SIRC Media Watch Archive
The Pick – July 2002

GM row delays food aid to Zimbabwe. A row over genetically engineered maize is overshadowing efforts to tackle the famine that threatens the lives of at least 14 million people in several southern African countries. Negotiations were under way earlier this week to settle the dispute. New Scientist.

Foulkes snubs 'selfish' GM crop protesters. George Foulkes, a former international development minister, has denounced GM food protesters as "the most selfish and short-sighted people" he has ever met … "GM technology has the potential to transform the world. Millions currently starving to death in Africa and Asia could survive through advances which will increase crop yield, extend storage life and eliminate the use of expensive and dangerous pesticides and chemicals." Herald.

Flavour, fat and fibre. "There is a lack scientific basis for the proposal by the Demos that "fatty, highly processed and fast foods" should attract significant taxes … Contrary to popular belief, fat intakes have fallen by almost 30% over the past twenty years; the government's own research shows that people on low income diets consume no more fat than those on high incomes and that fat people eat no higher proportion of fat in their diets than thin people." Letter from Prof. Tom Sanders in the Telegraph.

Why it is worth taking the risk. After 20 years on HRT Claire Rayner developed breast cancer. Despite research showing a possible link, she does not regret taking the drug – and has no intention of giving up. "So here we go again. Yet another therapy designed to help women feel, look and behave like the girls they once were bites the dust because the medical establishment attacks it in the most cruel way possible – saying it can cause early death." Guardian.

Experts urge caution over HRT alert. Experts have urged women in the UK taking hormone replacement therapy not to panic after a clinical trial in the US found serious health risks from taking the drug…The findings have caused so much concern that US authorities have ordered researchers to end the study, involving more than 16,000 women, three years early. But experts in the UK say the risks of cancer or heart disease remain small and women should consult their doctors before stopping taking HRT…Professor David Purdie, from the Centre for Metabolic Disease at Hull Royal Infirmary…warned of the dangers of dealing in percentages. For example, a 26% increase in likelihood of women taking equine hormones developing breast cancer represented only eight women out of 1,000 in the study. BBC

Call for shake-up of Food Assurance Schemes. Food Assurance Schemes need a radical overhaul, according to a review of 18 schemes published today (9 July 2002) by the Food Standards Agency. The Agency is recommending that a new independent organisation should govern 'Red Tractor' schemes, that core minimum standards need to be put in place across all schemes and that there should be better cooperation between them. Food Standards Agency

Fatal Italian measles epidemic is warning for UK. An epidemic of measles in Italy, which killed three children and is estimated to have infected more than 20,000, could be repeated in the UK if the current decline in vaccination rates continues, British public health officials are warning … At a BMA conference on Wednesday, doctors suggested making MMR vaccination compulsory in the UK. In the US, children cannot attend school unless they have had the triple jab. New Scientist.

'Ethical' ISP tainted by WorldCom. One of the unsung victims of the WorldCom scandal is Christian Aid, which had used the company to set up an "ethical" internet service provider. The episode has raised some difficult questions for the charity. BBC.

Measles cases quadruple. The incidence of measles cases quadrupled in the first three months of this year as vaccination rates slumped amidst public alarm over the safety of the MMR jab. Figures from the Public Health Laboratory Service showed there were 126 cases of measles in England and Wales in the first three months of 2002, compared with just 32 recorded cases in the last three months of 2001. It is the largest quarterly total for five years. Guardian