SIRC Media Watch Archive
Articles of Note – December 1999

They'll tax your cheeseburger and lecture you to boot. The Fat Patrol is closing in. First they came for the cigarettes. Now they're after your chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. And they won't be satisfied till you're eating broccoli -- hold the hollandaise -- and trudging on the treadmill to nowhere. San Jose Mercury

Crop Busters. Self-righteous vandals lead a desperate, ill-informed campaign against genetically modified foods. Reason Magazine

Biotechnology's watchdogs bare their teeth. The anti-genetically modified plant campaigners are trying to have it both ways. On one hand they argue Monsanto has conspired to monopolise trade in genetically modified seeds; on the other, that the technology is worthless and dangerous. Business Day (S.A.)

Food is unhealthy only if you stress over it. "The guardians of national health are flabbergasted that Americans gain so much weight at holiday time. But what really worries me is that some people don't gain any. After all, it's winter. It's cold. The days are shorter and we spend more time indoors. We're supposed to gain weight. Yet I occasionally run across proud people who proclaim that, through rigorous monitoring of every bite of food consumed during December, they suffered no weight gain at all over the holidays. What miserable dining companions they must be." Salon Magazine.

The century of science scares. The age of science has also been the age of unfounded scares about health and the environment that have cost billions and shaken our faith in rational thought, says Michael LeGault. National Post

Prince's war on GM 'condemns world to starve'. The Prince of Wales and other leading opponents of genetically modified crops are consigning billions of people to a future of hunger and starvation. Times

The public need for science, not fiction, on biotechnology. "Unless we will accept starvation or placing parks and the Amazon Basin under the plough, there really is no alternative to applying biotechnology to agriculture." Martina McGloughlin, Director of the University of Davis Biotechnology Program.

Greenpeace founding member speaks out. "[Greenpeace] have diversified into so many issues, many of which are questionable in terms of priorities and some of which are just plain wrong-headed … I believe we are entering an era now where pagan beliefs and junk science are influencing public policy. GM foods and forestry are both good examples where policy is being influenced by arguments that have no basis in fact or logic. Patrick Moore interviewed in New Scientist

Cheesy meals 'cut tooth decay'. Mice indulging their passion for cheese could be setting themselves up for a healthy dental life, according to researchers. BBC

Beware the perils on your plate this Christmas. Turkey, veg, stuffing and more besides are full of natural substances that give lab rats cancer, warn a group of New York scientists in a spoof Christmas menu which they have designed to ridicule scare stories about pesticide residues in food and posted on the Internet. New Scientist

Getting stuck in. You can stop feeling guilty about it. Ignore the "food police" who would have us believe that each bite of this sinful substance is another nail in our coffin – the serious science of chocolate is far from being bad news. In fact, the evidence shows that a modest consumption of good quality chocolate can be seriously beneficial to your wellbeing. Express

Food preservative may be powerful antibiotic. A common preservative used to keep cheese and other foods fresh turns out to be a powerful antibiotic, according to new research. The discovery may come in handy, since more and more bacteria are becoming resistant to current antibiotic medications, scientists report. Health Central

Breakfast food for thought. Where Europeans have often preferred a pastoral concept of food, opting for grainy toast and marmalade instead of frosted Pop Tarts, we tend to think of food as a product, as part of a lifestyle of convenience and as the cornerstone of an enormous American agricultural and chemical economy. But the new genetic engineering, we are being told by our European friends, is different and bad. Foes of GM foods point to weird combinations: lobster genes in lettuce, insect genes in tomatoes. MSNBC

Le refus français de consommer du rosbif britannique risque d'empoisonner longtemps les relations entre Paris et Londres. L'Express

The secret of James Bond's longevity? Moderate consumption of alcoholic drinks seems to reduce the risks of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cataracts, perhaps through antioxidant actions. 'Shaken martinis' were found to be more effective antioxidants than the stirred variety, and both were more effective than gin or vermouth alone. BMJ

Against Anti-Science. "Encouraged by hysterical newspapers and irresponsible lobby groups, the public is turning against science. This is most evident in the GM food debate. There is no evidence that GM crops are dangerous, and plenty of evidence that they are good for the developing world and the environment … With its anti-science dogma, Greenpeace is in some ways our equivalent of the religous right in the US." Dick Taverne writes in Prospect Magazine

Genetically modified potatoes that would have prevented the Irish potato famine in the 19th century have been developed in Canada. The potatoes thwart Phytophthora infestans, the fungal blight which devastated Irish potato harvests in the 1840s. New Scientist

Why dieting makes you fat. Almost half the female population of the UK is trying to lose weight, but a new study shows that obsessive calorie-counting leads to obesity. Lucy Atkins reports on how slimming can distort both your mind and your body. Guardian

Beef still off menu in schools. Agriculture minister Nick Brown was embarrassed to find that while he is battling to get the French to accept British beef, schools in his own constituency are among thirty local authorities that still ban the meat. Independent

It's official. Power lines don't give children leukaemia. Well do they or don't they? For years, controversy has raged over whether the electromagnetic fields produced by power lines could cause cancer, especially leukaemia in young children. But in Britain last week, confusion reached new heights. New Scientist

Activists fail to see good in biotech crops. Is it still appropriate to refer to Greenpeace as an environmental group? Greenpeace and similar groups recently have focused their well-funded international campaigns in ways that adversely affect the environment. Columbus Dispatch

Transgenic crops can provide important environmental benefits. Many transgenic crops, if used wisely, can improve environmental aspects of production compared to conventional and alternative systems.Transgenic agricultural crops in use today are reducing soil erosion by promoting low-tillage weed control and reducing use of undesirable pesticides via engineered herbicide-, virus-, and insect-resistance. IUFRO Working Party on Molecular Biology of Forest Trees.

GPs across Britain are finding themselves reduced to terror by a new syndrome which is spreading among patients. And it is expected to get worse. The symptoms are easy to spot - patients arrive for consultations clutching 20 or so printed pages that he or she has downloaded from the Internet. And the doctor has another case of Internet Print Out syndrome (IPO) on his or her hands.Independent

US Consumer groups want their government to require the labeling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients. But some experts say most shoppers don't understand biotechnology well enough to make sense of the labels. What's needed is a public education program to help consumers understand the technology, said Mildred Cody, a Georgia State University nutrition professor representing the American Dietetic Association. "Labeling without education is not effective," she said. Associated Press

Fear of Y2K may be worse than glitches. Forget about Y2K doomsayers and survivalists, who long ago squirrelled away months' worth of freeze-dried food, guns and ammunition. It is the 11th-hour stockpiling by the rest of us that has experts concerned. Vancouver Sun

The National Trust has knocked organic farming off its pedestal and brought the debate on the future of British agriculture down to earth. Its strategy, spelt out in its document, Agriculture 2000 and Beyond, represents a victory for common sense. Guardian