Motherhood in Western Europe

Insights from Western European Mothers

The changing face of motherhood — Western Europe

The accompanying reports combine a review of existing literature with an analysis of original quantitative data derived from a poll of 9,582 mothers from 12 countries in Western Europe, making it one of the largest studies of this kind ever conducted

Child Obesity and Health

An analysis of the latest available data from the Health Survey for England (HSE)

Child Obesity and Health — download the full report in pdf format

In this ‘National Childhood Obesity Week’, the SIRC report, Children, obesity and heath: Recent trends, holds up a true mirror, accurately reflecting the trend towards slimmer, healthier children. more

The Future of Freemasonry

An examination of the role of Freemasonry in the 21st century


This report is, as far as we know, an account of the first ever study that has been commissioned by Freemasons from a non-Masonic body. None of the SIRC members involved in the project are Freemasons, a fact that evoked surprise and welcome in equal measure from the Lodge members we met. more

The Changing Face of Motherhood

Insights from three generations of mothers


The report seeks to answer some specific questions about the changing face of motherhood and determine the extent to which modern ‘solutions’ to motherhood are more or less beneficial than the solutions of the past. more

Related pages

See also Oxfam Hits Back.

Oxfam Berated by Eco-activists on GM Issues

Oxfam's recent position paper, Genetically Modified Crops, World Trade and Security is a thoughtful and balanced document. It is rightly concerned that the introduction of GM crops in the third world may lead to a consolidation of control of local agriculture by large, agro-industrial companies. It recognises, however, that GM crops, with their higher yields, "could be of benefit to poor farmers in the longer term if applications are directed to their needs." For this reason the paper includes the recommendation that:

"Donor governments and agencies should commit resources for investment in research into the potential opportunities of GM technology to deliver economic, environmental and health benefits to poor farmers in adverse agro-ecological zones."

Of particular interest to Oxfam are nitrogen-fixing crops and those which are drought or salt-resistant, and it sees a need for both public and private investment in GM technologies in these areas.

The paper, of course, is hedged about with references to the precautionary principle, the need for a moratorium on the commercial growing of GM crops in the West, concern about the environmental impact of such crops, etc. Oxfam seeks to further the cause of famine-relief through the application of new technology. At the same time it is at pains to point out that "technological fixes alone . cannot solve this problem, despite the claims that have been made for them." Oxfam is clearly no friend of Monsanto.

This cautious stance, however, has not prevented Oxfam from becoming a new target of the eco-activists. The very suggestion that GM crops may have a role to play in helping to prevent starvation and relieve poverty has offended those whose concerns lie more with misdirected political ideologies than with the suffering of millions of individuals around the world.

Vandana Shiva – the leading eco-feminist from the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in New Delhi, has responded immediately with an open letter to Oxfam, distributed through the various email lists of green activist groups. She accuses Oxfam of "betraying the South, the poor and food security objectives." GM-free agriculture, she claims, is "good for the poor and good for the environment", although what she means by 'good' in this context is not clear. The farmers' movements in India which currently oppose the introduction of GM crops, and which Vandana Shiva has done so much to champion, are seen by others in India as very conservative groups seeking to preserve an almost feudal way of life. Such movements are also very instrumental in maintaining inflated food prices at the expense of the landless majority in some regions of India. All of this stands in stark contrast to the nostalgic and often patronising image of the peasant farmer and his/her idyllic lifestyle in harmony with mother nature that Vandana Shiva paints.

The real insult in Vandana Shiva's open letter, however, comes in the penultimate paragraph:

"Oxfam will definitely be assisting to provide relief in the recent disaster caused by the super cyclone in Orissa. We hope your food aid will be GE-free."

We are sure that the people of East India will be grateful to Vandana Shiva for that.