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Editorial by Harry Mather, Vegan Views 87 (Winter 2000/01)

Some have considered that the new century and the new millennium should only have changed this year but, whatever, we are now truly into the new century and it begins to feel like it.

The last century brought huge changes to the nature of food production and distribution, and to attitudes to medical care. These changes have been accelerating in the last decade. Science has deepened our knowledge, and our ability to control the material world, but the general population is now beginning to question some changes, and even to be alarmed about them.

The BSE scare has led to suspicion about the safety of food, and to questioning modern food production methods. Reassurances by politicians and even scientists are no longer relied on. This suspicion includes the genetic modification of plants. Even if the likelihood of 'accidents' occurring is slight, the consequences could be very serious, long lasting and far reaching. Infections from BSE bring agonising death to young people, and cases of BSE are spreading in Europe.

Exploring the human genome - the blueprint that produces individual humans - is the greatest and most challenging of the scientific tools now available. The stated hope is that we will now be able to eliminate the genes responsible for genetic diseases. But once we start manipulating genes, will we not want to 'improve' human beings and also design the babies we want? Well-meaning scientists may feel sure they will only use knowledge for good purposes, but experience tells us that unscrupulous people do use knowledge for wrong purposes.

Concerns about global warming are another issue for this century. Altogether, we are facing new challenges, but I am sure that veganism, which emphasises health, compassion, and care for the environment, is a vital part of the answer.

So keep working for veganism.

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Cross-reference: BSE/CJD
Cross-reference: Medical Matters