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.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

GM! I'm bored out of my mind in Britain!

For once, I rather empathise with The Guardian's somewhat 'tongue-in-cheek' report on the Acre discussions about (not again!) GM crops: 'Debate ends, all passion spent' (The Guardian, November 26). I know the feeling well! To be honest, I'm bored out of my mind by the whole caboodle - a tiny circle of professional worryworts and professional scientists doing a perpetual 'Dance to the Music of Time' that has become even more etiolated than Anthony Powell's rather preferable roman fleuve!

Particularly pertinent is the following reported comment: "It doesn't really matter what Britain decides now. GM crops are a global success." Quite! With a world commercial acreage last year over 2.5 times the size of the whole of the British Isles (and growing at about 10% per year), this is undoubtedly true. From Argentina to China, the real world bats on quite oblivious of our tiny little Larry-the-Lamb Toy Town over here in the UK ("Baaaaaa! Mrrrr. Maaayor, Siir! Weeee dooon't waaaant theeese fuuunny fooooreign croooops! Baaaaa!"). I suspect that, in 20 years time, we will wonder what the fuss was all about!

Britain's position on GM crops reminds me of a wonderful South-East Asian folk tale which goes somewhat as follows:

"Uncle Prem trusted nobody, especially when he had just planted out his nursery bed of rice. Uncle Prem thought that his greedy neighbours would try to steal some of his best-quality rice seedlings and that badly-managed water buffalo would trample them into the soft mud if he didn't keep watch over the precious plants by night and day. Thus, before the transplanting season, Uncle Prem would sit, huddled in his ramshackled rice-field hut, watching the little plots of watery land turn slowly bright green as the new rice shoots sprouted. Uncle Prem stared and stared, perpetual smoke curling from his lips, never ever looking back to his village for a second. Uncle Prem just watched and guarded the plots. The rest of the world could go hang.

At last, the time came to transplant the rice into the big fields. Uncle Prem relaxed a little for the first time in 30 days. He stretched and eyed eagerly his emerald-green shoots, before turning triumphantly to face the village.

Then, Uncle Prem rubbed hard his weary eyes! He couldn't believe what he saw. To his total shock and horror, a large bulldozer was lifting up his old stilt house as the whole village was given over to new development....."

So, as the Pantomime season approaches - "It's behind you!"

Philip, a benign Widmerpool! Coffee time, hurrah!

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

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