SIRC Media Watch Archive
The Pick – April 2001

GM tomato to fight disease. Scientists have developed a genetically modified tomato which could be used to keep people healthy. They believe the fruit could even help to ward off heart disease and cancer. Using gene technology they were able to increase levels of beneficial chemicals called falvonols in tomato peel. BBC.

Banned Wagon. The foot-and-mouth crisis has spawned plenty of cod theories about agriculture, but few quite as dramatic as that tabled by the Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion, Simon Thomas. He is so convinced that organic food is the solution to the countryside’s woes that he has introduced a private member’s Bill to force us all to eat it. Under the Organic Food and Farming Targets Bill, by 1 January 2010 one-fifth of all food eaten in Britain would have to be organic, and one third of all agricultural land would have to be given over to organic production. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foods would be empowered to ensure that the target is met. Spectator.

Antis and other animals. Animal testing's supporters must stand up and be counted. Tired of financial organisations buckling to intimidation by animal rights terrorists, scientific organisations are finally giving them a taste of their own medicine. The Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) has announced that it is closing its account with HSBC, the bank which severed links with the drug-testing group Huntingdon Life Sciences following threats from protesters. Times.

Scientists identify 'the sweet tooth gene'. The secret of a sweet tooth may have been solved by scientists, who believe they have found the gene responsible for creating the most sought-after sensation of the taste buds … Sweetness is the most pleasurable taste because it is associated with high-energy foods, such as honey and fruit, which would have been an extremely valuable commodity in the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of our early human ancestors. Independent.

Genetic research to eliminate disease should not be prevented by fear. We should not be ruled by the fear of the unknown or, worse, the fear of having to make difficult moral decisions. Yes, genetic science will pose more awkward questions about what kinds of "disability" like Down's or dwarfism ought to be "designed out" of the human species, but they are not essentially new. The [Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, 1990] should be amended, and scientists should be encouraged to try to minimise the chances of people being born with pain or an early death written into their chromosomes. Independent.

Free fruit for schoolchildren risks causing malnutrition, warns scientist. A leading British nutritionist has criticised a government scheme to distribute free fruit to primary school children for being scientifically flawed and misleading. Professor Tom Sanders, head of nutrition at King's College London and a member of a government advisory body on food policy, said that giving fruit to children each day could backfire on ministers. An explanatory document released when the National School Fruit Scheme was launched in February was littered with misleading claims that could undermine the aim of ensuring children had a balanced diet, he said … Professor Sanders said "Too much fruit and veg in under-fives can cause malnutrition, as I have found from my studies of vegans." Independent. [See also SIRC's comment of 13/3/01 – Veggie Bangers].

Greenpeace, again. "We are all trying to survive as best we can under very stringent economic circumstances, and the last thing we want are intervention of busybodies whose only purpose is to show to their financial patrons that they are doing something to justify the financial donations they get … Greenpeace members are travelling all over the world as busybodies, making a profession out of their supposed concern for the environment when all along they are just trying to make a living themselves like the workers who become unemployed as a result of their intervention. Perhaps, it is time our leaders here should wise up to Greenpeace and their 'allies' here. Asian Journal.

How to live longer. To defeat the ageing process, we must overcome our fears of genetic engineering and set to work…Hardly a day goes by without Prince Charles warning us of the dangers of genetic engineering. Yet the human genome has revealed that nature is the busiest genetic engineer. More that 200 of our genes appear to have been captured from bacteria and much of the rest of the genome is a junkyard filled with the corpses of retrovirus and other parasites that have been hopping in and out of our chromosomes for millennia. Guardian.

When foot-and-mouth didn't make the front page. It is not only cows and sheep that have caught the foot-and-mouth bug – so have the UK media. According to the Guardian, from 24 March to 30 March 2001, British newspapers devoted 3385 column inches to foot-and-mouth … Coverage of the last foot-and-mouth outbreak in 1967 was a different story. In November 1967, when the outbreak reached its peak, newspapers were too concerned with devaluation of the pound, conflicts in Aden and Vietnam, reform of the House of Lords and striking dockers to allow the spread of an animal disease to take up too much space. Forget angst-ridden editorials and five-page specials – in 1967 foot-and-mouth rarely made it on to the front page. Spiked.

Tempting fat. For decades, healthy eating's mantra has been: Fat is bad. But despite cutting back, many Canadians remain overweight. Are we looking at what we eat the wrong way?…Of all the dietary dogma that health advocates have preached since the Second World War, the precept most people can recite without strain is: Eat less fat, live longer. The very concept of healthy eating has become synonymous with eating less fat…But there is a discordant note. Science does not support this less-fat-is-good message. Despite hundreds of millions of dollars in research, no one has ever proved eating less dietary fat will extend a person's life by a day. National Post.

What's so great about organic? It is a myth that modern intensive farming is more environmentally damaging, says Tony Trewavas. What's so great about organic? Manure produces nitrous oxide and methane – both potent greenhouse gases. Telegraph.