About the author Guido Long

Three recommendations on the General Comment on Science

Three recommendations on the General Comment on Science

A few weeks ago, the draft General Comment on Science was published.

Science for Democracy has been campaigning for years for the full recognition of the right to science, and will be submitting comments to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. There are three main recommendations:

1) Paragraph 89, the last of the document that is dedicated to “A human right to science” should be included at the outset of the text and, possibly, reformulated as follows:

This set of rights, entitlements, liberties, duties or obligations related to science, analyzed in this General Comment, might be brought together in a single broad concept named “the human right to science”, in the same way that, for example, “the human right to health” encompasses a broad set of rights and freedoms affecting human wealth and well-being. This approach and this name have already been adopted by the Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights, by UNESCO, by some international conferences and summits and by some important scientific organizations and publications.

2) The General Comment should become the basis for the development of guidelines to assist Member States in their documenting the implementation of article 15 of the ICESCR.

3) Given the growing importance of science in our daily life, and its possible positive and negative impact on billions of people, Member States should consider the possibility to establish a Special Rapporteur on the Right to Science or the human rights implication of Science (as described in the General Comment) also through ad hoc debates to be hosted by the UN Council on Human Rights.

Science for Democracy invites everyone to contact their government to share these recommendations and ask them to submit them on behalf of their Member State, in order to show the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that there is a wide consensus around these proposals.

The General Comment will also be part of the agenda of the VI World Congress for freedom of scientific research that will be held in Addis Ababa on 25-26 February.

Putting data science to work on the farm

Putting data science to work on the farm

How the digital transformation of farming is reducing risk and increasing confidence

Farming is one of the riskiest professions in the world. That’s because the amount of capital a farmer invests each year to raise a crop is enormous, while the challenges they face from season to season are constantly evolving. With more mouths to feed and fewer people to feed them, farmers must contend with a changing climate, resource limitations, low commodity prices and shifting consumer expectations.

Whether dealing with nature’s unpredictability or volatile markets, farmers try to reduce risk in their operations by increasing crop yields and effectively managing key farm inputs such as water, fertilizers, pesticides and seeds. Like business owners or executives in other industries, they’re starting to use data and insights to optimize productivity, profitability and sustainability.

The digital transformation of farming

Applying data science in agriculture is only as powerful as the farmer’s ability to collect and analyze vast amounts of data sets. When farmers are able to easily connect their equipment —  such as tractors, combines, irrigation systems and other on-farm sensors — and use their own agronomic data to make more informed decisions, they begin to experience the true value of digital farming. When their farm data can be combined with other agricultural data sets to uncover unique insights, the potential of digital farming is endless.

Continue reading the article on Politico

How to participate in the 6th World Congress

How to participate in the 6th World Congress

Science for Democracy is happy to share the conditions to take part in the VI World Congress for Freedom of Scientific Research, “The right to ENJOY the benefits of SCIENCE, an African Perspective”, on February 24-25-26 2020 (working languages Italian, English and French).

It is even more happy to do so now that its goal of the past few years – the right to science – has been put on the agenda of the UN.

TO TAKE PART:

500€ package* everything included for the 2020 members of the Associazione Luca Coscioni
550€ package* everything included for non-members

  • package (*) including return plane tickets, stay in a hotel double room (a single room costs 50€ extra, in total not per night), dinners, lunches, coffee breaks, and shuttles to move around, to be transferred to the Associazione Luca Coscioni (HERE the info and payment options)
  • departure from Milan Malpensa late in the evening of February 23 (arrival in Addis Ababa on the morning of the 24th) and return arriving in Milan at dawn on February 27;
  • departure from Rome Fiumicino late in the evening of February 23 (arrival in Addis Ababa on the morning of the 24th) and return to Rome at dawn on the 27th;
  • stay at the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel.
  • goals of the VI world Congress (HERE), organised together with the African Union;
  • the agenda is being prepared, and will be available at the end of January;
  • the UN document on the right to science which will be at the centre of the debate (HERE)

NB Useful information:

Passport: required, with remaining validity of at least 6 months.

Entry visa: required, to be requested online, or at the Ethiopian embassy. The tourist visa can also be obtained upon arrival at the Addis Ababa airport (with the exceptions of citizens of Eritrean origin, who cannot receive the visa at the airport). Tourist visas with a validity of 30 days are issued at the Addis Ababa airport, at a cost of 50$ or the euro equivalent, currently 44€).

SfD is still waiting for a response regarding the possibility of obtaining courtesy visas.

Vaccines: there are no compulsory vaccinations.

To organise the Congress in the best way possible kindly confirm your attendance by Monday, January 20th, by writing to info@sciencefordemocracy.org and attaching a copy of your payment. It will be possible to confirm your attendance at a later date, but at that point you will not be guaranteed the same conditions offered by Ethiopian Airlines.

Science for Democracy hopes you will confirm your attendance, to meet you in Addis Ababa, and to continue this journey together, to affirm the human right to enjoy the benefits of science.

The 6th Meeting Of The World Congress For Freedom Of Scientific Research

The 6th Meeting Of The World Congress For Freedom Of Scientific Research

Addis Ababa, 25-26 February 2020

 

The Associazione Luca Coscioni and Science for Democracy are organizing the 6th meeting of the World Congress for Freedom of Scientific Research in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 25 to 26 February 2020. The event is co-sponsored by the Commission of the African Union in the person of Sarah Mbi Enow Anyang Agbor, Commissioner for Science and Technology.

How to participate in the 6th World Congress

The themes at the center of the debate will contribute to the global debate on the “Right to Science”, which constitutes the object of the latest “General Comment” of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Congress will therefore include speakers and round tables on the promotion of scientific culture, open access to science, vegetal biotechnologies, rare, infectious and non-transmissible diseases as well as aerospace.

Finally, particular attention will be given to the contribution that women can bring to scientific progress in general. All over the world women account for less than a third of those employed in scientific research and development. The situation presents some encouraging aspects in developing countries that need to be supported as women are less likely than men to enter a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field but more likely to leave. Furthermore, female underrepresentation in clinical trials reduces women’s opportunities to access effective treatments posing problems in terms of discrimination and full enjoyment of the right to health. Ultimately, women and girls are unable to enjoy the same opportunities than men when it comes to STEM fields.

Target participants in the World Congress will include Commissioners of the African Union concerned with Human Resources, Science and TechnologySocial AffairsRural Economy and Agriculture; members of national executive and legislative bodies, relevant regional organizations and UN Agencies and Offices, academics and research institutes, media, civil society and non-governmental organizations with a particular focus on those that work on patients rights.

The 2020 Congress is convened a few weeks after the publication of a draft of the above-mentioned General Comment on Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which addresses what, for some time, has been called the “right of” and the “right to” science.

Article 15

1.The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone:

(a) To take part in cultural life;

(b) To enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications;

(c) To benefit from the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

  1. The steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include those necessary for the conservation, the development and the diffusion of science and culture.
  2. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to respect the freedom indispensable for scientific research and creative activity.
  3. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the benefits to be derived from the encouragement and development of international contacts and co-operation in the scientific and cultural fields.

The interaction between science, the scientific method, evidence-based debates and the decision-making process in full respect of the international Rule of Law has always been at the center of the five meetings of the World Congress organized since 2004 at the Italian and European Parliament by the Associazione Luca Coscioni.

The Addis Congress will explain the ramifications the “right of” and the “right to” science on a variety of topics that are becoming crucial for African countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, arguing that international legality will need to take into structural consideration all issues related to scientific evidence when policy decisions are taken, stressing the need to educate the general public on the ways in which science works through the verification, duplication, and falsification of research. All SDGs would greatly benefit from investments in research and technology to strengthen science and innovation in the developing world.

The decision to organize the 6th session of the World Congress in Africa was taken at the European Parliament in Brussels in April 2018 at the end of the 5th meeting, when it was decided that the next “[…] World Congress meeting […] should take place in a developing country that is struggling to establish or reinforce its democratic institutions, the Rule of Law and that is promoting and protecting scientific progress”.

In several recent AU-sponsored meetings science has been hailed as one of the resources that should be made increasingly available to the African continent both in terms of investments and policies that can allow its use in line with the Agenda 2063 launched to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the African Union.

The declaration outlining the agenda marked the re-dedication of Africa towards the attainment of the African vision of “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena” to be achieved as a continental endeavor by 2063.

The agenda of the Addis Congress is in discussion with the African Union. It will include a general presentation on “science as a human right” that will be elaborated in various fields from increasing quality education, including open access to scientific literature, to new breeding techniques, from palliative care to family planning to aerospace projects. Other issues addressed will be global warming, information technology, Artificial Intelligence, as well as the role of women both concerning their reproductive rights and their underrepresentation in STEM fields.

Among the confirmed scientific keynote speakers are Professor Richard J. Roberts, 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and Professor Michele De Luca, Director, Centre for Regenerative Medicine “Stefano Ferrari”, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Modena, Italy.

Draft General Comment on Science Published

Draft General Comment on Science Published

The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has published a draft of the General Comment on Science.

The General Comment includes several elements that Science for Democracy has been campaigning for, including the formal mention of the human right to science and the importance of access to and research on controlled substances. Over the years Science for Democracy has organized a series of public meetings and side-events at the UN in Geneva, Vienna, and New York to raise awareness on some science-related issues that were running the risk of being excluded from the document.

Science for Democracy commends the work of the Committee and believes the draft has taken into consideration a significant number of suggestions coming from civil society organizations. However, improvements can still be made, and the draft is open to inputs from civil society until 14 February.

Views can be sent directly to cescr@ohchr.org or shared with Science for Democracy, which will then include them into its own submission.

The General Comment will be part of the agenda of the VI World Congress for freedom of scientific research that will be held in Addis Ababa on 25-26 February.

Give Crispr a chance update

Give Crispr a chance update

As you may remember, on March 5th, Science for Democracy held the Give Crispr a chance event. The Belgian Food Safety Agency confiscated the product and said they would take action.

The Belgian Food Safety Agency fined Science for Democracy, and coordinators Marco Perduca and Marco Cappato replied.

Now the Belgian Food Safety Agency replied, confirming the fine (you can read their letter below). They basically repeat the same arguments, and accuse Science for Democracy of preventing the testing of the rice, whereas that is what they were asked to do!

In order to prevent such situations in the future, what we can do now is sign the European Citizens’ Initiative Grow Scientific Progress – if citizens make their voice heard the Institutions will listen!

 

Below you can find the text of the letter:

Messrs,

I confirm receipt of your letter of July 25th, 2019, containing your defence elements following the administrative fine of 500€ that I sent you on June 27th, 2019.

I took good note of your arguments.

I would first of all like to draw your attention to the fact that you have yourselves announced, notably on your Facebook page, that you were going to organise an action during which rice modified with the “CRISPR-Cas” method would be eaten.

It is then undeniable that you have presented, on several occasions (before and during the event), the distributed rice as being modified according to the “CRISPR-Cas” method.

The European Court of Justice, in its decision of July 25th, 2018, confirmed that organisms obtained by means of techniques/methods of mutagenesis, such as the CRISPR-Cas method, are genetically modified organisms.

As a consequence, contrary to what you say, the legal status of the “CRISPR-Cas” method is absolutely not “doubtful” in Belgium. Belgium, as a member state of the European Union is subject to the law of the European Union and respects and carries out decisions of the European Court of Justice.

It should be emphasized that the report at the origin of the fine only raised one infraction, namely the opposition to a control and confiscation by agents of AFSCA.

In this regard, the absence of technical analysis of the product, which was by the way made impossible in light of your opposition, has no incidence on the infraction to article 3, paragraph 7 of the royal decree of February 22, 2001, organizing the checks carried out by AFSCA, which remains established.

It seems furthermore appropriate to remind that in light of article 4 paragraph 3 of the February 4th, 2000 law relative to the creation of AFSCA, that AFSCA is responsible for “the control, the examination and the expertise of food products and their raw materials in all stages of the food chain, and this in the interest of public health.”

In addition, in its quality of authority, AFSCA needs to enforce the regulation in force and to contribute to the carrying out of court decisions.

In light of the above, I confirm my letter of June 27th, 2019, and as a consequence invite you to pay the amount of 500€ within 30 days of the reception of this letter.

If this does not happen, I will be forced to transmit your file to the Prosecutor of the King for criminal prosecution in light of article 7, first paragraph of the above-mentioned royal decree of February 22th, 2001.

Please accept, Messrs, my best regards.

The Commissioner for administrative fines

Block on GM rice ‘has cost millions of lives and led to child blindness’

Block on GM rice ‘has cost millions of lives and led to child blindness’

Eco groups and global treaty blamed for delay in supply of vitamin-A enriched Golden Rice

Stifling international regulations have been blamed for delaying the approval of a food that could have helped save millions of lives this century. The claim is made in a new investigation of the controversy surrounding the development of Golden Rice by a team of international scientists.

Golden Rice is a form of normal white rice that has been genetically modified to provide vitamin A to counter blindness and other diseases in children in the developing world. It was developed two decades ago but is still struggling to gain approval in most nations.

“Golden Rice has not been made available to those for whom it was intended in the 20 years since it was created,” states the science writer Ed Regis. “Had it been allowed to grow in these nations, millions of lives would not have been lost to malnutrition, and millions of children would not have gone blind.”

Continue reading the article on The Guardian

Science for the Environment – ICYMI

Science for the Environment – ICYMI

On 18 October, Science for Democracy organised “Science for the Environment: Knowledge and Action” at the House of Europe in The Hague.

The goal of the event was to discuss what science and politics can jointly do for the living environment. Among participants there were academics, European activists and politicians.

You can watch the video of the event below.

 

The programme was as follows:

Welcome speech: Marco Perduca, former Italian Senator, founder and co-chair of Science for Democracy

Keynote speech: Tom van der Lee, Member of the Dutch House of Representatives, GroenLinks

First roundtable: Evidence-based policymaking

moderator: Claudia Basta, researcher, Science for Democracy co-founder

speakers: Katharine Rietig, Assistant Professor in International Politics, Newcastle University

Russel Duncan, Associate Professor in environmental policy, University of Exeter

Edwin Zaccai, Professor in Sustainable Development, Université Libre de Bruxelles

Claudio Radaelli, Professor of Public Policy and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences School of Public Policy, University College London

Second roundtable: Political actions to fight climate change. The bridge between European Citizens Initiatives and Representative Democracy

moderator: Virginia Fiume, coordinator of Eumans

speakers: Matthijs Sienot, Member of the Dutch House of Representatives, D66

Colombe Cahen-Salvador, co-founder and policy lead Volt Europe

Federica Sabbati, vice president European Movement and coordinator of +Europa Bruxelles

Timothée Galvaire, member of the committee of the European Citizens Iniziative Ending the aviation fuel tax exemption in Europe

Martina Helmlinger, member of the committee of the European Citizens Initiative Grow Scientific Progress

Thomas Eitzenberger, member of the committee of the Fridays for Future European Citizens Initiative

Claudia Basta, researcher, Science for Democracy co-founder

Conclusions & ideas for future action: Marco Cappato, former MEP, founder and co-chair of Science for Democracy

 

The event also provided an occasion to discuss the European Citizens’ Initiatives launched by Science for Democracy as well as those it supports. The list of the ECIs can be found here.  Please sign and share widely!

New gene editing tool could fix most harmful DNA mutations

New gene editing tool could fix most harmful DNA mutations

‘Prime editing’ more precise than Crispr-Cas9, but still needs time before use on humans

Scientists have raised fresh hopes for treating people with genetic disorders by inventing a powerful new molecular tool that, in principle, can correct the vast majority of mutations that cause human genetic diseases.

The procedure, named “prime editing”, can mend about 89% of the 75,000 or so harmful mutations known to mangle the human genome and lead to conditions such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anaemia, and a nerve-destroying illness called Tay-Sachs disease.

The landmark work opens the door to a new era of genome editing, but scientists caution that more research is needed before it can be safely used in humans. Beyond proving its safety, another major hurdle is how to deliver the molecular machinery to cells that need it in sufficient amounts to treat a disorder.

Continue reading the article on The Guardian

Scientists and politics?

Scientists and politics?

The lower legislative chamber of the United Kingdom’s Parliament has 650 members, but only one (0.15%) has a science Ph.D. This seems like a surprisingly small number in a mature democracy. About 0.8% of people in the United Kingdom have a science Ph.D., so it appears that science is seriously underrepresented. I suspect it is the same the world over. Why is this, is it right, and what are the consequences?

There is, fortunately, an increasing focus on making governments representative of the diversity of the population they serve in terms of gender, race, and sexual orientation. But diversity also needs to embrace different intellectual approaches. The structured thinking and disciplined methodologies of science add to diversity, but these are aspects that can challenge vested interests. The blunt, socially insensitive, scientist speaking truth to power is certainly a caricature, but it is sufficiently real to warrant careful management by governments. There is also often suspicion that scientists operate their own agendas.

Continue reading the article on Science Magazine