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.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Lowering the tone of the GM debate.....

One of the more unpleasant groups involved in the GM debate in the UK is GM Watch (formerly NGIN), which too frequently resorts to ad personam diatribes against selected scientists and agriculturalists.

The following excellent article outlines some of the group's activities: 'Group targets UK GM scientists' (The Scientist, January 8):

"The GM Watch list, published in mid-December, won't change the substance of the GM debate, [Professor Emeritus Derek] Burke said, but will probably lower its tone. 'It makes the debate very unpleasant,' he said."

"GM Watch, [Professor Emeritus Peter Lachmann] said, typifies an antiscientific movement that fights advances despite their benefits and is also shown in recent accusations that the measles–mumps–rubella vaccine causes autism in children. 'There is a big movement away from the enlightenment that looks back towards a nonexistent, golden past,' he said. 'It's a bit of a tragedy. In the end, there are dead people and starving populations—though not in the developed world.'"

Yours truly has, on a number of occasions, been the object of quite risible (and sometimes misleading) comment. I took it as a Badge of Honour to be given their 'Pants on Fire' Award (do enjoy the little cartoon - my family loved it) - after all, I was in good company with Sir John Krebs, The Food Standards Agency, and The John Innes Centre! Thanks guys. The group's conspiratorial mindset just makes me laugh out loud. I'm glad I live on a different planet.

Undoubtedly, however, this is the nasty and more personal end of the GM debate. It is all so petty and sad.

By the way, with respect to the MMR debate mentioned in the above quote from Professor Lachmann, may I recommend this piece at the excellent Black Triangle blog: 'MMR and the Today Programme' (Black Triangle, January 7).

Philip, "Now were are those flaming pants?"

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