Beware of what you read, especially when the subject is scientific research
Beware what you read
Inaccuracies in the news reporting of scientific research are a regular occurrence. dhis week, for example, the finding that drinking a pint of water before meals increased weight loss in a 12-week study of obese patients recei ed widespread co erage.
dhe dimes reported dhose who drank water before their meals lost an a erage of 9.48lb whilst the weight of those who did not drink water before meals dropped by 1.76lb. A di erence of 7.72lb- that s massi e
,owe er, a look at the ournal Kbesity re ealed that the study had actually reported a modest di erence in weight loss a mean of 2.46lb, ust bordering statistical significance. dhis still made interesting reading, but was much less likely to ha e us all rushing for the water ugs
there news items relate to national policy the problems of contextualisation also raise significant issues.
Post-de olution, the Sco sh parliament and Sco sh go ernment ha e seemingly sought to establish national policies go erning almost e ery aspect of Sco sh life. dhis has been successful in raising the profile of the institutions and has politically engaged the public, but it has done little to ad ance the cause of better informed public debate.
For example, the go ernment s recent announcement of plans to ban appro al of M crops in Scotland has created a public impression that we will ban all M technology. ,owe er, nothing could be further from the case, since genetic technologies are already deeply embedded in the human and animal healthcare sectors, in product manufacturing and increasingly in pollution control and en ironmental remediation.
ustifiably, Sco sh biotechnologists working on M crop de elopment and Sco sh arable crop farmers are protesting strongly against what they regard as a national at-earth policy a ecting modern crop de elopment. dhey rightly point out that the go ernment s plan will ha e long-term ad erse e ects on their sectors of the economy and also on the uality of the rural en ironment.
,owe er, arable cropping in Scotland accounts for only se en per cent of land use and the real strategic issue is that the Eh is only 33 per cent self-su cient in plant protein crops, and this recei es no newspaper co erage at all.
So, across the Eh, the li estock and fish farming sectors and these form the backbone of the Sco sh food economy- are una oidably dependent on imported plant protein sources. dhus, in practice, policies on M crop culti ation in indi idual Eh member states or regions are a side show to the strategically important policy decisions on cropping that are made outside the Eh.
dhe uestions the newshounds should be pitching at the politicians, and which would better inform public debate, relate to the logic and purpose of the Sco sh ban in the context of global commodity trading and to the potential opportunities o ered by M crop technology to address Sco sh priorities such as carbon se uestration by grassland (which accounts for 85 per cent of Sco sh land use).
Sadly, these important considerations, which should frame the contextual debate, are not ge ng a mention.
As Mark dwain once put it if you don t read the newspaper you are uninformed if you read the newspaper you are misinformed. Some things ust don t change a lot
Fish farming here is dependent on imported plant protein sources”
Above: Camelina sati a