May 01 2000

Genetic Gambling

Media fail to present real issues of bioengineering

If the mainstream media had been doing their job, most Americans would not have been eating genetically engineered food every day for the last six years without their knowledge or consent. Nor would we have allowed 70 million acres of our nation’s farmland to be planted in bioengineered crops without significant public debate and honest scientific and regulatory scrutiny of their environmental impact. But they haven’t, and so we did. Ricarda Steinbrecher, a geneticist with the Women’s Environmental Network in the United Kingdom, points out in a forthcoming book chapter from Zed Books that scientists actually know very little about […]

Jun 01 1998

Press Sanctions Famine

On April 28, millions of American television viewers saw a news story about Iraq receiving humanitarian aid from a Connecticut-based relief group called AmeriCares. Both CBS Evening News and ABC‘s World News Tonight did reports on the shipments; each network described the AmeriCares mission as in some way “a first” or “pioneering.” “This is the first time since the Gulf War that American aid of any kind has been flown in,” ABC‘s Peter Jennings declared. CBS described the shipment as the “first approved humanitarian aid from the U.S.” The reports were literally correct, but deceptive: A group called Voices in […]

May 01 1998

Oprah’s Free–Are We?

In 13 states, no First Amendment for food critics

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) must be breathing a sigh of relief. Their six weeks of courtroom combat with TV star Oprah Winfrey may have officially failed to silence her concerns about food safety, but in practice it came pretty damn close. Despite Winfrey’s legal victory, the bottom-line lesson for the rest of us is grim: In 13 states, the First Amendment no longer applies on food-related subjects. Investigating, speaking or writing about issues from mad cow disease to pesticides to food additives can cost you years of legal hell and a lifetime of debt hiring lawyers and experts […]

Mar 01 1998

Media Zapped

Journalists swallow food irradiation PR

When the federal Food and Drug Administration last month approved irradiation of red meat, government scientists cited the need to beef up efforts to combat a new, deadly strain of E. coli bacteria. No scientific explanation, however, has been forthcoming for the way the FDA’s decision seems to have zapped the critical faculties of the mainstream media. Virtually without exception, reporters and editorial boards from Long Island Newsday to the San Francisco Chronicle lined up to swallow the irradiation industry’s hype, with headlines like “Say Yes to Irradiated Foods” (Chicago Tribune, 12/4/97). Even normally skeptical journalists have been loath to […]

May 01 1997

Corporate Enemies, Corporate Friends

Did food industry 'put out the money' for attacks on nutritionists?

At a conference of PR flacks last November, Jeff Prince, formerly of the National Restaurant Association and now a private consultant, identified the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) as the food industry’s Public Enemy No. 1. The Center warns consumers about the risks of a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle, which kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, as many as die from cigarette smoking. This message has earned the Center the wrath of industry, which portrays CSPI as a puritanical “food police” determined to take the fun out of eating. Prince urged CSPI’s foes to […]

May 01 1995

Limbaugh Out to Lunch in Budget Debate

“Today, my friends, we’re going to do everything the media accuses us of doing, that we never have done, but we’re going to do it,” Rush Limbaugh announced on his March 10 radio show. “Yes, ladies and gentlemen, today we’re going to give you marching orders, and today we will ask you to follow us in lock-step.” Actually, Limbaugh urges his followers to take political action with some regularity (Extra!, 9-10/94). But what issue was so important that it would make Limbaugh claim that he was breaking his rule? The school lunch program. “My friends,” Limbaugh declared, for the last […]