ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
Date:  5 March 2001


Below is an interesting letter to the press from Prof Philip Stott who will chair the US embassy-funded Seedy Opportunists GM con-ference ("Seeds of Opportunity") in London at the end of May.

The letter to the Observer is rot in every sense. For example, as has been widely reported, a comparison of the current Foot and Mouth epidemic with the last major UK outbreak, just over 30 years ago, shows the very limited geographic area, relative to this one, affected by the previous outbreak. This is clearly connected with many more local abbatoirs and markets at that time. Something which will be still more true of the more distant past.

Stott makes his 'rules' out of exceptions, and as for the old chestnut of the Irish potato famine, analysis shows this actually points to the dangers of mono-cropping and uncleaned shared farm machinery!

Prof Stott tells us, in a personal communication - see below, that his "main interest is in the use of language in environmental myth making and grand narratives - hence your Site is of particular interest!"

We await with interest the good professor's monograph on Prof Bullsh*t's grand narrative, or perhaps a deconstruction of the Pants on Fire awards. But the interesting question is why Stott shows no comparable interest in the use of language in 'bio-hype' or in 'sound science' myth making, as well, of course, why his conclusions correspond so exactly to those of the usual far right corporate shrills (such as his friends at the Institute of Economic Affairs).*

What is particularly revealing in the Observer letter is Stott's own perspective on the natural world. Prof Stott is fully awake to nature as 'idyll' but totally fails to analyse the 'pestilential' ground he himself stands on. Funny that.

[*Prof Stott has asked us to note that he is a Labour voter and Guardian reader and not a formal member of the IEA]
*  *  *
The Observer - 04 March 2001  Letters

From Philip Stott, Professor of Biogeography, SOAS, University of London

Circa 1450, the following order was made in England:  "We command that no bocher sell noo beestis of moren, ne no roten Schep'.  The myth of a disease-free, localised, 'organic' farming idyll of the past (Focus, last week) is just hogwash.  From the rampant 'murrain' to the Irish potato famine, pestilence and plague stalked all pre-modern agriculture, while cattle were walked, spreading disease, from Scotland to London.  It is to the great credit of modern farming that a cheap food supply has been maintained under the constant attack of Nature, black in tooth and rot.
 Dear NGIN and Jean,
 As for the rest of the text, I just remain wryly amused at a use of  language I thought had died out with the old, 'capitalist-running-dog',  Radio Tirane!

It is sad, nevertheless, that you seem unable to allow people to come to  honest conclusions which may just be different from your own.

Best wishes,
Philip Stott
Dear Prof Stott

I enjoyed the Radio Tirane allusion although I seem to have come across it somewhere before - perhaps a Spectator column, don't think it will have been the Guardian. Of course, if we get to be RT, that perhaps makes you the Voice of America.

As for your concern that people be allowed to come to honest conclusions that may be different from one's own, aren't you a subscriber to the AgBioView e-mailing list? If so, I seem to have somehow missed all your postings upbraiding contributors for accusations against environmentalists of murder, genocide, terrorism, and their being worse than Hitler (I've come across all of these just in the last few months)- oh, and of course our getting "big dollar" from the organic multinationals!

Your linguistic sensibility also sits a little strangely, to my mind, with the owner of an 'anti eco-hype'website who puts phrases like 'hegemonic mythmaking' into his book titles.

When it comes down to it, aren't we all aboard the good ship Motes and Beams?

Best wishes
Jonathan Matthews

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