Organised by SciCom
Vancouver, Canada - Saturday, 18 February, 2012, 08h00 – 09h30

Exploding Myths on Reactor Security, Harm Reduction and GMO's

Session Description

This session explodes myths about the seldom seen science behind some of today's most controversial public policy issues. Case-studies will spotlight that crucial interface between science, policy and society vis-à-vis nuclear energy, crop innovations (GMOs), and harm reduction (tobacco). Accepting that societal problems are not necessarily problems with purely scientific solutions, speakers will argue that calculated risks are fundamental to realizing proven benefits. Fukushima or not, why is it so difficult to separate fact from fiction on nuclear reactor safety and waste management solutions? What are the known and unknown implications of innovation in biotechnology and genetic engineering? Is tobacco harm reduction the greatest public health imperative today or is quit or die enough? Their common cause will be to demonstrate that innovative science is ever more prevalent and important.

Their common aim will be to urge the wider scientific community to think – and act – in the global interest, while pressing the re-set button for evidence-based policy above policy-biased evidence. Their approach will not be to assume that scientific consensus can exist or to frame issues as science vs. the public with science in the right. Yet, governments face challenges in terms of how science is viewed and used with the gap between public perceptions and scientific realities widening. Citizens are, nevertheless, unequivocal in their support for finding solutions to global issues.

Irish Flag Moderator:
Professor Patrick Cunningham,
Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland (retired September 2012) Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
Swedish Flag Discussant:
Dr Carl Johan Sundberg,
Founder, Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF) & Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
Hungarian Flag Discussant:
Istvan Palugyai,
Research Editor Nepszabadsag Newspaper & Former President, European Union Science Journalist Association, Budapest, Hungary


Presentation Title: Nuclear in the Political Riflescope: Putting the Brakes on or Keeping Nuclear an Option?

German Flag Speaker:
Dr. Roland Schenkel,

Former Director-General, European Commission, Joint Research Center & Nuclear Energy Consultant, Germany

Talk Description:

This presentation will paint an accurate and timely picture as to why nuclear energy will remain acceptable and central to the energy debate worldwide, despite the Fukushima disaster having understandably shaken the recent resurgence of 'new nuclear'. Dr Roland Schenkel will examine the evolutionary science behind nuclear reactor safety and reliability, test their track-record and sign-post how the ripples of Japan will have significant repercussions for existing and new-builds (65 under construction worldwide as of Feb 2010). As policy-makers struggle to keep the lights on, the talk will equally debunk myths about existing waste management solutions at Europe's 143 and America's 104 nuclear plants, while assessing the promise and risks of new emerging technologies.

Presentation Title: Whatever Crops Up: Solving Real Problems in Every Season

EU Flag Speaker:
Dr. Guy van den Eede,
Head of Unit, Molecular Biology and Genomics, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Health & Consumer Protection, Ispra, Italy

Talk Description:

Plant science expert, Dr Guy van den Eede, will focus his presentation on the evolution versus revolution debate in the world of biotechnology and genetic engineering. Underlining the profound interconnectivity between advances in science and addressing global challenges in climate, energy, agriculture and health, he will argue that the dialogue between science and policy is seldom straightforward. Taking the case of GMO's in Europe versus other regions of the world, in particular, America, this session will lay bare how government decisions are ultimately political with science just one element in decision-making. A fundamental argument will be that the ability to approach global problems in food supply through global collaborations depends equally on an educated populace and substantial S&T sophistication. This talk will spotlight that farmers shoulder a lot of responsibility. They manage their businesses in a complex, uncertain environment. We all rely on their success: to feed us, clothe us and keep farmland healthy for the next generation. It’s a long way from BASF chemistry labs in Ludwigshafen, Germany, to a soybean farm in Brazil or a wheat field in Canada. But the work that is done in those labs helps farmers to solve real problems, season after season. The basic question for farming professionals is: how can I maximize my yields, while ensuring that I produce in a sustainable way? The basic question for consumers is: how can I be sure that this food is safe? The basic question for scientists is: how can I untangle the basic facts from values and social and economic considerations?

Presentation Title: Harm Reduction Science: A Costly Illusion or Promising Breakthrough?

UK Flag Speaker:
Dr. David O'Reilly,
Group Scientific Director and Member of the Board, British American Tobacco, London, United Kingdom

Talk Description:

Placed in the international context of ongoing FDA and EU moves to consult with stakeholders on efforts to reduce the harm caused by smoking, this presentation will focus on the latest independent clinical trials and what biomarker science is telling us. Dr David O'Reilly will argue that cigarettes remain the greatest public health problem of the 20th and 21st centuries. Sensible research can, and does, offer alternatives for the approaching 1 billion smokers worldwide. Yet, why are conventional cigarettes the only option for consumers when they are the most lethal, killing half of their regular users in related illnesses? Why are proven alternatives so difficult to bring to market? What is breaking science telling us about the act of smoking itself, about replacement therapies, about the possible production of cigarettes with less harmful toxicants? Against the backdrop of falling smoking rates in the West and alarming rises in the developing world, why are public health authorities ignoring the care rights of smokers who die while trying to quit? This talk will explode some myths about tobacco today and stress the importance of scientific evidence to ensure better informed policies.