SIRC Media Watch Archive
Articles of Note – February 2000

'Eco-toffs' . Swampy is all very well, my dears, but the new eco-warriors wouldn't dream of going underground. Instead, like Lady Berkeley and her upper-class chums, they would rather air their concerns with a well-aimed chocolate eclair and a spin doctor. Guardian.

Demand for 'rational' GM debate. A cross-party group of MPs has called on the government to clear up "confusion" over genetically modified food technology and replace it with "rational debate and education". BBC.

 Urge. A teenage boy heads toward the magazine stand at the local E-ZMart in Mississippi. His eyes dart past the clerk to the rack filled with copies of Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler magazines. As he lusts over the bevy of silicone beauties, he feels a woody coming on. He grabs a magazine, takes his change and quickly turns to leave. A policeman at the door spots the boner. Busted! That'll be a $2,000 fine and maybe a year in jail for that hard-on kid. Sounds far-fetched? Come again. The Mississippi Legislature is considering a bill to ban erections in public. Salon Magazine.

Conference hears of GM food's global benefits. A conference in Brisbane has been told that genetically modified (GM) food could help to feed millions of people around the world. ABC.

Not Even Way Cool Can Sell Fruits and Vegetables. Telling kids to eat carrots instead of cookies usually just draws the nutritional, and family, battle lines. But now folks at the Children's Nutrition Center, which has ties to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are hard at work figuring out ways to get that eat-more-fruits-and-vegetables message across in a more positive fashion. L.A.Times

Engineering a genetic consensus. This week's international conference on genetically modified crops in Edinburgh needs to forge some sort of consensus. Otherwise the issue is in danger of becoming hopelessly polarised between opponents of GM food and biotechnologists who cannot see what all the fuss is about. Financial Times.

'Blair's policy shift on GM foods, widely welcomed as proof of the greening of his Government, looks more like evidence that it has turned yellow' – Mick Hume – Times.

Don't misrepresent biotechnology. "Biotechnology, like any tool, can be abused and misused. That's why regulatory agencies must closely monitor it. But the slop that opponents are tossing into boardrooms both misrepresents the technology's dangers and downplays its benefits. The campaign to slow genetic foods is overdone. No one has been harmed." USA Today.

Field of dreams. The advocates of Golden rice hope to seize the moral high ground from anti-GM campaigners. Financial Times.

 Medical Internet legends are enough to scare the antibodies right out of you. Warning! Antiperspirant can cause breast cancer! Caution! Mountain Dew can shrink your testicles, and yawning can lead to an orgasm! Beware! These and other medical scares found on the Internet are bunk. Salt Lake Tribune.

Chocolate is good for you. No cream cakes and lots of exercise may have been joined by a much more palatable way of helping keep your heart healthy – eating chocolate. BBC.

 Medical Miracles or Misguided Media? News reports are filled with the latest breakthroughs, but they are often exaggerated by inexperienced reporters, overeager editors and self-interested scientists. There were times last year when the casual consumer of mainstream news could have been forgiven for thinking that cures were suddenly being found for an uncommonly large number of the world's health problems. L.A.Times

Dogs Can Be Good for Your Health. A dog is not only man's best friend, but one scientific study says Fido may be good for your overall health, too. A study from the University of Warwick, in England, says owning a dog appears to increase social interaction. That helps people feel more connected and, therefore, can help improve their general health. OnHealth

 The energy expended in chewing gum can keep you slim?. "Mean (±SD) energy expenditure increased in all subjects during chewing, from 58±11 kcal per hour at base line to 70±14 kcal per hour (two-sided P<0.001). After chewing, energy expenditure returned to base line (59±12 kcal per hour) in all subjects (P<0.001). Chewing gum led to a mean increase in energy expenditure of 11±3 kcal per hour (range, 7 to 17), a 19±4 percent increase above base-line values." New England Journal of Medicine.

Kissing is good for your health. From an aerobic standpoint, kissing is a workout: According to the 1991 Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex, a passionate kiss burns 6.4 calories per minute. (This compares to 11.2 calories per minute you burn jogging on a treadmill.) It takes only two muscles to purse your lips into a simple pucker, but a serious French kiss activates all 34 of your facial muscles, and the highest level of serious making out, properly done, engages every muscle and tendon in your body. Salon Magazine.

Misplaced GM fears. Leading European geneticists and molecular biologists have said consumers are mistaken in believing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) pose "unusual dangers". This public perception is holding up the application of biotechnology, especially in agriculture, they warned in a statement issued through the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO). Irish Times.

Making a meal of it. I became convinced about ten years ago that the nitrate scare fell into the "misplaced but useful" category, but having looked at recent medical evidence I think it needs a category all of its own. What's worrying me in particular is the possibility that the nitrate scare itself could have contributed to the rise in notifications of food poisoning in Britain, from 35 000 in 1987 to 106 000 in 1997. Here's why. New Scientist.

Beyond Cholesterol. Cynicism, hostility, and isolation have been identified as factors of heart disease. Beliefnet.

Genetic modification isn't an unnatural process. Nobel Prize-winner, Norman Borlaug, has a point to insert into the debate over genetically modified foods: Ordinary leavened bread is made from wheat that carries the genes of three plant species. And the genetic engineering didn't happen in the past decade or even the past millennium. Nature spliced the genes before the rise of the Roman Empire. "Genetically modified organisms are the result of a natural process that was going on long before humans became involved," said Borlaug, 84, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his achievements in breeding high-yielding wheat.Star Tribune

Unreasonable precautions. 'Better safe than sorry" sounds like unassailable public policy for protecting the public health. But the so-called "precautionary principle" is bad public policy when it has no application to public health and is just a pretext for saying "No" to new technologies and trade. National Post

Californian vandalism hurts case against genetically engineered foods. This vandalism is not only cowardly but tactically stupid, since food critics have been making plenty of headway in the courts, the markets and the regulatory arena. San Francisco Gate.

Consumers Shouldn't Buy Into Junk Science Hype. Periodically, junk science invades the media, or to say it another way, the media surrenders to the culture of allegation and consumers who are largely ignorant of science and prone to believe what they see in print or hear on television, fall prey to the scam mongers. One such needless episode prompts to reassure the public, especially parents, about the safety of plastic (polycarbonate) baby bottles. DrKoop