Friday, January 14, 2005
Last Wednesday's lecture was by Jeff Maxwell, a member of the governments commission on GM. His job was, in a civil service way, to establish a meeting of minds between GM scientists & anti-GM activists, failing that to find out what the public really think, to find out what the facts are & to communicate that to the public.
Obviously such a meeting of minds is impossible. The public's opinion is that they don't know because the facts aren't communicated to them. Interestingly, & somewhat disappointingly, while they don't like GM foods much (they are mainly of benefit to the hungry) they generally strongly approve of GM to produce medicines (which may benefit them) even though genetic modification of animals is both more dangerous |(animals can run away unlike plants) & more ethically problematic.
The fact is, despite the USA, Argentina, Canada, China & Brazil having hundreds of millions of acres given over to GM no human being has ever been physically harmed. This brought us to the last part of the remit - to communicate the facts to the public. Here Mr Maxwell was rather scathing of the press willingness to publish any scare story given them by any anti-GM source "whether their tactics were morally justified or not" & not to be interested in the more sedate (ie boring) facts given by reputable scientists. He said that he had "as much skepticism as most of you about the press presenting a true story" a sentiment obviously overwhelmingly shared by the audience.
The next lecture (26 Jan) will be by Prof Brian Ashcroft of the Allander Institue on the seminars they have been running on the Scottish economy - that is one I am definitely going to.