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Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2004

Inaugural science-technology forum urges help for developing countries

Staff writer

KYOTO -- Calls for broader scientific and technological support for developing countries as well as increased participation in scientific debate by the public resonated throughout the second day of the Science and Technology in Society forum Tuesday.

The three-day conference, which opened Sunday in Kyoto, is the inaugural meeting of what organizers hope will become the science and technology version of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Nearly 500 scientists, corporate heads, politicians and academics are in attendance, discussing issues ranging from energy to stem cell research.

On Tuesday, much of the discussion in the energy session dealt with technology and the importance of ensuring that developing countries have access to the latest developments.

"There is a growing awareness worldwide that OECD countries need to offer developing countries incentives to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and that alternate energy forms like biomass, solar and wind power technology need to be more widely available," said Anders Wijkman, a member of the European Parliament who attended the meeting.

At a separate meeting Monday of science and technology ministers from 13 countries, Amr Ezzat Salama, Egypt's minister for scientific research, and El-Zubier Bashir Taha, Sudan's minister of science and technology, raised the issue of giving developing countries easier access to the latest energy, agricultural and health technologies.

"We also discussed the problems related to merging pure scientific research with commercial interests, and the role of national governments in bringing both sides together," said Andrey Fursenko, Russia's minister of education and science. "Scientists have to understand that they need to think more about the practical benefits of their research."

In a seminar on stem cell research, where ethical and political concerns are especially intense, several participants said the focus was less on ways in which to cooperate on science and technology issues than on the broad variety of ethical issues involved.

"It was more of a discussion on the pros and cons of stem cell research, the way the international community and politicians see the issue, and what ethical and political considerations for further research should be taken into account," said one participant, who asked not to be named.

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The Japan Times

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