Here's one way to Keep Britain Tidy: modify all birds

With Monsanto Friendly Bird Seed, robins will be cuter and have optional blue or green breasts

AT FIRST, it seemed that there was little more to the story than the sort of plonking, semi-facetious xenophobia one expects in the less sophisticated Sunday tabloids. "It's big, black and German," trilled the headline over a double-page non-story about the Black Woodpecker - or German Black, as it now was called. Apparently, these big brutes are massing on the European mainland, about to fly the Channel to "change the British countryside for ever". Typical foreigners, the would-be invaders are so aggressive that they have been known to drag sweet, innocent, smaller woodpeckers from their nests in order to occupy them.

Of course, there's nothing new in rural racism. Species that have escaped into the wild, from the grey squirrel to the coypu, and even the delightful rose-ringed parakeet, tend to be perceived as dodgy aliens laying waste to the true, pure bloodline of British nature. Now and then, as in the case of the mink, the concern is valid, but normally it's little more than an excuse to trash the Johnny Foreigners of the animal kingdom when the real environmental harm is being done by our own agribusinesses.

All the same, it was quite a surprise when a rare sighting of that shy species, the Monsanto executive, revealed that this division between good nature and bad nature extends even to the higher echelons of the biotechnology business. Ringing in to Radio 4's Any Answers, the firm's head of corporate affairs argued that fields benefiting from their "genetically enhanced" crops are havens for what he called "friendly birds".

This was a new concept to me. I knew that, in certain quarters, plants are now neatly divided into wild flowers (lovely, heritagey things, part of the tapestry of the countryside) and weeds (vicious, strangulating, deep-rooted things, destroying the livelihood of innocent farmers), but it now transpired that bird-life, too, could be divided into heroes and villains.

Which birds will be acceptable in the new, clean, profitable English landscape? Already there are plans for a revolutionary new handbook, The Monsanto Field Guide to Friendly Birds, to clarify matters...

Robin. Entirely welcome. Imagine yuletide without our little-red-breasted friend tapping on the frosty window-pane. Unthinkable! In fact, thanks to our new Monsanto Friendly Bird Seed, robins will soon be bigger, cuter, and with optional green or blue breasts. Why not put some out on the bird table now?

Magpie. One for sorrow, two for joy - but off you go, my old son! Noisy, aggressive, always on the lookout for something they can nick, magpies are the lager louts of the bird world. Because there will be no place for inappropriate behaviour in Monsantoland, our people are currently looking for ways of cleansing the magpie population, either by introducing one of our famous suicide genes or, preferably, modifying them into lapwings.

Skylark. Hail to thee, blithe spirit! Nut-crunching environmental fanatics may argue that the skylark's dependence on the very seeds and insects our biotechnology will be removing make its extinction in Britain inevitable, but have these people never heard of laboratories? At this very moment, highly trained scientists are working on a new, enhanced skylark - better song, with a more visible flight pattern - that will become an essential part of our countryside's leisure facilities. This improved skylark can be sustained at reasonable prices, and with no damage to the environment, on a special, friendly diet that we shall soon make available.

Jackdaw. Cunning little devils. They act all innocent and unworldly when, in fact, they have a greater mental capacity than dolphins, elephants, or even that Einstein of the animal kingdom, the pig. We have no choice but to classify jackdaws as "unfriendly" on the grounds that they might analyse the secret formula for our enhanced crops and set up a multinational biotechnology firm in competition.

Hen harrier. Like the starling (once a garbage bird, now a much-loved, multicoloured urban friend) and the barn owl (looks great but makes a scary noise at night), hen harriers are bit of an avian grey area. On the one hand, they are magnificent birds of prey; on the other, sporting landowners in Scotland have complained that, in contravention of basic hunting rules, they are taking grouse well before the Glorious Twelfth. Rather than simply categorise them as unfriendly, we have decided to introduce a small number of sheep genes into their DNA so that harriers will soon be able to graze in a harmless, picturesque and economically valid way on moorlands.

Zeneca. A rival to Monsanto, Zeneca's UK habitat is almost exclusively in the Westminster, where it mobs its prey. Although its plans to produce a spotless, profitable landscape have sometimes been regarded as unfriendly, it is - I'm so sorry, I seem to have got my notes confused.

Miles Kington is on holiday

News

literature

News
Dermot O'Leary attends the X Factor Wembley Arena auditions at Wembley on August 1, 2014 in London, England.

television

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss