Friday, February 20, 2004

Government's expanded figures

The UK Department of Health (DoH) has been forced to admit that it exaggerated figures for the number of obese people claiming disability benefit.

Reports on Monday suggested that 900,000 people, over half of those registered for disability benefit, were obese (1). Now, the DoH has admitted that there was a clerical error, and the actual number of obese people claiming benefit is... 900. So its original figure was a thousandfold exaggeration. Instead of costing the government 70.9million per week, the actual figure is 70,965 (2). Doh! But the real surprise is that anybody noticed the mistake at all. We're now bombarded with horror stories of the toll of death and chronic illness that is befalling the country as our collective waistlines expand. Nobody batted an eyelid, therefore, when it was suggested that nearly a million people were so fat that they were regarded as disabled. Now, it seems, it's not just our bellies and our Big Mac meals that are super-sized, it's the government statistics, too.

(1) Half of incapacity claimants are obese, Guardian, 16 February 2004

(2) Fat figures wrong admits minister, BBC News, 19 February 2004

First published on Spiked's spiked bite page.

GM Nation? exaggerated opposition to GM

Researchers at University of East Anglia have concluded that the UK government's GM Nation? consultation exercise exaggerated the degree to which the public opposed GM crops. The problem was that the public meeting format tended to attract those who already had an opinion - mostly anti-GM - rather than those who had an open mind.

The whole idea of asking the public to make what are essentially scientific judgements was doomed from the start. They could not be asked "Is this safe?", because they do not know. So, they were asked, "Do you get the impression that this is safe?" instead. Which really reflects the way it has already been discussed, not the facts of the matter.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | GM opposition 'was overestimated', 19 February 2004

Monday, February 16, 2004

A poultry problem?

New Zealand website links to my article about avian flu.

New Zealand's National Business Review