SIRC Media Watch Archive
The Pick – July 2000

Greenpeace withers as its members quit. Greenpeace, the environmental pressure group, is in crisis. The world's best known green campaigner has lost more than 1.6m members and seen its income plummet by £30m …In Britain membership is down to 200,000 – a 33% decrease from the mid-1990s. Sunday Times.

Cloning may be unnatural, but it is also right. Predictable frothing has greeted the news that Lord Sainsbury, the science minister, is personally in favour of allowing cloning experiments on human embryos … So it is important to be clear that the Government's decision, if it follows Lord Sainsbury's inclination and does decide to let human cloning research proceed, will be an unequivocally good thing, and an unusually brave one … It is a great blow against the natural order of pointless suffering and we should welcome it. Andrew Brown in the Express.

High-fat Diet Better for Female Athletes. Forget weight watching. A new study shows that a high-fat diet can help female athletes literally go that extra mile. Nine women soccer players at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo went more than one mile farther before reaching exhaustion on a diet of 35 percent fat. "That is really a striking difference," says Horvath, an associate professor at SUNY at Buffalo's School of Health Related Professions. HealthScout.

Cow burp problem solved. Scientists have developed a new way of tackling global warming – by feeding cattle a daily dose of bacteria to stop them belching out methane as they graze … Researchers at Scotland's Rowett Research Institute have found a bacterium that breaks down the methane into hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The institute does not expect consumers to quibble about the additives, which are much like the bacteria-enriched yoghurts people eat to improve their digestion. Financial Times.

Keep On Truckin'. Don't be so fast to hang up your car phone. A new study suggests that the hazards of driving while talking on a cellular phone aren't as bad as you might think. HealthScout.

Foil-wrapped folly. What's wrong with requiring condom wrappers to carry a warning about a cancer-causing virus? If you happen to be one of the 15 people in the world who reads the foil wrapper before ripping it open to put on a condom, the religious right wants to have words with you.Salon.

Raising awareness or spreading fear?Cancer charities, radio shows, medical journals – they are all in the business of getting messages across to the public. If you can't capture the reader's or listener's interest, there is no way he or she will take in the important messages that you want to deliver. One way to grab that interest is to scare the audience rigid, but can it be justified? BMJ.

It's no longer edgy to be veggie. Just as anti-fur activists like Naomi Campbell have shaken off their principles about wearing dead animal skins, so some vegetarians are dropping off the wagon. Julia Sawalha has just quit being a veggie after four meat-free years. Anthea Turner has returned to the pleasures of the flesh after she got a whiff of her builders' bacon sandwiches. Liv Tyler was a tofu girl while she was dating strict vegan Joaquin Phoenix but has now fallen by the wayside, and Madonna and Lulu have also reportedly abandoned the carrot-sticks-and-celery routine. According to reports in America, even the Dalai Lama has started eating meat on the orders of his doctor. Evening Standard.

Have we become a nation of Nancies? The answer, if you consider the behaviour of the TV guinea pigs cast away by the BBC on the island of Taransay to be typical, is yes. Rather than slaughter the animals provided for their sustenance, several of the castaways have become vegetarians … Far from reverting to the sort of primitive savagery of the castaway schoolboys depicted by William Golding in his novel Lord Of The Flies, the Taransay castaways have become even more precious than they were on the mainland. Express.

Tony Blair gave strong backing to Bill Clinton on genetically modified foods on Sunday as a split opened up with other European Union countries on the last day of the Group of Eight summit in Okinawa, Japan. The two leaders agreed at a joint press conference that future biotechnology decisions should be based on science rather than prejudice – a view that the British prime minister accepted was "not always popular". Financial Times. Express. Guardian.

Moderate drinkers 'alert in old age'. Drinking may be the key to keeping the mental faculties sharp well into old age, scientists have found. Wine and other alcoholic drinks have already been linked with a healthy heart. Now researchers have found evidence that moderate drinking can also reduce the impact of advancing years. Times.

Time to develop a healthy interest. It is ironic that science should find itself in such a situation at a time of so much outstanding and pioneering work. It is also extremely worrying that, as a result, Britain risks missing out on the tremendous opportunities the biosciences offer. The UK is ideally placed in world terms to benefit from these new technologies, in areas ranging from public health to global competitiveness. Financial Times.

Greenpeace – the sinking ship? Thilo Bode has announced he will resign as executive director of Greenpeace International in a matter of months following several high-level members of the organization leaving the organization … The Brent Spar incident defines Bode's term in office and provides an example of the tension between the activist and the professional sides of Greenpeace … It was a true victory, except for growing awareness of the scientific fallacies that rested at the root of the campaign. Bode's reaction was to apologize to the world community and demand that all Greenpeace affiliates use greater discipline in making scientific arguments. FSN.

Too Clean Is No Good. Anti-bacterial soaps, anti-bacterial laundry detergent, anti-bacterial cutting boards, anti-bacterial baby toys – the list just keeps going on. With so many anti-bacterial products out there, you'd think we'd have germs on the run. Unfortunately, the reality is that all these germ-killing products may end up leaving us even more vulnerable to infection, says a Tufts University microbiologist. Yahoo.

Mmm, guilt-free chocolate. As every chocoholic instictively knows, feeling guilty about a vice is bad for your health. Now research confirms that people who enjoy themselves without feeling guilty boost their immunity, reducing their risk of infection and illness. Times.

There's No Vaccine Against Irrational Fears. Of all the tragedies that can befall a parent, having an autistic child is one of the most frustrating. If something causes this developmental disorder, we need to know. Many parents believe that vaccination against other childhood diseases inadvertently causes autism. San Francisco Chronicle.

The cancer study bombshell that wasn't. Medical quiz du jour: A study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that A) genes are more important than we thought in causing cancer, or B) genes are less important than we thought in causing cancer. Salon.

Ministers order red meat for anorexic girls. School menus will have to include red meat dishes three times a week as part of a government campaign to reduce the number of teenage girls who suffer from anaemia and anorexia. Ministers want school canteens to serve more dishes containing beef, lamb or pork after a national survey found that many girls do not get enough iron in their diets. Times.

Organic food complaints upheld. Advertising watchdogs have upheld complaints against claims that organic food is tastier, healthier and better for the environment and animals. Ananova.

Allow GM crops to feed poor, say top scientists. Leading scientists from around the world have backed genetically modified crops. They are needed to feed growing populations and to provide employment in rural areas, a report from seven respected scientific academies, including the Royal Society, says.Times.

GM companies 'should share data'. Some of the world's leading scientists say genetically modified (GM) plants can help to feed the growing number of hungry people. But they say the GM industry must be ready to share its technology for the common good. BBC.

Globalisation can be harnessed to benefit the world's poor. "There is a curious paradox at the heart of globalisation. While economies and peoples are being drawn ever more closely together, some political forces seek refuge in narrow nationalism and isolation – for example, the right-wing forces in the US that reject America's participation in multilateral organisations such as the UN, the World Bank and the IMF. One strand in British Conservatism is similarly in retreat from international engagement.
But there are also those on the left who seek to turn back the tide of globalisation, who want to put the globalisation genie back in its bottle. They see the IMF and WTO as hostile institutions and want, like King Canute, to rail against the power of global market forces. They fail to remember, however, that the great multilateral institutions were created not by conservatives, but by progressives." Clare Short in the New Statesman.

Red meat is good for you. A leading nutritionist has provoked controversy by suggesting people who do not eat red meat are risking their health. Professor Robert Pickard, director general of the British Nutrition Foundation, said a vegetarian diet was not natural for mankind. "Man is an omnivore. Anyone thinking of restricting their diet by becoming a vegetarian is potentially taking risks with their health." BBC.

Cossetted children more prone to allergies. Children from middle class families are more likely to develop asthma and eczema than those from less affluent backgrounds, research has shown. Campaigners said the clean and cossetted indoor way of life of more affluent children – which shields them from bacteria needed to prime their immune systems – could be to blame. A study of 1,300 children found that it was those with the wealthiest parents who were significantly more likely to suffer from allergic conditions. This finding backs up previous studies and international health statistics, which suggest that allergies are a disease of wealthy western lifestyles. Telegraph.

Time to scotch egg myth, says expert. After 30 years of bad press, eggs have been given a clean bill of health by an American nutritionist who says an egg a day will not increase the risk of heart disease. Donald McNamara will tell the Royal Society of Medicine today that even people with high cholesterol levels should go to work on an egg. This year, the American Heart Association is expected to drop its advice that three eggs a week is a sensible limit, he says. Telegraph.

Divas fade in opera's purge of the plump. Is it all over for the fat ladies who sing? The traditional breed of generously proportioned opera divas is being banished from the stage in favour of slimmer rivals. Directors say that modern audiences can no longer suspend their disbelief when roles such as Carmen, a beautiful gypsy girl, or Mimi, a young seamstress dying of consumption in La Bohème, are played by robust singers of 14 stone. However, critics fear the trend could see the powerful voices of larger-than-life stars such as Joan Sutherland and Jane Eaglen replaced by svelte young performers who use hidden microphones and amplification to conceal their musical shortcomings. Times.

'I'm not in favour of opinions that are set out as facts'. Policing the press is a tough job, and Lord Wakeham, head of the Press Complaints Commission, has had a tough week. He tells Jojo Moyes how he believes editors and his organisation are beginning to see eye-to-eye. Independent.

Stop cashing in on stress, says psychiatrist. Experts are cashing in on the "trauma industry", increasingly encouraging people to seek compensation for ordinary events, psychiatrists said yesterday. Telegraph.

Fears of a clone. "Worries about designer babies and other selective breeding in the wake of the genome project are overblown. Our defences against misuse of the human map are mistrust and democracy … My guess is that the new genetics will bring wonderful medicines and very small shifts in the human stock, not the new eugenics or any of the nightmares based on crude and discredited thinking from a century ago." Andrew Marr in The Observer.