SIRC Media Watch Archive
Comment and Opinion – May 2000

Fat tax rejected. Dr Tom Marshall's ill-conceived proposal for imposing VAT on fatty foods has attracted strong criticism from his colleagues in the medical professions. The current edition of the British Medical Journal prints letters from three specialists who are clearly not impressed. Full Story.

The madness of Prince Charles. HRH Prince Charles' Reith lecture, Respect for the earth – A royal view, has angered and depressed in equal measure the entire science community. His mystical, and at times quite whimsical, views on the sacred status of nature started to make even Vandana Shiva's earlier lecture in the series seem half-way sensible. His explicit hostility towards scientific rationalism, which he claimed was smothering 'a sacred trust between mankind and our Creator', baffled not only scientists but also a few theologians. And his predictable attack on genetic engineering as failing to show 'respect for the genius of nature's designs' added further insult to those who believe passionately in the role of such technology in generating self-sustaining agriculture in those parts of the world currently prey to drought, famine and disease. Full story.

Back to nature in India?. Vandana Shiva's Reith lecture, Poverty and Globalisation, has predictably increased her standing among elitist, Western, green activist groups and anti-globalisation protesters. At the same time it has depressed many people with a more rational concern for poverty and hunger in the Southern Hemisphere.

The claim of the Director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in New Delhi is that the introduction of modern agricultural techniques in India – the 'green revolution' – has led to a state where: "The rich diversity and sustainable systems of food production are being destroyed in the name of increasing food production." She even argues that the much acclaimed 'golden rice', which contains genetically engineered higher levels of Vitamin A to combat deficiencies which can lead to blindness, is not wanted in India: "the myth of creation presents biotechnologists as the creators of Vitamin A, negating nature's diverse gifts and women's knowledge of how to use diversity to feed their children and families." Full story.

Backlash against the anxiety makers. Our 'Scares and Panics' column on this page usually has space for only a small fraction of the anxiety-generating articles which litter our newspapers every morning. It is difficult to find anything which has unequivocally been declared safe by the 'experts'. Hidden dangers are portrayed as lurking in every aspect of our lives, from the food we eat to the phones we use, and even the pet dog that we love and cherish.

Increasingly, however, there are signs that people have had enough. We know that we are living in the safest era that our species has ever enjoyed. And while our evolution may have disposed us to retain an essential degree of innate fearfulness, we are beginning to tire of overly sensational and unproductive warnings and lifestyle prescriptions. Full story.