Thursday, May 08, 2003

No evidence that GM food inherently unsafe

A policy statement by the Royal Society issued today argues that GM food is no more likely to cause harm than conventionally bred varieties, and criticises environmental groups that have asserted this without backing up their arguments with evidence.

GM foods 'not harmful', BBC News, 8 May 2003

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

23 years of World Earth Day

Here's a nice snappy piece which ridicules the environmental movement's track record on predicting the future from the Charlotte Observer. The only annoyance with it is the reference to the environmentalist left. Traditionally, to be left-wing was to be revolutionary, to demand change to current social arrangements, for the benefit of the majority. There's not a shred of that outlook in the environmentalist movement, which is as conservative as you can be. Not just 'no change', but a rolling back of the gains made by humanity. Which if nothing else, shows that there is not a lot of meaning in the left-right divide these days.

I'm sure the greens would argue that the science has got a lot better and is more accurate than in the past. So, no-one is making suggestions of mass starvation in the USA anymore. But I would suggest it's just that environmentalism has become more mainstream. It's harder now to see just how much science is imbued with an anti-human outlook.

Environmentalists: False prophets of doom, Charlotte Observer, 22 April 2003


Even the Aussies are getting fat. According to a new report, 39 percent of a sample of over 11,000 people were overweight and over 20 percent were obese. While it is nice to hear such reports from a country that consistently beats British teams at rugby, cricket - even football (although this must surely go down as a one-off), a pinch of salt is required.

The obsession with excess weight is a modern public health phenomenon, as much about moving the goalposts as real health concerns. There are clear links between being grossly overweight and increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. But the link between being overweight and disease is much less clearcut - and remains unproven. Moreover, what exactly does it mean to be overweight? Who decided that a particular weight range is healthy?

Obesity hits home in Australia, BBC News, 5 May 2003

EU threat to smoky bacon?

The European Union is considering a ban on smoky bacon flavouring amid concerns that it may increase the risk of developing cancer. Studies have found an increased risk of certain cancers in countries where there is a high consumption of smoked foods. However, the research has only uncovered an association - and no definitive proof of cause and effect. The proposed regulations would cover all artificially flavoured smoked foods including ham, fish, barbecue sauces, flame-grilled burgers and snack foods.

Smoky bacon flavour may be banned, BBC News, 6 May 2003

SARS death rate

BBC News reports the latest findings on the SARS death rate. A study published in The Lancet suggests that the death rate may be 20 percent. This death rate is also very sensitive to age. Those over 60 have a 40 percent death rate from the disease, while those under 60 have a 13 percent death rate. The study is based on 1425 cases in Hong Kong. One crucial factor in the spread of the disease, say the researchers, is the delay in sufferers seeking treatment.

Sars 'kills one in five', BBC News, 6 May 2003

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

SARS update

The disease is more and more concentrated in mainland China. Outstanding cases in Hong Kong continue to fall, although there have been some new cases in Taiwan, which seemed close to having the disease under control. In fact, the number of outstanding cases overall, excluding China, is falling.

Moreover, the total number of deaths, in over six months, is still less than 500. Given the current trends, a death toll for the year of less than 1000 seems quite possible, depending on the ability of the Chinese authorities to get some control on the situation.

Here is the updated Excel spreadsheet containing total new cases, cases in Hong Kong, cases in China, and total cases excluding China, to 5 May 2003.