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Scientific Alliance Newsletter

15.02.2008
Europe and GM animal feed This week, there have been reports that Europe is facing a crisis in its meat supply. An internal EU report has identified a major – and predictable – downside of the present negative attitude of many politicians towards agricultural biotechnology: a looming shortage of imported animal feed which will inevitably severely affect the availability of European meat and force a major contraction of livestock farming. The reason is that, as the area sown to GM crops continues to grow and new traits are approved in the major agricultural exporting countries (the USA,...
08.02.2008
- The lesson of South Africa - From chemistry to biology - The case for crop protection The lesson of South Africa South Africa is suffering an energy crisis. Eskom, the state-owned power generator, simply cannot supply the country's needs, and it looks as though it will be several years before the problem is resolved. South Africa is the continent's economic powerhouse. The country is rich in minerals and is the leading global supplier of many precious metals and diamonds. The almost miraculously smooth and peaceful transition from apartheid to a functional multiracial democracy has once...
01.02.2008
- Industry withdraws from international agriculture study - Gates Foundation and crop biotechnology in Africa Industry withdraws from international agriculture study The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development is as ambitious as it sounds: a global effort to bring together a range of partners to report on how best to improve farming and food security in poor countries. It is led by Robert Watson, who was recently appointed Defra chief scientist, but is no stranger to leading large global projects: he spent many years with the World Bank, and is a...
25.01.2008
- EU renewable energy targets - Swaminathan on farming technology - Synthetic micro-organisms another step closer EU renewable energy targets Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, this week announced the latest EU proposals for growth in renewable energy. As part of a European plan to reduce carbon emissions, energy from renewables is targeted to be 20% of the total by 2020. Individual national targets vary. The UK, where currently renewables contribute only 2%, will need to increase this to 15% while Sweden, which already has a much higher proportion, will be...
18.01.2008
Can science be democratic? Euractiv.com, a Brussels-based news and comment service, recently reported an interview with French philosopher Michel Serres. According to him, "Politicians and scientists need to listen to the people and strive towards more democracy in science by means of interactive new technologies such as blogs." But can science really be democratic? Should it be democratic? The issue highlighted by M Serres is essentially that non-scientists have concerns about scientific developments and therefore need to have their questions answered rather than simply have the science...
11.01.2008
- Nuclear power in the UK - The Tata Nano - The success of GM crops Nuclear Power in the UK The bullet has finally been bitten. The big news on the energy front in the UK this week is the government's formal backing for a new generation of nuclear power stations. This has been a long time coming, but for several years this decision has been a question of when rather than if. It represents a turnaround from the position in the 2003 Energy White Paper, when the official government position was anti-nuclear and renewables were the path for the future. Not that renewables will be ignored,...
14.12.2007
- EU funding of lobby groups - Offshore wind farms - Passing the baton to Beddington EU funding of lobby groups A recent BBC radio 4 programme (The Investigation, 6th December) looked into the funding of environmental lobby groups by the European Commission, and reported that a total of 40 organisations received over €7.7 million from DG Environment in 2006. Nearly half of this went to the Green 10, a network of groups which actively lobbies the Commission, Parliament and Council and includes WWF and Friends of the Earth Europe. As has previously been reported, FoE Europe receives about...
07.12.2007
- The $100 laptop: is it appropriate? - LEDs: the future of lighting? - The dangers of coal The $100 laptop: is it appropriate? The charity One Laptop Per Child, which first mooted the idea of a robust, affordable laptop for developing countries five years ago, is now in a position to supply them. Production has started in China, and the first order has been placed, by the government of Uruguay. Officially called the XO, it can no longer in truth be described as the "$100 laptop" since raw material costs have now driven the selling price to $188. Nevertheless, economies of scale will...
30.11.2007
- Scientists plead for rational approval of GM crops - GDP and wellbeing - Can Europe be the world leader in energy technologies? Scientists plead for rational approval of GM crops A few weeks ago, it was reported that EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas had proposed to reject approval applications for two varieties of insect-resistant, genetically modified maize. This is despite a positive recommendation from EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority, and also in the teeth of opposition from Commissioners Mandelson (Trade), Verheugen (Industry) and Fischer Boel (Agriculture). On top...
23.11.2007
African agriculture African agriculture This week saw the launch by the Royal Society of Chemistry of the Pan African Chemistry Network, initially setting up a hub at the university of Nairobi with a grant from Syngenta. The intention is to help the continent – particularly sub-Saharan Africa – meet the Millennium Development Goals. This first centre will focus in particular on sustainable agriculture and food security. This prompts a set of questions: Can such an initiative really make a difference in a continent where the lives of the majority seem to have got worse in an otherwise...

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