SMC Science Deadline: #BaconCancer, GM viruses and meet our Advisory Board

By Sciencemediacentre.co.nz received 3 years ago

Categories: Science
Age: 19 until 30 year 31 until 64 years 65 and older
  • Html
  • Text
View email in browser
Issue 351, 30 Oct 2015

In this issue:

Cancer confusion
GM virus approved
SMC's advisors Policy updates
New from the SMC

Quick Links

SMC Alerts
Media Registration
About us
Contact the SMC

Top news from scimex.org  the Science Media Centre's news sharing platform.
Why rimu berries are 'viagra' to kākāpō

Warmer waters force penguins to forage further

Zinc poisoning a threat to whitebait

Low fat diets no magic bullet...but still better than nothing

New from the SMC

  Expert Reaction: GMO virus approved for cancer trial   In the News: Highs and lows for NZ in environment report   In the News: Review on red & processed meat   Expert Reaction: WHO report: Red meat linked to cancer

  Applications open for Auckland and Wellington two-day workshops
Apply Here


New from the SMC global network

Expert Reactions: Recall of unauthorised GM seed   Expert Reaction:  statins and the immune response to flu vaccine   Expert Reaction:  Human Fertilisation and Embryology Regulations 2015   Brieifing: CFS/ME: PACE trial follow-up study   Briefing: what do we know about how neonicotinoids affect bees?
Australian SMC
  Briefing: Industrial waste and orange peel can safely scrub the oceans of mercury

Meat, cancer and confusion

Does a new WHO report really say that bacon is bad a cigarettes? No, but poor communication of risk has resulted in a circus of confused media coverage.

This Monday the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, released their evaluation of the links between the consumption of red and processed meat, and cancer.

The group classified processed meats - such as bacon, sausages and cured meats - as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.  They also classed the the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A).
It is important note that the classification is an indication of how sure the experts are that a given thing causes cancer, but not how cancer-causing it is. In this case, processed meat was identified as contributing to cancer risk but it is not as carcinogenic as some other "Group 1" agents like tobacco and plutonium.
That distinction was lost in much of the international reporting with headlines such as 'Bacon as deadly as cigarettes and asbestos' splashed across news stories.

Cancer Research UK has provided a good summary of the classifications, placing the current IARC review in context.
Cancer Research UK. Click for full image
University of Auckland Professor of Biostatistics Thomas Lumley told the SMC that many news reports had tried to link the risk of cancer from processed meat to the risk of cancer from other Group 1 carcinogens.
"There is no justification for this," he said. "IARC classifications are based only on the strength of evidence for an effect at some - not necessarily realistic - dose; they do not consider the size of effect.

“Group 1 carcinogens are those where IARC believes the cancer hazard is well-established, regardless of its strength. Group 1 includes asbestos, tobacco, and plutonium, but it also includes sunlight, oral contraceptives, and alcohol."

In one of the better pieces of reporting on the IARC announcement, science journalist Ed Yong expressed his frustration over the terrible communication of risk by the WHO, suggesting that IARC reports should be catergorised as 'confusogenic' to humans.
Following the whirlwind of reporting and misreporting over the week, the WHO issued a new statement today, offering some clearer and more practical advice:
"The latest IARC review does not ask people to stop eating processed meats but indicates that reducing consumption of these products can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer."

You can read more expert commentary and a round up of national news coverage on the Science Media Centre website.

Policy news & developments

Eating and activity guidelines: The Ministry of Health has published new healthy eating and activity guidelines.
Fungus hearing: The EPA is holding a hearing on an application to release a rust fungus to help control the moth plant weed in Northland.
Health Star Ratings: Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew has welcomed the latest figures showing more than 600 products with Health Star Ratings are on supermarket shelves.
TIN100 released: The annual snapshot of the New Zealand hi-tech sector was released this week, showing solid growth in some of our most innovative exporters.

GM virus approved for cancer

In a New Zealand first, the Environmental Protection Authority has approved the use of a genetically modified virus for a liver cancer treatment trial.

The Pexa-Vec virus is the first genetically modified organism for a human therapeutic purpose that is capable of reproducing itself, to be approved by the Authority for release under the HSNO Act.

In a separate media release Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith, welcomed the approval.

“We should embrace new technologies like GM where there are clear benefits and where any risks to the environment can be effectively managed,” he said.

Dr James Ussher from the University of Otago told the SMC it is important that these cutting edge therapies are evaluated and, if demonstrated to be efficacious, made available in New Zealand.
“There are many investigational treatments and vaccines in the developmental pipeline that utilise genetic modification," he said.
"Many of these are showing promising results in pre-clinical and early clinical trials. These will undoubtedly become more common in the future.”

You can read more expert commentary on the Science Media Centre website.

Quoted: Radio New Zealand

"It's not just the pretty ones that need protecting."
  Kerry Prendergast, chair of the newly announced Endangered Species Foundation discusses the group's work.

Meet the SMC's new advisors

A six person advisory board made up of senior journalists and scientists will help us identify and meet the changing needs of the media and the science sector.

The SMC Advisory Board has been appointed by the Royal Society of New Zealand to support and advise the Science Media Centre at a time of major change in the media landscape.
Long-time SMC advisor Dr Gavin Ellis, former editor in chief of the New Zealand Herald and a media lecturer at the University of Auckland, chairs the board.
Other board members include: Professor Michael Baker, public health physician and professor at the University of Otago, Wellington. Professor David Bibby, lecturer at Victoria University and former Dean of Science at the university. Alistair Dunn, Principal Scientist – Fisheries at NIWA. Renee Graham, Producer and reporter, TVNZ One News. Virginia Larson,  Editor, North & South, Bauer Media. SMC advisory board members are appointed for terms of two or three years and the board aims to formally meet two to three times year.
Visit the SMC website for more about our new board of advisors and on how the SMC operates.

New from Sciblogs

Some of the highlights from this week's Sciblogs posts:
About those meat and cancer stories - Grant Jacobs slices and dices this week's cancer scare story.
Code for Life
Scientific papers, civil disobedience and personal networks - How can you have robust scientific debate when you can't access the research, asks Ken Perrott.
Open Parachute
We need to talk about how we fund conservation - The status quo is not working for biodiversity, writes new Sciblogger Marie Brown.
The Nature of Things
Taxing tobacco in NZ: What we know and what could be next - What will follow the final tobacco tax hike scheduled for the end of the year?
Public Health Expert

Upcoming events

Please see the SMC Events Calendar for more events and details. 6th Intl. Conference on Earthquake Geotechnical Engineering - 1-4 Nov, Christchurch. A gathering for all those involved with engineering works and research related to earthquake geotechnical engineering to exchange ideas and present recent developments in light of Christchurch's recent major quakes.
  60th New Zealand Microbiological Society Conference - 2-5 Nov, Rotorua. Theme is 'Microbial Communities and Us', underscoring how human survival and economic success is underpinned by healthy interacting microbial communities.
  Evolution of plant sexual diversity: Natural history to genomics - 2 Nov, Dunedin. Public lecture from Prof Spencer Barrett (University of Toronto).
  Reproducibility in science: a rethink or a crisis? - 4 Nov, Wellington. A public lecture by John Maindonald.

This email was sent to newsletter@newslettercollector.com
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
SMC NZ · 11 Turnbull St · Thorndon · Wellington, Wellington 6014 · New Zealand

Share this newsletter on


Related newsletters

© 2019