SIRC Media Watch Archive
The Pick – September 2002

We need a war to help us to fight the flab. As night follows day, as sun follows rain, as Blair follows Bush, three or four times a year a dietician will step up on a podium in front of a conference of distinguished medics, adjust his spectacles, shuffle his papers and tell them that the great British nation is becoming increasingly fatter, lazier and unhealthier; that obesity is costing the NHS £500m a year because one in five of the population is clinically obese. And next morning at breakfast when we've read about it in the papers and exclaimed: "Good grief'" or "Blimey O'Reilly" or whatever, we do what we have always done and will doubtless continue to do for the rest of our natural lives. We add cream and sugar to our coffee, polish off our bacon, sausage, egg and beans, spread a second slice of toast liberally with butter and Cooper's thick-cut Oxford marmalade and then, as likely as not, head off somewhere in the car." Sue Arnold in the Independent

The uncivil civil society. "Thus far, we have not heard any of the anti-GM food NGOs, some of whose annual budgets exceed $100 million, offer to provide food aid - nor has GM food critic Prince Charles with his billion dollar-a-year organic food business … It is difficult not to believe that defense of their ideology is more important to them than electricity for the poor, life-enhancing nutrition for Asian children, and famine-alleviating food provision for those in Africa on the brink of starvation." Richard DeGregori in the Washington Times.

Fear-mongering Greens doom children to death. Mothers, your children are in danger! I will protect them. Vote for me." From burning witches in the Middle Ages down to Hitler's gas ovens, we can trace the overtly murderous variety of political fear-mongering. But even in apparently benign forms, scare stories can have dire consequences. Denis Dutton (editor of Arts & Letters Daily) in the New Zealand Herald.

Green killers and pseudo-science. Green fundamentalists are killers. Their opposition to genetically modified foods is killing people in famine-hit Africa today, and could threaten Indians in the future too. Times of India

MMR scare has led to huge slump in child immunisation. Parents are turning away from immunisation as a means of protecting their children against diseases after the scare over the MMR vaccine. Official figures published yesterday by the Department of Health show that national immunisation rates have fallen across the board as confidence in vaccination has ebbed away. For the first time in nine years, vaccination rates against diphtheria, tetanus and polio have dropped below the 95 per cent level judged necessary to provide "herd" immunity to the population. Independent

Better dead than GM-fed? Southern Africa's food crisis is set to be the worst in a decade. Around 14.5m people are dangerously hungry, and many have been reduced to eating wild leaves and pig food. One might, then, expect food aid to be welcomed…The fears of pampered northerners are creating an obstacle to the acceptance of food aid and the adoption of technology that might make the poor less poor. Economist

Jonah Lomu is fat. … according to the official method of measuring obesity, the body mass index. There must be a better way, says Michael Hann. You may have read with a shudder last week's horror stories about obesity: the news that our kids are getting so fat that they might die before us, and that a "silent epidemic" of weight gain is set to overtake smoking as the biggest cause of preventable death. All over the land, people will have been furtively hitting the calculator keys to work out their body mass index (BMI) and see if they, too, were classified as obese. Guardian

A portion of toxic nonsense from food fanatics. With its moralistic advice about how we should live and raise our children, the anti-obesity crusade is a part of what the author and GP Michael Fitzpatrick calls "the tyranny of health". Some schools with "healthy eating" policies already bar children from bringing crisps in their lunch box. Perhaps we will soon see workplaces equate eating with smoking, so that employees have to huddle guiltily outside on the pavement to share a Kit-Kat. If the new orthodoxy is "you are what you eat", it appears that they want us to live like pure organic vegetables rather than dirty little burgers. Mick Hume in the Times

The price of eating what you like. There is nothing like a good medical scare story to start the day, and this week the world's specialists in obesity have served up some real crackers. Wednesday's papers told us that today's generation of children could die before their parents because so many of them are obese. Then we learnt that, within 15 years, "up to 75 per cent" of Britons will be overweight and obesity will overtake smoking as the country's top preventable killer. Telegraph

Experts outline cancer, diet evidence. Wading through 30 years of confusing and sometimes contradictory studies on cancer and diet, experts have summarized the state of scientific knowledge: alcohol is bad, obesity is bad and lots of fruits and vegetables are good…A review of the evidence, published this week in The Lancet medical journal, concludes that studies so far have confirmed little. Namdo Times [free registration required]

Fanning the flames – What happens if you apply the precautionary principle to wind farms? "The scale of the proposal for the North Sea is staggering. Eight miles offshore, 40 wind farms would involve 15,000 turbines, each 300 feet tall … There would be an enormous environmental impact with clear implications for human and animal health …Unless such farms can be shown to be absolutely safe they should never be built. At the very least, there should be a five-year freeze on such developments while more research is undertaken to prove their safety for human, animal and plant life. Does this line of argument sound familiar?" Vivian Moses in Spiked.

What do you mean throw out the food guide pyramid? The barrage of news coverage surrounding the Sept. 5, 1,000-page Dietary Reference Intake Report issued by the National Academies' Institute of Medicine has people even more confused about what to eat and what not to eat to maintain good health. Media misinterpretation over what the report means, adds to mainstream Americans' growing quandary over how much (and what kind of) fats, carbohydrates, sugars, fiber and protein keeps people in the range of good health. EurekAlert.

Cold left-overs ward off cancer. For years, people have been told that eating a high-fibre diet can reduce their chances of getting bowel cancer. But a leading scientist claims that this is a misconception based on the fact that bowel cancer rates are low in Africa, where fibre makes up a high proportion of the local diet. BBC

Scientists warned of 'gulf that threatens progress'. A gulf in understanding between scientists and the public threatens to undermine society's trust in medical and technological innovation, a leading figure in British science will warn today. Independent

Fat is a celebrity issue. High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets are the latest Hollywood fad, but their growing popularity has sparked a furious medical row…Perhaps this really is the crux of the matter. Forget all the medical in-fighting, the celebrity fads - even the earnest recommendations of friends. There's only one useful piece of advice if you want to lose weight: eat less. Simple, really… isn't it? Independent

I do not need white NGOs to speak for me. The hundreds of NGOs and environmental groups assembled at the World Summit on Sustainable Development would like us to believe that they are the best spokesmen for the world’s needy. But as First World delegates sat in conference halls and debated, African and Indian farmers hit the streets of Johannesburg to tell the world what they really want and need - not sustainable development but economic growth. The contrast is stark between many developed country NGOs and the people they claim to represent: wealthy countries want the Earth to be green, the underdeveloped want the Earth fed. Times