SIRC Media Watch Archive
The Pick – May 2003

Stop your snivelling, you bunch of pathetic hypochondriacs. People living in Canada and other rich countries today enjoy a healthier, safer life than any other generation in the whole of human history. Yet if you picked up the newspaper this week, you wouldn't know it. Globe and Mail

Shiva the Destroyer? Dr. Vandana Shiva is likely the world's most celebrated holistic ecofeminist, deep ecologist, postmodernist luddite, anti-globalizer, and spokesperson for those she claims are without a voice. Because she has advanced degrees in science, Shiva is useful for providing legitimacy to a range of anti-science views on the part of those who mistrust scientific inquiry (except where they think that it will promote their ideological agenda) … Being able to cite Shiva as a presumed authority allows them to talk about global agriculture without any substantive knowledge of how peoples around the world raise crops and feed their families. Thomas deGregori.

Scientist Warns Against Cancer 'Breakthrough' Hype. So many "breakthroughs" are being reported in the battle against cancer that skepticism may set in and research funding dry up, a British scientist said on Thursday.Professor Rob Newbold, dean of the Faculty of Life Sciences and head of the Institute of Cancer Genetics and Pharmacogenomics at Brunel University, near London, called for a halt to "breakthrough fever" in cancer research. Reuters

Parents 'misled' by media over MMR.Most people thought medical opinion on MMR was evenly divided People have been misled by media reports that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine could be unsafe, according to new research. A survey by Cardiff University claims that more than half of the British public wrongly believe that medical science opinion was split down the middle on the subject. But in fact almost all scientific experts rejected the claim of a link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, said the research. BBC.

 First do no harm. The snapshot last week of a man wearing a surgical mask while smoking a cigarette captured a truth well beyond the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic. Human beings too often fear the wrong things. And that is a big problem for democratic governance. Most of us, like that man, subscribe to the risk-of-the-month club: we panic over exciting new dangers that get lots of publicity – such as Sars – while blissfully ignoring boring old risks such as smoking, which in the long run are far more likely to kill us. Financial Times [subscription required]

The GM Jeremiahs. The West's mistrust of genetically modified crops means it is the Third World which is suffering … The millennium bug was a fantastic story until 1 January 2000. The clock was ticking. Robots were about to run amok. There was a race against time to save the planet. What hack could ask for more? GM food was the issue which took Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth from the broadsheet press's ghetto to the popular mainstream. There was a time when you couldn't pick up the Daily Mail without seeing a warning about what 'Frankenstein foods' might do to you or your children. Observer.

GM food is safe to eat, says Royal Society. Foods that have been genetically modified pose no greater threat to human health than conventional varieties, Britain’s leading scientific institution said yesterday. There was no scientific evidence that foods made from GM crops were any more dangerous to eat than those that were not, the Royal Society said in its submission to the Government’s GM Science Review. The nutritional quality of GM foods and their potential for causing allergic reactions was no different from that of non-GM produce, and no credible study had yet found evidence that genetic engineering could harm human health. Claims by campaign groups that eating GM food was risky had no scientific basis whatsoever, the report said. Times.

A bit of danger is good for you. Wherever you look in today's world there are things to be scared of – new diseases, the threat of terrorism, crime and crashes. But a conference this week claims that being prepared to risk a bit of danger is good for society. BBC. See also Panic Attack.

Alas, poor science, I knew thee well…"the end of the world" is the new Islington dinner-party chic, from Michael Crichton’s Prey to the latest blockbuster by Margaret Atwood (Beware, Oh Handmaid, The Oryx and the Crake!). And remember the Guardian Editor’s dire TV drama, Fields of Gold, which even the delectable Anna Friel couldn’t redeem. We are surrounded by dystopians and millenarians. If a UFO doesn’t get us, there is surely a GMO in a field near by. And we are all deeply concerned about cruelty to Schrödinger’s cat — although we won’t know if it is suffering until we look in the box. Philip Stott in the Times

Hysteria is infectious. The SARS virus has yet to infect one single person in Scotland – but that hasn’t stopped tens of thousands of panic-buyers preparing for a nationwide epidemic. The latest news from Edinburgh is that 45,000 surgical masks have been snapped up from Horizon Medical Technologies; and no doubt these prudent doomsters have also been stocking up on disinfectant gels, rubber gloves, baked beans, bottled water, and all the other little things that might just make the difference between life and death when the SARS virus sweeps up through the Highlands. Scotsman.