I went to a very interesting event about science journalism in the UK last year at the Royal Institution which I blogged about about the time. One of my conclusions was that many of the issues faced by science journalism reflect very closely issues faced on coverage of European issues. Science isn’t covered well by the general press. Neither is Europe, on the whole. So when you put the two together, as the Daily Mail did this morning, then you can imagine what comes out.
Needless to say, the Daily Mail over-simplified, if not to say ridiculed, the real situation. The project has found ways to improve fruit storage, reduce waste, cut pesticide use and encourage children to eat fruit instead of sweets. These are important things. An interesting fact: The EU produced 7.7 million tonnes of eating apples in 2008. So if research like this can cut costs so that apple prices fall by just one penny per kilo that will mean annual savings for consumers of £64 million – or more than five times the cost of the project. Never mind the health benefits of reduced pesticide use, and the suffering caused by allergies (I know alot about that one!) This was the first project to quantify the cholesterol-reducing properties of apples, which can have a direct effect in reducing medicines taken – saving health services money.
Of course, we could have told the Mail all of this if they had bothered to ask us…
I did an interview today for the Politics Show about next week’s Green Paper on agricultural quality. Basically, we will be asking for “contributions and views for developing regulatory measures to facilitate production and marketing of products having particular qualities and characteristics”. Apparently. What that means is, do the various certification schemes and geographical protections work. This ranges from using phrases like “traditional” or “free-range” to only allowing Melton Mowbray pork pies to come from Melton Mowbray, taking in marketing standards for fruit and veg (which appears here quite regularly) along the way. This comes out next week and I’ll include a link to the consultation when it does so you can have your say (if you have one).
Also talked to them about the pesticides issue – looks like that one is going to run and run.
We had the good bye for Reijo, the head of office, today. It’s such a shame to see him go. I won’t disguise the fact that working with him again was one of the major reasons for taking this job. Happily, now that I’m here, I find there are enough other reasons to enjoy it that his leaving won’t change my mind about it. But I will miss him.
If you read Dutch, you might find this article interesting. Dutch journalists seem to be very interested in the whole Euromyth phenomenon. I love (not) the Sun political editor saying that they don’t need to check stories with us because since when should journalists trust spokesmen? Funny how they don’t seem to have quite the same issue trusting Open Europe or UKIP spokespeople… I agree that no journalist should take what we say at face value without checking it. But I do think a story that starts “The European Commission will…” should indicate what the European Commission’s take on the issue is. As I frequently say, I’m not bothered about people writing critical things about us – that’s what journalists are there for. I just resent people writing unfair or inaccurate things about us, or only giving one side of the story.