Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition! I already did.
It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Science in Europe, GM fiasco again, 2009

Xmas is over, back to work :)
  1. Nanotech at risk of repeating 'GM food fiasco'
  2. Commission to name 'chief scientific advisor'
  3. EU to offer 'incentives' for alternative antibiotic research
  4. EU to review nanomaterials policies
  • Europe to triple funding for energy research
  • Business group wants tax breaks for innovative start-ups
  • Experts slam EU's 'fractured' research policy
Quote of the day:This is the whole problem of GM in Europe and in world, that only corporation make a risk assessment, usually with only their interests in mind. And while the society is led by pseudo-scientists, it's always confused and the decisions are made by lobbyists.Does this seem to be right? I don't think so!

Nanotech at risk of repeating 'GM food fiasco'

29 September 2009

Decision-making on nanotechnology maust become more democratic or Europe risks repeating "mistakes" made in managing genetically modified foods, according to a new report on science policy.

Experts warn that current methods of involving the public are "marked by mixed motives and confused practices," and call for a radical shake-up of how Europe engages the public.

Scientists and politicians often cite the public debate on genetically-modified foods as a case study of how communication failures can hold up technological progress. Many of the interest groups with concerns about GM foods remain deeply sceptical of nanotechnology.

The 'Deepen ' report, which brings together findings from a three-year European research project involving ethicists, philosophers and the social and political sciences, says regulators and industry need to be more open with the public when crafting governance plans for new technologies.

Codes of conduct on nanotechnology are also important, according to the report, although the public is consistently wary of self-regulation by industry.

Research has found that, just as with genetically-modified foods, most non-scientists accept that a degree of risk is inevitable when introducing new technologies.

However, it warns the public is "concerned about the motivations driving technology," and are suspicious that the risks will be spread across society while the benefits will not be distributed equally.

He said the public is keen to be involved in deliberating on the far-reaching questions science is addressing and that policymakers must find new ways to ensure public views are used to inform science policy.


My comment: Ok, what part of the word "scientist" I don't understand? Because I really don't get how "ethicists, philosophers and the social and political sciences" can be called scientists! The whole discussion on GM should be led by real scientists - biologists, ecologists, economists, people who can make real risk assessment! How could a philosopher know what a GM pollution can do to the nature in a region? How could s/he knows what losses will come from eventual escaping of genes in the environment??? This is the whole problem of GM in Europe and in world, that only corporation make a risk assessment, usually with only their interests in mind. And while the society is led by pseudo-scientists, it's always confused and the decisions are made by lobbyists. Does this seem to be right? I don't think so!

Commission to name 'chief scientific advisor'

25 September 2009

Following in the footsteps of Barack Obama in the United States, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso plans to appoint a chief scientific advisor to assist the incoming EU executive in making tough decisions on everything from GMO authorisations to addressing climate change.

The new job, to be created after the new-look EU executive is sworn in, forms part of an ongoing period of major reflection inside the Commission, which is re-organising its directorates in charge of science, research and innovation.

The adviser would have the power "to deliver proactive, scientific advice throughout all stages of policy development and delivery," Barroso explained, reflecting "the central importance" he attaches to research and innovation.

Speaking to EurActiv, a Commission official familiar with the matter said that the size, role, mandate and level of operation of the EU's new chief scientific advisor still needed to be determined. The position could involve a single person, a group of people or a restructuring of existing Commission's directorates-general and commissioners, the source said.

Underpinning this major reflection period are "the consciousness of upcoming major political questions that imply scientific knowledge" and a willingness to take better account of scientific facts in decision-making, the official explained, listing climate change, renewable energies and pandemics as an example.

But while the idea behind the EU chief scientific advisor is to explain the scientific facts on which decisions are taken, the final choice will always be political, the official acknowledged.

Inspiration for Barroso to propose a scientific advisor may have come from the United States. source

My comment: A political job? Oh, thank you, that's exactly the person who can be a scientific adviser. I don't understand why politicians are so afraid of specialists, after all if you need a political opinion, you don't need a special adviser for this! On the contrary, if you want to know what science tells about something, you have to have a person/group, that is able to make the research and present an educated opinion independent from corporative interests - something that scientists and commission usually giving the opinion are unable to do. You have to have a trusted person that is responsible for the independence of the opinion. And you cannot require a politician to be scientifically accurate. Or at least it's harder to do it. And I don't see why a scientific adviser should be related to environment science. How an ecologist can make risk assessment of nanotechnology, which concerns mostly human health? Or how a climate specialist can discuss GMO pollution of the environment? For such job, one needs specialists who should be responsible for their opinion on the long run. Someone to sue if their assessment is wrong. I liked very much something I read - that in USA, if they sign something and it turns our wrong, they will be sued. While in Europe, you can say or do whatever and never to be responsible for it. That's wrong!

EU to offer 'incentives' for alternative antibiotic research

1 October 2009

The European Union is stepping up the fight against hospital bugs amid fears that antibiotic-resistant bacteria could spark a plague of infectious disease which will paralyse healthcare systems.

Later this month (9 October), European health ministers will look at how financial incentives can be used to boost research into new antibiotics.

Governments are concerned that the effectiveness of current antibiotic medicines is on the wane, making the development of new drugs a matter of urgency.

Scientists have been engaged in an arms race against bacteria since the 1960s when the first strain of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) was identified. Bacteria have evolved resistance to traditional antibiotics, forcing doctors to use harsher versions.

Experts are now worried that resistance to even the strongest antibacterials could emerge, forcing the cancellation of operations and the temporary closure of hospitals.

The problem is particularly acute in hospitals and nursing homes, where infections spread quickly between ill patients and can enter the bloodstream during surgery.

Sweden, which holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency, is pushing for tougher rules on the use of existing antibiotics, fearing that misuse will accelerate the development of resistance.

In a strongly-worded draft document, it says access to effective antibiotics is essential to stemming the spread of potentially lethal hospital bugs. Sweden wants EU countries to agree to a wide range of measures designed to keep current antibiotics available for as long as possible.

In addition, health ministers are keen to accelerate the development of alternative antibiotics, recognising the urgent need for new tools in the running battle with resistant hospital bugs.

If Swedish proposals are accepted, governments and the EU executive will have a year to come up with new incentives to attract public and private funding for R&D projects focused on developing new antibiotic medicines. Public-private partnerships will be one of the options on the table, as ministers seek to bring industry and academia together to tackle the problem. source

My comment: This is the second article from this kind I read this week. And I don't believe it more than the previous one. The problem isn't that they lie about antibiotic resistance being a major problem and threat! Not at all. The problem is that the this resistance, at least according to me, isn't due so much to the (mis)use of antibiotics during flus and so on. The real problem is that the meat we eat is full of antibiotics. So even if we don't take any antibiotic, bacteria will still continue to grow resistant to antibiotics - after all, a human can get a limited amount of infections during our highly sterile lives. While the situation is not the same with the millions pigs that are being butchered each year. They grow injected with antibiotics and hormones, fed with GMO food, and of course, bred in questionable conditions. Where is it more likely for a resistant bug to develop?And even if we leave the meat alone, hospitals are the real paradise for infections and resistant bugs to thrive. And people with weak immune systems are the perfect incubators for the bugs. In short, even if they limit the access to antibiotics of people, something I severely oppose (because the access to medicines, shouldn't be connected to the access to doctors), but even if the do what the want, the situation simply won't change. And the action that is required is much more severe than what our dear political leader suggest. We have to rethink our whole food processing industry and hospital care.

EU to review nanomaterials policies

13 October 2009

The EU executive plans to respond positively to the European Parliament's call for a number of EU policies and regulations covering health and environmental safety issues related to nanomaterials to be reviewed.

"The Commission will review all relevant legislation within two years to ensure safety for all applications of nanomaterials in products with potential health, environmental or safety impacts over their life cycle," said Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, addressing a nanoregulation conference on 9 October.

"Many different Commission services must contribute in response to the broad range of requests," he added.

The statement represents the first response to MEPs' call for a clear regulatory and policy framework on nanomaterials (EurActiv 28/04/09).

According to sources, the Commission has adopted its response to the Parliament's request, but is yet to officially send it. As on many other EU policy areas, there is internal disagreement on the matter within the EU executive. While its departments for environment and health back stronger legislation and precautions on the matter, the department for enterprise and industry could do with less stringent or specific legislation.

Steffi Friedrichs, managing director of the Nanotechnology Industries Association (NIA), stressed that nanomaterials are fully covered by REACH. Even the information aspects of nanomaterials are already covered by the legislation, as a nanomaterial is distinct from the bulk form of a substance, she added.

Meanwhile, she said she could support a mandatory reporting scheme if a clear science-based definition was developed taking into account the specific characteristics of nanomaterials.

Wolf-Michael Catenhusen, head of Germany's 'NanoKommission' and author of a report on the regulatory aspects of nanotech, recommended adjusting the REACH registration mechanisms to nanomaterials and introducing a legal framework that deals with the specific properties of these tiny materials. This could be done by adding a "nano chapter" to REACH, for example. source

My comment: Covered by REACH, but not really. Do you see any labels of nanomaterials used? And they use them, you can be sure. Especially in cosmetics. And do we know where the little guys go once they happily sink into our skin? No, not really. We know only that they are not immediately dangerous (which is pretty obvious - no industry will kill its customers). But there are a range of wider questions - where those nanomaterials go, do they accumulate, how do they react with other substances (or other nanomaterials). It's not that simple and these issues should be made official.


Europe to triple funding for energy research

6 October 2009

Europe will tomorrow (7 October) launch a campaign to triple funding for energy research to eight billion euros ($11.7 billion) a year in a technology race with Japan and the United States, a draft document shows.

Solar power should get 16 billion euros over the next decade and up to 30 energy-sipping 'Smart Cities' should be built with the backing of around 11 billion euros, added the report by the European Union's executive, the European Commission.

In total, at least 50 billion euros of additional funding is seen over the next 10 years to ensure a wide range of technology emerges to help the EU meet its goal of cutting greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050. source

Business group wants tax breaks for innovative start-ups

13 October 2009

Europe's chronic shortage of finance for young innovative companies will cause it to fall further behind global competitors, according to a business lobby group which wants governments to back entrepreneurs through tax incentives.

In a detailed report on boosting innovation in the EU, BusinessEurope calls for the expansion of risk-sharing products offered by the European Investment Bank, which would assuage the reluctance of banks to gamble on new technologies.

An integrated venture-capital market should be established within the EU, according to the report, which goes on to describe the kinds of tax breaks new firms need to bring new inventions to market.

It commends France for its 'Jeune Entreprise Innovante' scheme, which began in 2004 and offers tax exemptions for SMEs that invest more than 15% of their total annual expenditure on R&D. Firms qualifying for the initiative are exempt from all corporation tax and capital gains tax for eight years after their establishment. source

Experts slam EU's 'fractured' research policy

8 October 2009

An expert group established to advise the EU executive has criticised European research policy for being driven by national concerns rather than community spirit.

In its first annual report, the European Research Area Board (ERAB ) warns Europe will fall further behind global competitors if it fails to resolve long-standing difficulties regarding its fragmented research strategy.

"We are concerned by the fractured state of the ERA today. It is still too much driven by inward-looking national priorities, too much centralism and suboptimal institutional and legal frameworks," the report says. source

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