SIRC Media Watch Archive
The Pick – June 2000

World needs GM crops, says UN food chief. The head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) gave genetically-modified (GM) organisms his backing on Wednesday, saying new plant and animal varieties were needed to feed a burgeoning world population … He predicted that a shortage of land available for cultivation would make it impossible to feed a global population expected to peak at 9bn without recourse to genetically-engineered plants and animals. Financial Times.

Who's afraid of genomes and GMOs? "It wasn't until the Reith lectures this year that I first began to wonder whether something more profound and worrying wasn't going on. I just happened to be in the bath with the dial at Radio 4, when a woman called Vandana Shiva spoke in the series. Within five minutes I was frowning; within 10, bemused; after 30 I was incredulous … At no time in my life can I remember such an assault on scientific rationalism as is happening now." David Aaronovitch in the Independent.

Nutritional role modeling. Your children are what you eat. That’s the boiled down conclusion from a Massachusetts family eating study that shows that parents who switch back and forth between dieting and eating impulsively tend to raise children who become more obese than kids whose parents eat more predictably. INNX.

Are food allergies a fantasy?Personal trainers and therapists aside, the one thing no celebrity can do without is a nutritionist. Unusual diets are as hip as Jimmy Choo shoes and Gucci sunglasses in this image and food-obsessed age and the trend for personal nutrition is filtering down to the masses. Times

Women want much more than just chewing the fat. The curse of the women's unit has struck again. The government has got itself into a terrible mess over its preposterously named "body image summit", called to tackle the national emergency of women traumatised by thin models pictured in the media … Eating disorders are a serious problem and a complex mental illness, whose causes and remedies cannot possibly be dealt with at a meeting dominated by magazine editors making questionable promises about controlling their images. This was a stunt. Sunday Times.

Twisted vision. "It was a small fight, some chairs were overturned and a big water pistol was used." Charlie Whelan says "Television reporting of the football 'riots' in Brussels and Charleroi was staggeringly inaccurate … These great TV pictures enabled those not there, and some who were, to talk rubbish. The Independent leader talked about the fans' "rampage through the Low Countries". What rampage? Charles Bremner of the Times, who normally covers the bureaucrats in Brussels, told us that "the battered Charleroi residents were happy to see England fans go home". I was in Charleroi for seven days and that is simply not true." Guardian.

Magazines ban anorexic models. Anorexic models will be banished from the pages of women's magazines under a voluntary code agreed by editors yesterday. Details of the scheme have yet to be finalised, but it would include "monitoring images" and "using models who varied in shape and size". A self-regulatory body made up of editors, stylists, photographers and women who would check the contents of fashion pages, is also likely to be created. Independent.

Hooligans? I didn't see any. Virtually all of the so-called "hooligans" I met were actually decent fans who had been shafted outrageously by Uefa and by the host city of Charleroi. Many of them were "detained" for a few hours by chip-on-the-shoulder Belgian police for no crime other than showing up in a relentlessly unhelpful host city and trying to find a spot to watch the game. Guardian.

Judge biotech by the real risks. Fanatical opponents of gene-spliced organisms are raising costs so high that many new crops and environmental techniques will never be developed. National Post.

Scientists hail drought crop. Existing forms of the grasspea can live for months without rain, but can prove toxic to humans. Now researchers in Syria say they have developed a new strain of the plant which is just as hardy and high in protein, but is not poisonous. BBC.

Analysis: Soccer violence. It may be no coincidence that the British tabloid press gives English hooligans massive coverage after games, as well as stoking up the atmosphere of xenophobia before them. BBC.

Appliance of science. "The majority of what [scientists] do is not just worthwhile, but essential for the good of mankind. Take GM foods. If they can develop wheat which needs no water, then it will help the starving millions in Africa. And I'd gladly wave goodbye to the odd beagle if it would help cure cancer. But one thing I can't abide is science for science's sake. And nowhere is this better demonstrated than in modern cars." Jeremy Clarkson in The Sun.

Good Fat: Infamous foods no longer all bad. High fat foods like ice cream and steak may produce more than just immediate gratification. They contain an essential nutrient that many Americans might be inadvertently denying themselves, according to researchers. INNX.

Stay fun and chubby chaps because the weight of evidence is on your side … Men have had many indignities chucked at them in recent years but diet fascism is the worst. Many women have learned where this leads: anorexia. On the few occasions that I have had the supposed good fortune to meet models I have been struck by how miserable and anxious they seem. Express.

Thou shalt check thy testicles regularly. These days, the greatest risk to men’s health lies not in their coronary arteries, nor in some creeping, cancerous disease, nor even in their liking for risk and excess. It is found in newsagents and bookstores, where creaking racks and shelves pose the very real danger of an avalanche of health and lifestyle reading matter crushing the male browser to death … For too long, men’s health has been a contradiction in terms, a joke. Now that men are starting to take an interest, it’ll be a shame if a well-intentioned medical profession louses things up by generating anxiety, teaching men not to trust their bodies and forgetting that life is as much about quality as quantity. Scotsman.

Scientists make health enhancing cheeses. Irish breakthroughs in the production of low-fat and health-enhancing "probiotic" cheeses could revolutionise the role of cheese in the diet, according to the agricultural research body Teagasc. Irish Times.

My boy died, this jab may save yours. A father whose son was killed by meningitis yesterday warned other parents not to overreact against the new vaccine. "If someone asked me if I would prefer my son to have the vaccine and suffer a few side effects or run the risk of contracting a killer like meningitis, there would be no choice." Express.

Nobel Laureate Hails GMO Technology. Dr Norman E. Borlaugh, has defended the utilisation of Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs to boost food production in the world. He told a forum organised in his honour at the Nairobi International Centre for Research in Agriculture and Forestry Monday that such organisms could play a key role in bringing about food security. "There is no evidence to indicate that biotechnology is dangerous. After all, mother-nature has been doing this kind of thing for God knows how long," he said. told a packed hall consisting to researchers and food scientists in the Kenyan capital. He dismissed the critics of GMOs as people who had not produced even a kg of food and yet were yelping about bio-safety and the dangers involved in the technology. Pan African News.

A real lifesaver. A strong cup of coffee may help relieve hay fever, and might even be a lifesaver for people who suffer potentially fatal reactions to nuts and bee stings, say researchers in South Korea. They have found that in rats caffeine can block acute allergic reactions such as anaphylactic shock. New Scientist.

Row over breast cancer diet claim. A claim made in a new book, Your Life in Your Hands by Professor June Plant, that a dairy-free diet can prevent breast cancer has been disputed by a leading charity. Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: "We are extremely concerned about the claims made in Professor Plant's book … With all due respect to Professor Plant, her views are not based upon scientific evidence … we do not yet have the evidence to promote the exclusion of specific foods to protect against breast cancer." BBC.

Butterflies survive next to GM corn. Scientists have shown how one common species of butterfly can live quite happily next to corn genetically modified to kill insect pests. The research contrasts strongly with a previous and now famous study in which the iconic monarch butterfly was shown to be at unintentional risk from the pollen of the GM crop. That earlier work was seized upon by green groups as an example of the dangers posed to friendly creatures by novel plants engineered to contain their own insecticides. BBC.

Robust view on GM crops is both right and wrong.The surprise is not that the Duke of Edinburgh offered a robust opinion on genetically modified crops, but that it took him so long.Times.

The Food Standards Agency’s first survey on attitudes to food safety is published. The survey found that there is confidence that food in Britain is good and is safe. The majority of people are more concerned with cost, convenience and nutrition rather than safety, which they take for granted.

Sense of balance in the Guardian!
1. A misguided media swarm – Once again a preliminary, uncompleted and unpublished piece of scientific research makes headlines as a new GM scare story … Now the latest scare story is that young honey bees can acquire transgenes encoding herbicide resistance from GM pollen and transmit these to microbes living in their gut. (Conrad Lichtenstein).

2. Don't be afraid. – Within the next month, possibly within the next few days, the sequencing of the human genome will be effectively complete. This is a scientific, technical and cultural prize which ranks among the highest of our achievements as human beings … Sadly, for many people the news will only stimulate uneasiness, even fear, conditioned by the current atmosphere of ignorance and mistrust of science. (Michael Rennie).

Anne risks Charles's fury over GM foods. Princess Anne has come into direct conflict with Prince Charles by speaking out publicly in favour of genetically modified foods. The Princess Royal said: "Man has been tinkering with food production and plant development for such a long time that it's a bit cheeky suddenly to get nervous about it when fundamentally you are doing much the same thing." Express.

Media coverage of the benefits and risks of medications. The news media are an important source of information about new medical treatments, but there is concern that some coverage may be inaccurate and overly enthusiastic. New England Journal of Medicine.