Jun. 8th, 2009
And then I discovered that If I had voted I'd probably have voted against my principles anyway. We had four candidates in Dartford East in the council elections, the Conservatives won it (unsurprisingly) but the Lib Dems (who I voted for in this one) were beaten into fourth place by the "English Democrats". Turns out the English Democrats sound an awful lot like UKIP, and want to leave the EU, end "mass immigration" and "those laws promoting political correctness repealed." It seems they "want English freedoms and values, not multiculturalism." I wonder how many of them drink lager and eat curry. Hmm. They got about twice as many votes as the Lib Dems.
And now for the European Elections. Here I would have voted Green. And then the day before the election I discovered their stance on Embryonic Stem Cell research. As Sciencepunk reports:
It does not mention exactly what the risks are. (are they really going to be any different from those involved in adult stem cells. Really? Digging a bit further into their policies on science I'm finding more to disturb me.
HolfordWatch has an excellent summary of their health policies, which range from a rather detailed policy on banning mercury fillings (but rather less on any other aspect of modern dentistry), and the very worrying support for "complementary" medicine, including homeopathy, etc- most importantly their proposal that they will:
ST363 Pending research into the effects of the release of genetically engineered organisms into the environment, the Green Party seeks a moratorium on such releases through agreement between industry, research establishments and government, as well as a ban on importation of such organisms into the UK. (see AR410)
AR410 Patents will not be granted on any animal and strict controls will be introduced to prevent genetic manipulation for profit or curiosity
Fair enough you'd think- the public understanding of science is something I want to see vastly increased, I too am concerned about Monsanto and co patenting crops, and using terminator genes to force farmers to keep buying their seeds. Similarly most GM that's actually been used in agriculture merely allows you to use more pesticides, rather than increasing yield, drought resistance, or something really helpful there.
However the key wording is this: a ban on importation of such organisms into the UK.
Gimpy is a life sciences researcher who performs genetic modification on organisms for research purposes. Some of you may know that I was prescribed Human Growth Hormone while I was a teenager. This was not obtained from cadavers, but from GM bacteria. Its where diabetics get their insulin, and is going to be a source of plenty of other drugs- after all bacteria are cheap to grow, and can produce the chemicals in much larger quantities than the original organism usually does. Science is an international, collaborative effort. Scientists regularly send each other samples of the organisms they're working on, and Gimpy is naturally concerned that ST363 and AR410 sound like the Green Party's policy could have real problems for scientists if they gained a position of power.
At least when pressed by Gimpy for clarification a (unnamed) Green Party member stated that:
Damn straight! I think you do. Is that a reason not to vote for them? I don't honestly know, certainly in Europe they've done much to get climate change onto the agenda, something that I'm worried will suffer with UKIP's rise to prominence and their avowedly Anti-Global Warming stance.
I must admit I don’t know what the purpose of that last part of ST363 is, since clearly there could be importation for research where there is no potential environmental problem, and I can’t see that there is necessarily a problem in the circumstances you describe.
We review our policies from time to time, and maybe we need to take a look at this one!
I rather like (at least in principle) the Green's policy of allowing all members to propose policy, which then gets voted on, leading to such things as a clearly defined policy on mercury fillings in teeth, but somewhat more ambiguous statements on genetic research that they admit they don't know the intention of worry me.
In case you didn't know it was National Volunteers Week this week. I was a runner-up in the "Long Service" award (and by extension the "Best Team Contribution" category as I've just started as a Learning Volunteer), and got to go to HMS Belfast, receive a rather nice certificate, and was generally made to feel like volunteering is a good thing, and I'm not barking mad for sticking at it for this long.
The winner of the Long Service award was Jean Holder, who has been working for The Women's Library for 17 years, and is quite clearly a worthy winner. Highly commended entries were Peter Homon, with 15 years service at the Museum of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, and Mary Speers who has been working at the Estorick Collection for nearly 10 years, and is still going strong at the age of 90. As I commented to the other NHM people I was probably the youngest candidate for that award!
The team award was won by the Markfield Beam Engine and Museum, who have been restoring the engine into near working order over the past few years and have seen it become the focus of part of the Borough of Haringey's plans to regenerate Markfield Park. According to their website they hope to re-open in Summer 2009 with a programme of open days and steam days. Until now I didn't know this place existed on my doorstep, and I'm looking forward to it reopening. I reckon we could get a little steampunk pilgrimage down there without too much difficulty. Anyone interested?