SIRC Media Watch Archive
Comment and Opinion – February 2000

Express web site can damage your brain. The Express is currently waging war against mobile telephones and the masts which serve them. On the 28th of February we read in a leader that Danger signals ring over mobile phone masts'. The following day we are told 'How mobile phones can damage your brain'. Strange then that the banner advert which features prominently above both of these articles on the Express's web site offers a 'Free Orange Nokia nk402' mobile phone with '50 minutes off-peak calls' for just '50p per day'. Never let the pursuit of unfounded scaremongering stand in the way of gaining advertising revenues.

GM food U-turn?. The British press have seized on Tony Blair's latest comments on genetic modification to justify their concerted and misleading coverage of the issue for the past year. The Express describes his apparent change of heart as "Blair eats his GM words" while the Independent talks of a "dramatic U-turn" and the "greening of Downing Street." Other papers say much the same. Only the BBC comes closest to rational discussion of Blair's fudging, describing GM food as a 'political hot potato' …

… If the Prime Minister's alleged change of heart is real then the people who will suffer will not be the right-thinking-organic-food-eating residents of Surrey and Berkshire. The perceived benefits of GM to such people are clearly very small – who needs it? No, the victims of the irrational rejection of genetic modification will be the subsistence farmers in the Southern hemisphere – the people for whom the development of drought or salt-resistant crops might actually mean the difference between life and death. Full Text

Riskfactorphobic health professionals put children's lives in danger. A recent survey shows that unfounded panic about the MMR vaccine has spread to some health professionals, whose advice to parents is now based on tabloid scare stories rather than on scientific evidence.

In the Nursing Times (February 17), a GP is quoted as saying "I read a case in the Daily Mail of a child who had the MMR then within a couple of hours went into a coma and died. I tell parents I would not have my own children immunised." More

The proposal by Dr Tom Marshall to introduce VAT on fatty foods is unfair, unscientific and ineffective as a means of combating heart disease. Marshall's BMJ article was quoted in almost every newspaper, but only a few cited the highly critical commentary which the BMJ published alongside Marshall's piece, pointing out that even if dietary modifications could be achieved by such a tax (which the commentators suggest is extremely unlikely), the main determinant of how any individual responds to reducing fat in the diet is genetic. More

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), which advocates a vegetarian diet, filed a motion in U.S. District Court on Wednesday night seeking to block the release of the American government panel's recommendations on official dietary guidelines. Reuters. The current dietary and health recommendations, adopted in 1980, are widely used by doctors, nutritionists and food makers. They are the basis of the well-known USDA food pyramid used to teach children healthy eating habits. The new working draft once again endorses milk and dairy products as a key source of calcium. PCRM, however, claims that it should instead be encouraging people to avoid this 'animal product' and eat leafy green vegetables, beans and calcium-fortified fruit juice instead. To see how barking the arguments of PCRM really are, visit their web site.