Inadvertent media malevolence

Damien Broderick (
Mon, 24 May 1999 17:58:22 +0000

My local suburban rag had a piece today on a man who has persuaded the council to `ban' (how?) `genetically modified food' (so I also await the revaluation of pi). The reporter, one Martine Borrack, opened with this astonishingly vicious throw-away:

< The debate is reminiscent of the plot of that '70s sci-fi flick *Soylent

< Set in New York in 2022, the population's survival depends on synthetic

< Yet the shocking truth about its contents, that it is made out of humans,
goes unnoticed until a cop starts asking questions.

< No-one is suggesting that the newly emerging genetically modified food
industry is grinding up human corpses, but for people such as Scott Kinnear, chairman of the Organic Federation of Australia, there are still to many unknowns about the effects of biotechnology to be silent on the issue. > (Moreland Courier, 24 May 1999, p. 9)

I know that rational debate is deemed to have ended when Hitler and Nazis enters the metaphorium, but this atrocious misrepresentation reminded me of nothing so much as the traditional lie that Jews were given to eating gentile babies. `No-one is suggesting...' says Ms Borrack disingenuously, having done just that and nothing but that.

I wondered if she were going to make the link to what she'd doubtless see as the horrid insertion of human-derived genes into food stuffs, since that would have provided *some* semi-rational excuse for her thought-pollution. It never emerged. What she and Mr Kinnear discuss is the quite sensible concern (as it seems to me) that widespread introduction of proprietary crops gene-engineered for high resistance to pesticides will tend to leave us eating food with more pesticide residues than before, as well as making farmers more dependant on seed from those corporations, a kind of monopoly.

I expect to see the *Soylent Green* meme misused increasingly, along with other Frankenscience tropes. Hard to combat, but we need to get in there kicking and screaming - in a quiet and thoughtful way, of course. :)

Damien Broderick