Facts and famine

May 7, 2004

Richard Faragher writes (Letters, April 30) that I implied that "farming causes starvation".

What was published was: "Famine did not exist as we see it today until advanced agricultural systems were introduced by ancient civilisations. The scale is unprecedented and has a real, if complex, relation to current systems of agriculture, trade and manufacture."

I nowhere wrote that evidence of decreased stature of Mesolithic skeletons implied that "farming caused starvation". By definition, ancient civilisations are well after the Mesolithic.

The reference to the Mesolithic occurred in a different section of that letter and referred to a well-known phenomenon, that in modern times the average height of Europeans has, in some instances, returned to levels comparable with those of the Upper Palaeolithic.

Nor did I in a subsequent letter intend by the phrase "sharply divided" to imply an "even division" among scientists over genetically modified organisms. I meant what I said, sharply divided.

Arriving at an estimate of what is an "even division" would involve a debate as to which scientists counted as "scientists", but there are incontrovertibly some reputable specialists in this area who disagree with other reputable specialists in this area on crucial issues.

A final correction: I am not a "lecturer in media studies" but an academic leader of a communications subject area.

Mo Dodson
London Metropolitan University

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