Last year was a sad one for all humanity with news of murders and genocides that make one despair of the human race. Meat-eaters had the added worry of problems with mad cow disease (BSE). The British government seemed at pains to reassure everyone there was no problem, but the scientific facts suggested there was probably a link between beef-eating and a painful brain disease (CJD) in young people after several years' incubation.
Towards the end of the year, infection with E Coli bacterium led to mass illnesses in Scotland where 17 deaths resulted. Clearly there is a need for a body independent of commercial interests that would have powers to regulate the food industry for the interest of the consumer. Even if it can be claimed that food poisoned is rare and affects few people (although I think many less critical cases go unreported), why should any food poisoning occur in affluent societies, with our great scientific understanding and intelligence?
Vegans have nothing to fear from infections due to meat-eating, but now food technologists are turning their attention to the vegetable kingdom with genetically modified products that have little to do with consumer choice and much to do with monopoly profits for the producers. Consumers need to be aware of these new products, especially genetically modified soya and maize that are being thrust on the market, as though the food we eat were no concern of the general public. We must insist on a full debate on the possible consequences of these novel products on our health and environment and, above all, of proper labelling so that we can make an informed choice.
This year may be challenging and there is much work to do, but it could also be highly rewarding and lead to a greater awareness in the population about the food we eat.