SIRC Media Watch Archive
Comment and Opinion – February 2001

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? (Who is guarding the guards?)The National Audit Office's 'Vision' statement is "To help the nation spend wisely" – a laudable aim which reflects nicely Gordon Brown's shrewd insistence on prudence in all matters fiscal. Its role is to scrutinise how government departments and agencies spend public money and to identify areas of unwarranted profligacy. All fine, laudable stuff which, according to the NAO, "saves the taxpayer millions of pounds every year". But who, we wonder, audits the NAO's own activities and spending? Full story.

A rice dilemma. The development of Golden Rice by scientists funded by the Rockefeller Foundation has presented Greenpeace and other anti-GM groups with a moral dilemma. To what extent do these groups wish to be seen as opposing a crop which, through its genetically engineered fortification with Vitamin A, may play a key role in reducing blindness in Africa and Asia which results from a deficiency of that vitamin? Should the moral crusade against imagined 'pollution' by GM crops override specific concerns for the health and welfare of some of the poorest people in the world? Greenpeace has never been comfortable with the charge that its food campaigns, led primarily by relatively well-fed people in the West, represent an elitist disregard for genuine suffering and malnutrition in less fortunate parts of the world. It has tried to fend off such challenges by describing them as nothing more than cynical PR for the multinational biotech companies …Full story.

Democracy at work? One of the benefits of 'open government' is that we now have very extensive access to the processes and machinations of our elected representatives and bureaucrats. We can see the workings of parliament on television, we can browse the web for arcane reports, committee minutes and even upcoming agenda items. Given our particular interest at SIRC in food issues and scares we naturally keep an eye on the content of the Food Standards Agency's web site, primarily to see how its determination to provide greater transparency and democratic consultation is coming along. It was in this routine context that a seemingly dull publication labelled came our way. This document contains Agenda Item 5 for the meeting of the FSA board on 8 February 2001 which relates back to a consultation process initiated towards the end of last year on a very crucial aspect of the agency's function – how the policy making process of the FSA can best be opened up to a wider range of consumer interests so as to ensure that its decisions are based on a full understanding of their views. This is important stuff and goes to the heart of the FSA's mission. Full story.