Web Only: the best of the blogs

The five must-read posts from today, on Palin, Iran and petition power.

1. Hypocritical Cameron voted against proposals to reform parliamentary privilege

Left Foot Forward's Shamik Das reveals that David Cameron voted No to measures that would prevent MPs invoking parliamentary privilege to avoid prosecution.

2. What President Palin's foreign policy would look like

Andrew Sullivan says Sarah Palin is now hinting that she favours a full-scale war with Iran.

3. CCHQ is watching you as Tory high command co-ordinates right-wing bloggers

Political Scrapbook looks at the right-wing blogosphere, and evidence that there is someone at Conservative Central Office who monitors every single mention of David Cameron on Twitter.

4. Iran: will they, won't they?

Channel 4's Lindsey Hilsum wonders whether Iran's ambiguity over its nuclear policy is part of a cunning plan, or a sign of chaos at the heart of the regime.

5. Petition power

Paul Waugh blogs on pros and cons of Cameron's pledge to implement direct democracy.

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Why Prince Charles and Princess Anne are both wrong on GM foods

The latest tiff between toffs gives plenty of food for thought.

I don’t have siblings, so I was weirdly curious as a kid about friends who did, especially when they argued (which was often). One thing I noticed was the importance of superlatives: of being the best child, the most right, and the first to have been wronged. And it turns out things are no different for the Royals.

You might think selective breeding would be a subject on which Prince Charles and Princess Anne would share common ground, but when it comes to genetically modified crops they have very different opinions.

According to Princess Anne, the UK should ditch its concerns about GM and give the technology the green light. In an interview to be broadcast on Radio 4’s Farming Today, she said would be keen to raise both modified crops and livestock on her own land.

“Most of us would argue we have been genetically modifying food since man started to be agrarian,” she said (rallying the old first-is-best argument to her cause). She also argued that the practice can help reduce the price of our food and improve the lives of animals - and “suspects” that there are not many downsides.

Unfortunately for Princess Anne, her Royal “us” does not include her brother Charles, who thinks that GM is The Worst.

In 2008, he warned that genetically engineered food “will be guaranteed to cause the biggest disaster environmentally of all time.”  Supporting such a path would risk handing control of our food-chain to giant corporations, he warned -  leading to “absolute disaster” and “unmentionable awfulness” and “the absolute destruction of everything”.

Normally such a spat could be written off as a toff-tiff. But with Brexit looming, a change to our present ban on growing GM crops commercially looks ever more likely.

In this light, the need to swap rhetoric for reason is urgent. And the most useful anti-GM argument might instead be that offered by the United Nations’ cold, hard data on crop yields.

Analysis by the New York Times shows that, in comparison to Europe, the United States and Canada have “gained no discernible advantages” from their use of GM (in terms of food per acre). Not only this, but herbicide use in the US has increased rather than fallen.

In sum: let's swap superlatives and speculation for sense.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.