A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Weeding out The Independent yet further.....

I am most grateful for Mike Bayliss' permission to place here his pertinent letter sent to The Independent in relation to their rather poor report on hybridisation from oilseed rape (a report which I have already deconstructed, see 'Super language', October 10, below). The letter refers to important ecological research in which Mike was involved:

"Sir, I must correct the false impression given in your report on the cross-pollination between oilseed rape and the wild turnip (Independent, October 10). Field experiments carried out in the UK more than ten years ago showed conclusively that oilseed rape does not survive in the wild. As your article admitted, researchers had to "scour the countryside" to find any plants of Bargeman's Cabbage, because this species is restricted to certain habitats, and does not spread widely. To become serious arable weeds, plants have to have a dozen or so biological characteristics (including high seed multiplication and short life-cycle) which have been well known for decades. Neither of these Brassica species possesses enough of these characteristics individually so hybrids between them, even if they contain herbicide-tolerant genes, will not become serious weeds. This is self-evident from the work you report, as these hybrids have been formed annually since oilseed rape became a widespread arable crop 30 or 40 years ago and there is no evidence of emergence of a new class of serious weed as a result.

So please, why is there any cause for fear and alarm?"

Mike Bayliss."

Good question. It will be worth seeing if this helpfully corrective letter is published in the newspaper. Philip.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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