens)

They will want to ban walking to school next. And only rubber pens and pencils to be used in class. What is the world coming too. https://t.co/CYMmk6WSgt

September 26, 2017

Dr Willie Stewart, a consultant neuropathologist who has been working in the field of brain injury for more than 15 years and sits on World Rugby’s Concussion Advisory Body, tweeted: “The health crisis facing Britain’s children is not #concussion but obesity and lack of exercise.”

Peter Robinson, the father of Ben Robinson, who died at 14 from second impact syndrome following a school game, and who worked with Stewart in helping to inspire a change in concussion guidelines, added on Twitter: “Banning tackling at schools not the answer. Mismanagement of Concussion is the greatest risk in the game.”

Citing previous research into sports injuries in youngsters, Pollock and Kirkwood had argued in the article that rugby, along with ice hockey and American football, have the highest concussion rates.

They said that rule changes in collision sports can make a difference, highlighting the Canadian ban on “body checking” – where a player deliberately makes contact with an opposing player – in ice hockey for under 13 year olds.

Meanwhile, in the UK “teacher training in the skills of rugby are lacking, as is concussion awareness training,” the pair wrote.

The researchers called on the UK chief medical officers to advise the British government to remove harmful contact from the game. They pointed to a history of concussion being associated with the “lowering of a person’s life chances” across a number of measures including low educational achievement and premature death. Meanwhile, a head injury is linked to an increased risk of dementia.

Commenting on the article, Prof Tara Spires-Jones, UK Dementia Research Institute programme lead and deputy director of the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Very strong, reproducible evidence supports a greater risk of dementia in people who have head injuries in their lifetimes, which urges caution in games where there is a significant risk of head injury.

“However, the data on specifically whether playing rugby or other contact sports in school increases your risk of dementia are not as robust yet due to a lack of large prospective studies. It is also very clear that there are many health risks of leading a sedentary lifestyle.”

World Rugby criticises call for scrum and tackle ban in school sport

World Rugby has criticised the claims in a study calling for tackling and scrums to be banned in school sport.

Allyson Pollock and Graham Kirkwood from the Institute of Health at Newcastle University argued in the British Medical Journal that most injuries in youth rugby occur due to the collision elements of the game.

The pair called for “harmful contact” to be prohibited on school playing fields. Removing collision from school rugby is likely to “reduce and mitigate the risk of injury” in pupils, they said.

However, in a statement, the sport’s governing body questioned the data on which the claims were based.

“World Rugby and its member unions take player safety very seriously and proactively pursue an evidence-based approach to reduce the risk of injury at all levels,” the statement said.

“These claims are not based on like-for-like injury statistics and the conclusions are not supported by the available data.

“It is well documented that, for most sports, injury rates increase with age, but the quoted research mixes 9-12 with 18-20 age groups.

“Indeed, within the published studies where injury has been properly defined and monitored, suggest the risk for pre-teens is not unacceptably high compared to other popular sports.”

Pollock and Kirkwood called on the UK chief medical officers to advise the British government to remove harmful contact from the game.

In 2016, the nation’s most senior medics rejected a call for a ban on tackling in youth rugby.

But Pollock, who has been researching injuries and rugby injuries for more than 10 years, and senior research associate Kirkwood said that under United Nations conventions, governments have a “duty to protect children from risks of injury”.

“We call on the chief medical officers to act on the evidence and advise the UK government to put the interests of the child before those of corporate professional rugby unions and remove harmful contact from the school game,” they wrote.

“Most injures in youth rugby are because of the collision elements of the game, mainly the tackle.

“In March 2016, scientists and doctors from the Sport Collision Injury Collective called for the tackle and other forms of harmful contact to be removed from school rugby. The data in support of the call is compelling.”

That call was rejected by a range of former players and officials working within the game as well as World Rugby, however.

Nigel Owens MBE (@Nigelrefowens)

They will want to ban walking to school next. And only rubber pens and pencils to be used in class. What is the world coming too. https://t.co/CYMmk6WSgt

September 26, 2017

Dr Willie Stewart, a consultant neuropathologist who has been working in the field of brain injury for more than 15 years and sits on World Rugby’s Concussion Advisory Body, tweeted: “The health crisis facing Britain’s children is not #concussion but obesity and lack of exercise.”

Peter Robinson, the father of Ben Robinson, who died at 14 from second impact syndrome following a school game, and who worked with Stewart in helping to inspire a change in concussion guidelines, added on Twitter: “Banning tackling at schools not the answer. Mismanagement of Concussion is the greatest risk in the game.”

Citing previous research into sports injuries in youngsters, Pollock and Kirkwood had argued in the article that rugby, along with ice hockey and American football, have the highest concussion rates.

They said that rule changes in collision sports can make a difference, highlighting the Canadian ban on “body checking” – where a player deliberately makes contact with an opposing player – in ice hockey for under 13 year olds.

Meanwhile, in the UK “teacher training in the skills of rugby are lacking, as is concussion awareness training,” the pair wrote.

The researchers called on the UK chief medical officers to advise the British government to remove harmful contact from the game. They pointed to a history of concussion being associated with the “lowering of a person’s life chances” across a number of measures including low educational achievement and premature death. Meanwhile, a head injury is linked to an increased risk of dementia.

Commenting on the article, Prof Tara Spires-Jones, UK Dementia Research Institute programme lead and deputy director of the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Very strong, reproducible evidence supports a greater risk of dementia in people who have head injuries in their lifetimes, which urges caution in games where there is a significant risk of head injury.

“However, the data on specifically whether playing rugby or other contact sports in school increases your risk of dementia are not as robust yet due to a lack of large prospective studies. It is also very clear that there are many health risks of leading a sedentary lifestyle.”

World Rugby criticises call for scrum and tackle ban in school sport

World Rugby has criticised the claims in a study calling for tackling and scrums to be banned in school sport.

Allyson Pollock and Graham Kirkwood from the Institute of Health at Newcastle University argued in the British Medical Journal that most injuries in youth rugby occur due to the collision elements of the game.

The pair called for “harmful contact” to be prohibited on school playing fields. Removing collision from school rugby is likely to “reduce and mitigate the risk of injury” in pupils, they said.

However, in a statement, the sport’s governing body questioned the data on which the claims were based.

“World Rugby and its member unions take player safety very seriously and proactively pursue an evidence-based approach to reduce the risk of injury at all levels,” the statement said.

“These claims are not based on like-for-like injury statistics and the conclusions are not supported by the available data.

“It is well documented that, for most sports, injury rates increase with age, but the quoted research mixes 9-12 with 18-20 age groups.

“Indeed, within the published studies where injury has been properly defined and monitored, suggest the risk for pre-teens is not unacceptably high compared to other popular sports.”

Pollock and Kirkwood called on the UK chief medical officers to advise the British government to remove harmful contact from the game.

In 2016, the nation’s most senior medics rejected a call for a ban on tackling in youth rugby.

But Pollock, who has been researching injuries and rugby injuries for more than 10 years, and senior research associate Kirkwood said that under United Nations conventions, governments have a “duty to protect children from risks of injury”.

“We call on the chief medical officers to act on the evidence and advise the UK government to put the interests of the child before those of corporate professional rugby unions and remove harmful contact from the school game,” they wrote.

“Most injures in youth rugby are because of the collision elements of the game, mainly the tackle.

“In March 2016, scientists and doctors from the Sport Collision Injury Collective called for the tackle and other forms of harmful contact to be removed from school rugby. The data in support of the call is compelling.”

That call was rejected by a range of former players and officials working within the game as well as World Rugby, however.

Nigel Owens MBE (@Nigelrefowens)

They will want to ban walking to school next. And only rubber pens and pencils to be used in class. What is the world coming too. https://t.co/CYMmk6WSgt

September 26, 2017

Dr Willie Stewart, a consultant neuropathologist who has been working in the field of brain injury for more than 15 years and sits on World Rugby’s Concussion Advisory Body, tweeted: “The health crisis facing Britain’s children is not #concussion but obesity and lack of exercise.”

Peter Robinson, the father of Ben Robinson, who died at 14 from second impact syndrome following a school game, and who worked with Stewart in helping to inspire a change in concussion guidelines, added on Twitter: “Banning tackling at schools not the answer. Mismanagement of Concussion is the greatest risk in the game.”

Citing previous research into sports injuries in youngsters, Pollock and Kirkwood had argued in the article that rugby, along with ice hockey and American football, have the highest concussion rates.

They said that rule changes in collision sports can make a difference, highlighting the Canadian ban on “body checking” – where a player deliberately makes contact with an opposing player – in ice hockey for under 13 year olds.

Meanwhile, in the UK “teacher training in the skills of rugby are lacking, as is concussion awareness training,” the pair wrote.

The researchers called on the UK chief medical officers to advise the British government to remove harmful contact from the game. They pointed to a history of concussion being associated with the “lowering of a person’s life chances” across a number of measures including low educational achievement and premature death. Meanwhile, a head injury is linked to an increased risk of dementia.

Commenting on the article, Prof Tara Spires-Jones, UK Dementia Research Institute programme lead and deputy director of the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Very strong, reproducible evidence supports a greater risk of dementia in people who have head injuries in their lifetimes, which urges caution in games where there is a significant risk of head injury.

“However, the data on specifically whether playing rugby or other contact sports in school increases your risk of dementia are not as robust yet due to a lack of large prospective studies. It is also very clear that there are many health risks of leading a sedentary lifestyle.”

World Rugby criticises call for scrum and tackle ban in school sport

World Rugby has criticised the claims in a study calling for tackling and scrums to be banned in school sport.

Allyson Pollock and Graham Kirkwood from the Institute of Health at Newcastle University argued in the British Medical Journal that most injuries in youth rugby occur due to the collision elements of the game.

The pair called for “harmful contact” to be prohibited on school playing fields. Removing collision from school rugby is likely to “reduce and mitigate the risk of injury” in pupils, they said.

However, in a statement, the sport’s governing body questioned the data on which the claims were based.

“World Rugby and its member unions take player safety very seriously and proactively pursue an evidence-based approach to reduce the risk of injury at all levels,” the statement said.

“These claims are not based on like-for-like injury statistics and the conclusions are not supported by the available data.

“It is well documented that, for most sports, injury rates increase with age, but the quoted research mixes 9-12 with 18-20 age groups.

“Indeed, within the published studies where injury has been properly defined and monitored, suggest the risk for pre-teens is not unacceptably high compared to other popular sports.”

Pollock and Kirkwood called on the UK chief medical officers to advise the British government to remove harmful contact from the game.

In 2016, the nation’s most senior medics rejected a call for a ban on tackling in youth rugby.

But Pollock, who has been researching injuries and rugby injuries for more than 10 years, and senior research associate Kirkwood said that under United Nations conventions, governments have a “duty to protect children from risks of injury”.

“We call on the chief medical officers to act on the evidence and advise the UK government to put the interests of the child before those of corporate professional rugby unions and remove harmful contact from the school game,” they wrote.

“Most injures in youth rugby are because of the collision elements of the game, mainly the tackle.

“In March 2016, scientists and doctors from the Sport Collision Injury Collective called for the tackle and other forms of harmful contact to be removed from school rugby. The data in support of the call is compelling.”

That call was rejected by a range of former players and officials working within the game as well as World Rugby, however.

Nigel Owens MBE (@Nigelrefowens)

They will want to ban walking to school next. And only rubber pens and pencils to be used in class. What is the world coming too. https://t.co/CYMmk6WSgt

September 26, 2017

Dr Willie Stewart, a consultant neuropathologist who has been working in the field of brain injury for more than 15 years and sits on World Rugby’s Concussion Advisory Body, tweeted: “The health crisis facing Britain’s children is not #concussion but obesity and lack of exercise.”

Peter Robinson, the father of Ben Robinson, who died at 14 from second impact syndrome following a school game, and who worked with Stewart in helping to inspire a change in concussion guidelines, added on Twitter: “Banning tackling at schools not the answer. Mismanagement of Concussion is the greatest risk in the game.”

Citing previous research into sports injuries in youngsters, Pollock and Kirkwood had argued in the article that rugby, along with ice hockey and American football, have the highest concussion rates.

They said that rule changes in collision sports can make a difference, highlighting the Canadian ban on “body checking” – where a player deliberately makes contact with an opposing player – in ice hockey for under 13 year olds.

Meanwhile, in the UK “teacher training in the skills of rugby are lacking, as is concussion awareness training,” the pair wrote.

The researchers called on the UK chief medical officers to advise the British government to remove harmful contact from the game. They pointed to a history of concussion being associated with the “lowering of a person’s life chances” across a number of measures including low educational achievement and premature death. Meanwhile, a head injury is linked to an increased risk of dementia.

Commenting on the article, Prof Tara Spires-Jones, UK Dementia Research Institute programme lead and deputy director of the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Very strong, reproducible evidence supports a greater risk of dementia in people who have head injuries in their lifetimes, which urges caution in games where there is a significant risk of head injury.

“However, the data on specifically whether playing rugby or other contact sports in school increases your risk of dementia are not as robust yet due to a lack of large prospective studies. It is also very clear that there are many health risks of leading a sedentary lifestyle.”

World Rugby criticises call for scrum and tackle ban in school sport

World Rugby has criticised the claims in a study calling for tackling and scrums to be banned in school sport.

Allyson Pollock and Graham Kirkwood from the Institute of Health at Newcastle University argued in the British Medical Journal that most injuries in youth rugby occur due to the collision elements of the game.

The pair called for “harmful contact” to be prohibited on school playing fields. Removing collision from school rugby is likely to “reduce and mitigate the risk of injury” in pupils, they said.

However, in a statement, the sport’s governing body questioned the data on which the claims were based.

“World Rugby and its member unions take player safety very seriously and proactively pursue an evidence-based approach to reduce the risk of injury at all levels,” the statement said.

“These claims are not based on like-for-like injury statistics and the conclusions are not supported by the available data.

“It is well documented that, for most sports, injury rates increase with age, but the quoted research mixes 9-12 with 18-20 age groups.

“Indeed, within the published studies where injury has been properly defined and monitored, suggest the risk for pre-teens is not unacceptably high compared to other popular sports.”

Pollock and Kirkwood called on the UK chief medical officers to advise the British government to remove harmful contact from the game.

In 2016, the nation’s most senior medics rejected a call for a ban on tackling in youth rugby.

But Pollock, who has been researching injuries and rugby injuries for more than 10 years, and senior research associate Kirkwood said that under United Nations conventions, governments have a “duty to protect children from risks of injury”.

“We call on the chief medical officers to act on the evidence and advise the UK government to put the interests of the child before those of corporate professional rugby unions and remove harmful contact from the school game,” they wrote.

“Most injures in youth rugby are because of the collision elements of the game, mainly the tackle.

“In March 2016, scientists and doctors from the Sport Collision Injury Collective called for the tackle and other forms of harmful contact to be removed from school rugby. The data in support of the call is compelling.”

That call was rejected by a range of former players and officials working within the game as well as World Rugby, however.

Nigel Owens MBE (@Nigelrefowens)

They will want to ban walking to school next. And only rubber pens and pencils to be used in class. What is the world coming too. https://t.co/CYMmk6WSgt

September 26, 2017

Dr Willie Stewart, a consultant neuropathologist who has been working in the field of brain injury for more than 15 years and sits on World Rugby’s Concussion Advisory Body, tweeted: “The health crisis facing Britain’s children is not #concussion but obesity and lack of exercise.”

Peter Robinson, the father of Ben Robinson, who died at 14 from second impact syndrome following a school game, and who worked with Stewart in helping to inspire a change in concussion guidelines, added on Twitter: “Banning tackling at schools not the answer. Mismanagement of Concussion is the greatest risk in the game.”

Citing previous research into sports injuries in youngsters, Pollock and Kirkwood had argued in the article that rugby, along with ice hockey and American football, have the highest concussion rates.

They said that rule changes in collision sports can make a difference, highlighting the Canadian ban on “body checking” – where a player deliberately makes contact with an opposing player – in ice hockey for under 13 year olds.

Meanwhile, in the UK “teacher training in the skills of rugby are lacking, as is concussion awareness training,” the pair wrote.

The researchers called on the UK chief medical officers to advise the British government to remove harmful contact from the game. They pointed to a history of concussion being associated with the “lowering of a person’s life chances” across a number of measures including low educational achievement and premature death. Meanwhile, a head injury is linked to an increased risk of dementia.

Commenting on the article, Prof Tara Spires-Jones, UK Dementia Research Institute programme lead and deputy director of the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Very strong, reproducible evidence supports a greater risk of dementia in people who have head injuries in their lifetimes, which urges caution in games where there is a significant risk of head injury.

“However, the data on specifically whether playing rugby or other contact sports in school increases your risk of dementia are not as robust yet due to a lack of large prospective studies. It is also very clear that there are many health risks of leading a sedentary lifestyle.”

Sixth mass extinction of wildlife also threatens global food supplies

The sixth mass extinction of global wildlife already under way is seriously threatening the world’s food supplies, according to experts.

“Huge proportions of the plant and animal species that form the foundation of our food supply are just as endangered [as wildlife] and are getting almost no attention,” said Ann Tutwiler, director general of Bioversity International, a research group that published a new report on Tuesday.

“If there is one thing we cannot allow to become extinct, it is the species that provide the food that sustains each and every one of the seven billion people on our planet,” she said in an article for the Guardian. “This ‘agrobiodiversity’ is a precious resource that we are losing, and yet it can also help solve or mitigate many challenges the world is facing. It has a critical yet overlooked role in helping us improve global nutrition, reduce our impact on the environment and adapt to climate change.”

Three-quarters of the world’s food today comes from just 12 crops and five animal species and this leaves supplies very vulnerable to disease and pests that can sweep through large areas of monocultures, as happened in the Irish potato famine when a million people starved to death. Reliance on only a few strains also means the world’s fast changing climate will cut yields just as the demand from a growing global population is rising.

There are tens of thousands of wild or rarely cultivated species that could provide a richly varied range of nutritious foods, resistant to disease and tolerant of the changing environment. But the destruction of wild areas, pollution and overhunting has started a mass extinction of species on Earth. The focus to date has been on wild animals – half of which have been lost in the last 40 years – but the new report reveals that the same pressures are endangering humanity’s food supply, with at least 1,000 cultivated species already endangered.

Tutwiler said saving the world’s agrobiodiversity is also vital in tackling the number one cause of human death and disability in the world – poor diet, which includes both too much and too little food. “We are not winning the battle against obesity and undernutrition,” she said. “Poor diets are in large part because we have very unified diets based on a narrow set of commodities and we are not consuming enough diversity.”

The new report sets out how both governments and companies can protect, enhance and use the huge variety of little-known food crops. It highlights examples including the gac, a fiery red fruit from Vietnam, and the orange-fleshed Asupina banana. Both have extremely high levels of beta-carotene that the body converts to vitamin A and could help the many millions of people suffering deficiency of that vitamin.

Quinoa has become popular in some rich nations but only a few of the thousands of varieties native to South America are cultivated. The report shows how support has enabled farmers in Peru to grow a tough, nutritious variety that will protect them from future diseases or extreme weather.

Mainstream crops can also benefit from diversity and earlier in 2017 in Ethiopia researchers found two varieties of durum wheat that produce excellent yields even in dry areas. Fish diversity is also very valuable, with a local Bangladeshi species now shown to be extremely nutritious.

Earth already in midst of sixth mass extinction, scientists say – video report

“Food biodiversity is full of superfoods but perhaps even more important is the fact these foods are also readily available and adapted to local farming conditions,” said Tutwiler.

Bioversity International is working with both companies and governments to ramp up investment in agrobiodiversity. The supermarket Sainsbury’s is one, and its head of agriculture, Beth Hart, said: “The world is changing – global warming, extreme weather and volatile prices are making it harder for farmers and growers to produce the foods our customers love. Which is why we are committed to working with our suppliers, farmers and growers around the world to optimise the health benefits, address the impact and biodiversity of these products and secure a sustainable supply.”

Pierfrancesco Sacco, Italy’s permanent representative to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, said: “The latest OECD report rates Italy third lowest in the world for levels of obesity after Japan and Korea. Is it a coincidence that all three countries have long traditions of healthy diets based on local food biodiversity, short food supply chains and celebration of local varieties and dishes?”

He said finding and cultivating a wider range of food is the key: “Unlike conserving pandas or rhinos, the more you use agrobiodiversity and the more you eat it, the better you conserve it.”

Sixth mass extinction of wildlife also threatens global food supplies

The sixth mass extinction of global wildlife already under way is seriously threatening the world’s food supplies, according to experts.

“Huge proportions of the plant and animal species that form the foundation of our food supply are just as endangered [as wildlife] and are getting almost no attention,” said Ann Tutwiler, director general of Bioversity International, a research group that published a new report on Tuesday.

“If there is one thing we cannot allow to become extinct, it is the species that provide the food that sustains each and every one of the seven billion people on our planet,” she said in an article for the Guardian. “This ‘agrobiodiversity’ is a precious resource that we are losing, and yet it can also help solve or mitigate many challenges the world is facing. It has a critical yet overlooked role in helping us improve global nutrition, reduce our impact on the environment and adapt to climate change.”

Three-quarters of the world’s food today comes from just 12 crops and five animal species and this leaves supplies very vulnerable to disease and pests that can sweep through large areas of monocultures, as happened in the Irish potato famine when a million people starved to death. Reliance on only a few strains also means the world’s fast changing climate will cut yields just as the demand from a growing global population is rising.

There are tens of thousands of wild or rarely cultivated species that could provide a richly varied range of nutritious foods, resistant to disease and tolerant of the changing environment. But the destruction of wild areas, pollution and overhunting has started a mass extinction of species on Earth. The focus to date has been on wild animals – half of which have been lost in the last 40 years – but the new report reveals that the same pressures are endangering humanity’s food supply, with at least 1,000 cultivated species already endangered.

Tutwiler said saving the world’s agrobiodiversity is also vital in tackling the number one cause of human death and disability in the world – poor diet, which includes both too much and too little food. “We are not winning the battle against obesity and undernutrition,” she said. “Poor diets are in large part because we have very unified diets based on a narrow set of commodities and we are not consuming enough diversity.”

The new report sets out how both governments and companies can protect, enhance and use the huge variety of little-known food crops. It highlights examples including the gac, a fiery red fruit from Vietnam, and the orange-fleshed Asupina banana. Both have extremely high levels of beta-carotene that the body converts to vitamin A and could help the many millions of people suffering deficiency of that vitamin.

Quinoa has become popular in some rich nations but only a few of the thousands of varieties native to South America are cultivated. The report shows how support has enabled farmers in Peru to grow a tough, nutritious variety that will protect them from future diseases or extreme weather.

Mainstream crops can also benefit from diversity and earlier in 2017 in Ethiopia researchers found two varieties of durum wheat that produce excellent yields even in dry areas. Fish diversity is also very valuable, with a local Bangladeshi species now shown to be extremely nutritious.

Earth already in midst of sixth mass extinction, scientists say – video report

“Food biodiversity is full of superfoods but perhaps even more important is the fact these foods are also readily available and adapted to local farming conditions,” said Tutwiler.

Bioversity International is working with both companies and governments to ramp up investment in agrobiodiversity. The supermarket Sainsbury’s is one, and its head of agriculture, Beth Hart, said: “The world is changing – global warming, extreme weather and volatile prices are making it harder for farmers and growers to produce the foods our customers love. Which is why we are committed to working with our suppliers, farmers and growers around the world to optimise the health benefits, address the impact and biodiversity of these products and secure a sustainable supply.”

Pierfrancesco Sacco, Italy’s permanent representative to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, said: “The latest OECD report rates Italy third lowest in the world for levels of obesity after Japan and Korea. Is it a coincidence that all three countries have long traditions of healthy diets based on local food biodiversity, short food supply chains and celebration of local varieties and dishes?”

He said finding and cultivating a wider range of food is the key: “Unlike conserving pandas or rhinos, the more you use agrobiodiversity and the more you eat it, the better you conserve it.”

Psychopaths prefer rap over classical music, study shows

Researchers studying people’s musical preferences have found that psychopaths prefer listening to rap music and, contrary to the movie trope epitomised by Anthony Hopkins’s Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, they are no fonder of classical music than anyone else.

In a study of 200 people who listened to 260 songs, those with the highest psychopath scores were among the greatest fans of the Blackstreet number one hit No Diggity, with Eminem’s Lose Yourself rated highly too.

The New York University team behind the work stress that the results are preliminary and unpublished, but the scientists are sufficiently intrigued to launch a major study in which thousands of people across the psychopathy spectrum will be quizzed on their musical tastes.

Tests on a second group of volunteers suggest the songs could help to predict the disorder. Whatever their other personality traits might be, fans of The Knack’s My Sharona and Sia’s Titanium were among the least psychopathic, the study found.

The researchers have a serious goal in mind: if psychopaths have distinct and robust preferences for songs, their playlists could be used to identify them.

“The media portrays psychopaths as axe murderers and serial killers, but the reality is they are not obvious; they are not like The Joker in Batman. They might be working right next to you, and they blend in. They are like psychological dark matter,” said Pascal Wallisch who led the research.

About 1% of the general population meets the description of a psychopath, but the figure is far higher in prisons, where about one in five has the disorder. One estimate, from Kent Kiehl, a psychologist at the University of New Mexico, suggests that psychopaths cost the US government alone $ 460bn (£340bn) a year.

“You don’t want to have these people in positions where they can cause a lot of harm,” said Wallisch. “We need a tool to identify them without their cooperation or consent.”

Scientists have already found gene variants that are more common in psychopaths, but they are hardly predictive of the disorder. They appear to alter people’s tendencies for empathy and aggression, but they do not determine people’s actions. Brain scans highlight distinct signs too, as the neuroscientist James Fallon discovered when he spotted the patterns of a psychopath in his own brain’s anatomy, but again, these do not set a person’s behaviour. Even if they did, the police cannot search for dangerous individuals by hauling people into brain scanners.

Wallisch recruited volunteers for a study on musical tastes, but realised that many of the participants had separately sat a battery of psychological tests, including one called the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale, which ranks people’s psychopathic traits. By combining the volunteers’ answers from the music study with their results from the psychopath test, Wallisch identified songs that seemed to be most popular among psychopaths, and others favoured by non-psychopaths.

While No Diggity and Lose Yourself were strikingly popular with psychopaths, other songs had greater predictive power. Wallisch declined to name them out of concern that doing so might compromise any future screening test.

The larger study will now investigate whether the link between musical tastes and psychopathy is real, and if it is, whether groups of songs can predict potential psychopaths. That could lead to some controversial applications, Wallisch said. If the team can identify a group of 30 songs, for example, that together prove good at predicting psychopaths, then playlists from online music providers could be used to identify them.

“The beauty of this idea is you can use it as a screening test without consent, cooperation or maybe even the knowledge of the people involved,” Wallisch said. “The ethics of this are very hairy, but so is having a psychopath as a boss, and so is having a psychopath in any position of power.” Fortunately for ethicists, the possibility is some way off yet. “This work is very preliminary,” Wallisch added. “This is not the end of an investigation, it is the very beginning.”

Kevin Dutton, a psychologist at Oxford, and the author of The Wisdom of Psychopaths, has been gathering data on musical tastes and other preferences for a psychopath study with Channel 4. More than three million people have responded so far, and while online surveys have serious weaknesses, the results so far suggest psychopaths favour rap music over classical and jazz. They also seem more likely to read the Financial Times than other newspapers.

Regardless of its accuracy, Dutton suspects movie directors like the idea of classical music-loving psychopaths because of the “irresistibly alluring” juxtaposition. “The coming together of the dark, visceral, primeval psychopathic mind and the higher aesthetic of classical composition is inherently incongruous, and there is a whole body of literature on the creative potential of incongruity,” he said. “It is the hypnotically captivating and age-old appeal of the ‘beauty and the beast’, only under the same cortical roof.”

Why I needed to let my little brother die | Cathy Rentzenbrink

My little brother Matty was knocked over by a car on his way home from a snooker hall near Snaith in Yorkshire in 1990. He was 16 and we desperately wanted him to survive.

If Matty’s accident had happened a few years earlier he would have died in the road – but he was intubated, resuscitated, and had some holes drilled in his skull to relieve the pressure on his brain. So he remained in a critical condition for a few days, and then opened his eyes at the rate of a few millimetres a day, and that was really all he ever did. He couldn’t go to rehabilitation because there was nothing to rehabilitate. So we brought him home and built a bungalow extension on to the pub where we lived, and carried on hoping and dreaming that if we loved him enough we could reverse his brain damage.

It was when I saw Tony Bland, who was left in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) after the Hillsborough disaster, on the news that I realised there was a legal way out. Bland died after his treatment was withdrawn in 1993. But it wasn’t until 1998, when Matty was 24, that we went to court and a judge agreed that Matty’s feeding tube should be withdrawn so that he could die.

Everyone involved was compassionate, and I have always felt grateful that they tried not to make it horrible for us. But it was horrible. That’s why I welcomed last week’s ruling by Mr Justice Peter Jackson that in future, where doctors and families are in agreement they should not have to go to court to seek permission for treatment to be withdrawn from patients in a persistent vegetative or minimally conscious state.

I know lots of people will jump up and down and say we’re all going to start murdering our relatives, but this is a modest, compassionate step. Obviously vulnerable people need to be protected, but when something so terrible happens to a member of your family, anything that eases the burden is a good thing.

The reason court proceedings are so hard for families is that not only do you have to agree that you want the person to die, you have to administer it – make statements and swear affadavits – so you feel implicated. It took a year for the case that led to last week’s judgment to go through court, and it’s incredibly hard to be with someone, to care for them, when you know they’re going to die. You still don’t want them to get bed sores. You still want them to have physiotherapy so their limbs don’t get more twisted.

The surgeon Henry Marsh in his book Do No Harm says it’s very easy to save someone’s life with brain surgery – you drill some holes, let out some blood. But what we don’t know is what to do then, with those people who make no progression beyond having a beating heart.

If you haven’t been with someone with severe brain damage you might think that such people should be kept alive just in case of some kind of sleeping beauty scenario. But with new developments in medicine, death is no longer the worst outcome. It took me about four years to realise that Matty wouldn’t have wanted to live like that.

Of course there are connections with the wider debate about assisted dying, but I think these cases are right out there on their own. Often people who object to assisted dying do so for religious reasons, but Matty wasn’t alive because of the will of god. He was alive because of a human intervention that probably shouldn’t have been made. The right to life argument can’t be applied in the same way across the board.


Unless you’ve stared into the blank eyes of someone in a vegetative state, I just don’t care about your arguments

People are worried about creating precedents, but when someone wants to talk to me about all this, and has views they want to discuss, I’m always interested in whether they’ve spent time with someone in a PVS; if they have, then I’m quite interested, but if they haven’t then I’m not. Until you’ve spent time with someone, and stared into their blank eyes and seen that they are no longer there because their brain has been mashed out, I just don’t care about your legal or academic arguments.

I’m glad the book I wrote about what happened to Matty is on a syllabus for law students. But what they should also do is go and spend a day with people who are never getting better. Artificial nutrition and hydration is wonderful, but it was invented to keep people alive for a few days so doctors could make a life-saving intervention. No one would have said when they developed tube feeding, “and we’ll be able to keep people alive for decades while their limbs twist up and their families disintegrate around them”. It is a travesty.

There are no good outcomes in these situations; it’s about damage limitation. It’s profoundly psychologically and morally confusing to realise that you want the person you love most in the world to die. Having to go to court is by no means the worst thing that happened to my family as a result of Matty being hit by a car, but it is one thing that can be changed. The judge is right. It should be, so others are spared that ordeal.

Cathy Rentzenbrink is the author of The Last Act of Love

Why I needed to let my little brother die | Cathy Rentzenbrink

My little brother Matty was knocked over by a car on his way home from a snooker hall near Snaith in Yorkshire in 1990. He was 16 and we desperately wanted him to survive.

If Matty’s accident had happened a few years earlier he would have died in the road – but he was intubated, resuscitated, and had some holes drilled in his skull to relieve the pressure on his brain. So he remained in a critical condition for a few days, and then opened his eyes at the rate of a few millimetres a day, and that was really all he ever did. He couldn’t go to rehabilitation because there was nothing to rehabilitate. So we brought him home and built a bungalow extension on to the pub where we lived, and carried on hoping and dreaming that if we loved him enough we could reverse his brain damage.

It was when I saw Tony Bland, who was left in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) after the Hillsborough disaster, on the news that I realised there was a legal way out. Bland died after his treatment was withdrawn in 1993. But it wasn’t until 1998, when Matty was 24, that we went to court and a judge agreed that Matty’s feeding tube should be withdrawn so that he could die.

Everyone involved was compassionate, and I have always felt grateful that they tried not to make it horrible for us. But it was horrible. That’s why I welcomed last week’s ruling by Mr Justice Peter Jackson that in future, where doctors and families are in agreement they should not have to go to court to seek permission for treatment to be withdrawn from patients in a persistent vegetative or minimally conscious state.

I know lots of people will jump up and down and say we’re all going to start murdering our relatives, but this is a modest, compassionate step. Obviously vulnerable people need to be protected, but when something so terrible happens to a member of your family, anything that eases the burden is a good thing.

The reason court proceedings are so hard for families is that not only do you have to agree that you want the person to die, you have to administer it – make statements and swear affadavits – so you feel implicated. It took a year for the case that led to last week’s judgment to go through court, and it’s incredibly hard to be with someone, to care for them, when you know they’re going to die. You still don’t want them to get bed sores. You still want them to have physiotherapy so their limbs don’t get more twisted.

The surgeon Henry Marsh in his book Do No Harm says it’s very easy to save someone’s life with brain surgery – you drill some holes, let out some blood. But what we don’t know is what to do then, with those people who make no progression beyond having a beating heart.

If you haven’t been with someone with severe brain damage you might think that such people should be kept alive just in case of some kind of sleeping beauty scenario. But with new developments in medicine, death is no longer the worst outcome. It took me about four years to realise that Matty wouldn’t have wanted to live like that.

Of course there are connections with the wider debate about assisted dying, but I think these cases are right out there on their own. Often people who object to assisted dying do so for religious reasons, but Matty wasn’t alive because of the will of god. He was alive because of a human intervention that probably shouldn’t have been made. The right to life argument can’t be applied in the same way across the board.


Unless you’ve stared into the blank eyes of someone in a vegetative state, I just don’t care about your arguments

People are worried about creating precedents, but when someone wants to talk to me about all this, and has views they want to discuss, I’m always interested in whether they’ve spent time with someone in a PVS; if they have, then I’m quite interested, but if they haven’t then I’m not. Until you’ve spent time with someone, and stared into their blank eyes and seen that they are no longer there because their brain has been mashed out, I just don’t care about your legal or academic arguments.

I’m glad the book I wrote about what happened to Matty is on a syllabus for law students. But what they should also do is go and spend a day with people who are never getting better. Artificial nutrition and hydration is wonderful, but it was invented to keep people alive for a few days so doctors could make a life-saving intervention. No one would have said when they developed tube feeding, “and we’ll be able to keep people alive for decades while their limbs twist up and their families disintegrate around them”. It is a travesty.

There are no good outcomes in these situations; it’s about damage limitation. It’s profoundly psychologically and morally confusing to realise that you want the person you love most in the world to die. Having to go to court is by no means the worst thing that happened to my family as a result of Matty being hit by a car, but it is one thing that can be changed. The judge is right. It should be, so others are spared that ordeal.

Cathy Rentzenbrink is the author of The Last Act of Love