SIRC Media Watch Archive
Comment and Opinion – May 1999

The journalists, Jonathan Leake and Wayne Bodkin, hail the microchip as a 'breakthrough' and a 'world first', bringing 'hope for hundreds of thousands of other paraplegics. Not until the penultimate paragraph, in a 15 paragraph article, was there any suggestion that there might be limits to the 'miracles' that the chip could work – a brief quote from Stephen Bradshaw of the Spinal Injuries Association who warned that 'there would be limits to what implants could achieve.' Full story.

GM U-turns Following last week's preoccupation with the GM debate the press has been alive with conflicting comment. Most significantly the government's Select Committee on Science and Technology, calling for the introduction of a Code of Practice governing media coverage of scientific matters, appears to have been partly accepted and has resulted in the publication of some substantial, but undoubtedly temporary changes of tack

GM Zig-zags David Sainsbury, writing in the New Statesman, suggests that science is undoubtedly reforming our society for the better, but sufficient legislation is required to regulate technological progress. Aversion to the new must not be allowed to halt innovation.

GM Roundabouts Other influences in the GM debate are obviously at work. Widespresd confusion and an inability to reach a consensus with regard to the future of GM planting actually serves to aid pressure groups' agendas.

CJD confusion It is interesting to note that despite the significant developments witnessed in the British media this week which express a concern with a reliance on scientific studies, there appears to be little respite from health concerns.

Fashion Victims? In an attempt to prevent the nine deaths linked annually to insect stings in this country, the Guardian suggests that "we could do more to deter air attacks."

Plus ça change The concerns of the wine snob worldwide may soon be set to rest. A study conducted by the Leatherhead Food Research Association has suggested that plastic corks can taint wine producing an "off taste" which may cause health problems.

BSE U-turn? Two scientists whose research suggests that cases of new form CJD may not, after all, be linked with contaminated beef have this week been awarded £250,000 by the Ministry of Agriculture to continue their study.

GM Confusion The barrage of conflicting information focusing on GM issues, once again dominating the headlines this week, should further serve to sound the alarm bells.

Which risk? Bill Bryson in the Independent this week discusses the nature of personal risk assessment. Taking statistics from Larry Laudan's The Book of Risks: fascinating facts about the chances we take every day he offers some suggestions as to why life in America appears to be twice as risky as that in Britain.

The Scent of Summer To some, the smell of charcoal food is synonymous with the scent of summer. The highest court in Bavaria, however, does not appear to share this view.

How Refreshing A study reported in the Telegraph this week has shed light on why it is that gulping fluids instantly relieves thirst, when it actually takes the body a substantial amount of time to recover from water deprivation.

The Health Calendar An excellent article in the Independent this week discusses the recent trend of date reclamation for the expression of a political or commercial agenda

Living – Risky Business Week Although Jeremy Laurance did propose "Risk-Free Awareness Week", in an attempt to introduce the "novel idea that life at the end of the 20th Century for those of us living in the west is astonishingly safe", its irony seems to have largely escaped the rest of the world's media.

Surprise, surprise A couple of news items this week are worthy of note for teetering precariously on the edge of the ridiculous. In an era in which we appear to be increasingly bombarded by a plethora of 'scientific' studies, it shouldn't really surprise us that Stanford University, California were able to procure funding to conduct a study which concluded that "overweight children can shed pounds by watching less television."

This week's GM news Scientists from Cambridge University this week have published test results on genetically engineered crops that effectively degrade hazardous chemicals from sites contaminated with explosives.