SIRC Media Watch Archive
Articles of Note – March 2000

Watching portion sizes key to watching weight. Nearly 80% of people in the US believe that what they eat is more important than how much they eat -- even as they scarf down fast-food chain ''supersized'' portions and corner-store muffins that have ballooned in size from 1.5 to 8 ounces.Reuters.

Worried food will kill you? Me neither. The last time we worried about fruits and vegetables was when Meryl Streep went on the talk show circuit advising everyone to soap up and hose down broccoli. Now, suddenly, thousands of protesters have descended on Boston to tell us we're all eating mutant food every day. Boston Globe.

US challenges Europe's food safety stance. The US is challenging European Union claims that the so-called "precautionary principle" – used to justify sales embargoes on some genetically modified foods and other products – is enshrined in international agreements. It has also asked the EU to define the principle clearly and to explain how it plans to make use of it in international relations. Financial Times.

A modified crop could prevent starvation. But is it the only way? Yes: More people need more food. GM is the best option we have, says Anthony Trewavas. No: There are better solutions which avoid dangers to the environment, says Sue Mayer. Guardian.

America finds ready market for GM food - the hungry. Embattled American farmers facing rejection of their genetically modified crops still have one unquestioning market - emergency aid for the world's starving and displaced.Independent.

Female 'gym addicts' have healthy bodies and minds.The myth of the "exercise addicted" woman is exposed today by researchers who say those who work out in the gym for as much as two hours a day show no sign of being psychologically unhealthy. Independent.

The couch potato is the lounge lizard of onscreen society. So what do we make of the idea that the couch potato has now had its chips? According to the results of a survey which The Times reports today, well over three quarters of British people take regular exercise. Times.

Some Fat in the Diet? Yes We shouldn't have to punish ourselves by eating bland-tasting foods in order to protect our health and waistlines. The dissatisfaction resulting from a too-restricted diet can leave one still vaguely hungry for something else. Eating should be a joy. ACSH.

Biotech's benefits. Two hundred years ago Englishmen used to rave about the beautiful complexions of milk maids who seemed immune from the dread scourge of smallpox, which disfigured the people it did not kill. It was Edward Jenner who figured out that milk maids were exposed to cowpox, a lesser disease, and that cowpox immunized them from smallpox. He developed a cowpox vaccine that has been so successful that today the only smallpox bacilli left on earth are isolated in laboratories in the United States and Russia. Many people thought, however, that vaccinations were against nature and dangerous. Illustrated predictions of milk maids with cows growing out of their bodies appeared in the press. Today a similar wave of fearful but equally unscientific protest is rising over the genetic altering of crops. Boston Globe

Rejoice in the fat of this great land. Eating healthy food, lots of fruit and vegetables, pulses and fibrous things, is, of course, only sensible … But sometimes I think that the healthy eating lobby is so strident, so humourless and uncompromising that its effect is actually malign. Nowadays, people worry about what they are eating or not eating. The bullying by health educationists has surely something to do with the obsession among so many women to be ultra-thin and ends up encouraging them to emulate the unnatural figures of supermodels to their own detriment. Express

The new NHS makes people ill through its endless health promotion campaigns, spreading epidemics of anxiety through a population that has never been healthier. Times.

What Ever Happened to the Joy of Eating? As science blitzes us with information about the food we consume, many Americans feel guilty or confused. LA Times.

Bishop fights the good fight. "There is a Biblical imperative to farm the Earth productively – which means that we must not ignore nature's potential, genetic manipulation included. We must always follow science rather than the emotions." Telegraph.

GM feed 'will not give rise to superbugs'. Fears that feeding genetically modified crops to animals could give rise to antibiotic resistant bacteria appear to be false, according to research by British scientists. A team at the University of Leeds led by Dr John Heritage has been studying claims that antibiotic resistant genes incorporated into GM crops could cross over into bacteria in animals' guts and give rise to "superbugs". But in a series of experiments, Dr Heritage's team said they had so far "drawn a blank", even when they had done their best to persuade the genes to transfer into the bacteria. Independent

Man's blindness 'due to vegan diet'. A man's strict vegan diet may have caused him to go blind, doctors say. The 33-year-old man had been on a strict diet for 13 years which involved cutting out meat, eggs, dairy products, fish and all other sources of animal protein. BBC

AMA issues guidelines to address Web ethics. The American Medical Association is updating guidelines for its Web sites to reduce worries about misleading information and breaches of confidentiality. With more and more people turning to the Internet for medical information, the nation's largest doctors' organization hopes its new policy becomes a model for other sites and helps consumers assess the reliability of what they read online. Health Central

GM foods and the luxury of choice. The debate about GM foods has been conducted most noisily among well-off Westerners, such as you and me … But when you ask people in developing countries, you hear loud voices pleading for GM crops. The problem is that this isn't a decision those countries can take in isolation. If the West won't grow GM crops and won't buy GM foods, then Africa and Latin America can't grow them either. Times.

Life can be much sweeter when you tuck into a treat. "Eating chocolate provides an escape, reward or 'time for me' space for the eater and it is comforting. It is part of people's social lives and it is about people's emotions." Express.

Lies, damn lies and science fiction. Press scaremongering over GM foods has led to calls to police science journalism. … Such concepts are being tackled by the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, which is working closely with the Royal Institution as well as liaising with the Commons' committee to establish a new code of practice for science reporting. It includes an explanation of how risks are estimated and will publish a comparative risk table so that journalists can see how a new risk might fit in with everyday risks. Independent.

Media blamed for fear of 'killer flu virus'. Media reporting of the recent "flu outbreak" created unnecessary fears, according to Forum, the magazine of the Irish College of General Practitioners. Journalists should consider adopting the medical dictum "first do no harm", writes its medical editor, Dr Leonard Condren, in the current issue. Irish Times

Biotechnology Will Save The Poorest. Science and technology are under attack in affluent nations, where misinformed environmentalists claim that the consumer is being poisoned by high-yielding systems of agricultural production, including genetically modified crops. How it is that so many supposedly ''educated'' people could be so illiterate about science? There seems to be a growing fear of science, per se, as the pace of technological change increases. Texas A&M University

Bishop supports GM crops. The new Bishop of Ely, the Right Rev Anthony Russell, spoke out in support of genetically modified crop trials yesterday, arguing that opposition to them was unscientific and based on nothing more than "media excitement". Times.

 Mistrust 'threatens future of science'. Public confidence in science has sunk so low that young people are being put off pursuing careers in the field, a House of Lords committee warns today. It also says that scientists have become so demoralised by the uproar over BSE and genetically modified food that many of the nation's best brains could be driven overseas. Telegraph.

In fear of fruit and veg. HEA launches a new initiative to raise schoolchildren's awareness of "safe food hygiene practices". Every primary school is being sent "an interactive teaching pack" which, as well as being mind-bogglingly awful, expresses a pathological fear of real food … Children are far more at risk of going mad, developing excessive anxieties or disorders like anorexia, from listening to this stuff than getting ill if they don't. Guardian.

Mencken loved the medicine men because they could always be relied on to promote outlandish, mutually contradictory theories buttressed by rock-solid scientific 'findings.' One so missed Mencken at last month's Great Nutrition Debate, held at the US Department of Agriculture. Boston Globe. See also The All-American Food Fight.

Indian farmers give wary nod to GM trials. In the first attempt to give a hearing to the farmers of the developing world who are claimed to be the ultimate beneficiaries of GM technology, a "citizens' jury" of Indian farmers, including a man with 60 acres and a landless and illiterate peasant woman, decided on Friday by a majority of nine to four that it would "consider" the option of planting GM crops. Independent on Sunday.

Why you need GM food. Sanjida O'Connell on how to change a plant and change the health of millions. Tony Blair's u-turn regarding genetically modified food may have less to do with deeply held convictions and scientific research, and more to do with political expediency. While there are many questions, and few answers about the safety of GM foods, some scientists are urging politicians not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Guardian.