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Highlights of the first day of ESOF 2008, Barcelona 18 July

The first day of ESOF2008 focuses on some of Europe´s most pressing issues: climate change, the need for sustainable energy and designer food regulation. “The opening day´s programme today indicates that ESOF2008 is playing a vital role in hosting debate in Europe around some of the key issues of our time,” said ESOF2008 Co-Chair and Euroscience President Enric Banda.

“ESOF2008, like its two previous editions, is setting agendas and helping us as a community to move towards the Europeanisation of science and technology on major challenges common to all EU nations,” concluded Banda.

“Science for a Better Life is the theme of ESOF2008 and not without reason – we all want a better life after all and science has a huge responsibility to play in getting us there,” said ESOF2008 Co-Chair Ingrid Wünning Tschol, who is also Head of Science and Research at the Robert Bosch Stiftung in Germany.

“The opening day´s programme today indicates that ESOF2008 is playing a vital role in hosting debate in Europe around some of the key issues of our time,” said ESOF2008 Co-Chair and Euroscience President Enric Banda.

Sir David King on 21st Century Environmental Challenges
A population explosion this century is one of the key challenges facing society, Sir David King, the former UK government Chief Scientific Advisor, will today tell the Euroscience Open Forum 2008 in Barcelona. “This population explosion will present a series of interconnected challenges that are qualitatively different from those facing humanity at the start of the 20th century - ranging from food and energy security to increased terrorism and the impacts of climate change,” said Sir David.

The global population in the mid 21st Century will reach about nine billion from its current 6.8 billion and is one of the key challenges that Sir David King will analyse in his keynote presentation on the opening day of ESOF2008.

Reducing the impacts of climate change in the longer term uniquely requires collective global action by all major nations, and in my presentation I will describe how these challenges can be met by combining scientific understanding of nature with appropriate technological responses. This will require input from economists, politicians, the private sector and the public.

How will ‘designer’ foods be regulated?
´Functional foods’ are designed to deliver specific physiological benefits beyond that of basic nutrition that enhance health and, in some cases reduce the risk of disease. Led by moderator Colette Shortt, this session will show how the science base provides the foundation for developing functional foods, and analyse the need for successful partnerships between consumers and those involved in science and technology to ensure foods are integrated into the diet to guarantee better health and reduced disease.

Colette Shortt, a public health nutritionist from the UK, emphasises Europe`s importance in this development. “Advances in science and European regulations are fostering the development of innovative foods that deliver health benefits in areas such as cardiovascular and gut health, energy and weight control that are in line with consumers’ needs,” said Shortt.

Seeing what people think
How far society should use technology to ‘see what people are thinking’ is the question that Professor Pierre Magistretti will address today.

A leader in the field of brain energy metabolism, Professor Magistretti emphasises that today it is essential to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms of the brain that produce the signals that are detected by brain imaging techniques. At the other end of the spectrum, it is important to discuss the limitations and the ethical implications of these techniques.

Magistretti will describe the controversial possibilities that society will face in the future. “How will we respond if brain-imaging data is used to categorise people? For example, might it be applied to vetting employees when seeking jobs, or for forensic purposes? Already some lawyers are beginning to use brain imaging in their client’s defence,” concluded Professor Magistretti.

The future of nuclear power in Europe
Many EU nations now face crucial decisions as to whether new nuclear power stations are needed to help meet their steadily increasing needs for energy, and to reduce dependence on imported natural gas from politically unstable gas-producing nations. Nuclear power plants provide large amounts of dependable base-load electricity capacity, operate efficiently for decades, and make a significant environmental contribution by reducing EU carbon dioxide emissions.

"With renewed worldwide interest in nuclear power generation, the first seminar will discuss the need for nuclear power to cope with the worldwide energy demands and our climate concerns,” said Professor Friedrich Wagner, Chair of the Institute of Physics' Fusion and Fission seminars. “The development of new nuclear reactors will also be presented along with a discussion about how nuclear power can help to ensure an environmental balance in Europe's electricity supply,” concluded Wagner.

Michael Kessler | alfa
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