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Monday, June 28, 1999 Published at 17:08 GMT 18:08 UK


Facing the future of science

Budapest plays host to the multi-national think tank

Many of the world's top scientists are meeting in the Hungarian capital Budapest to discuss issues facing science across the globe.

Entitled "Science for the 21st Century - a New Commitment", the conference has drawn together over 2,000 ministers of science and technology, research scientists and Nobel laureates.

The conference is not designed as a showcase for new discoveries but to identify future challenges for science itself.

UNESCO director-general Federico Mayor: "Society depends on well-being of environment"
"We will try to map a new future for science. We must work together to forge a new relationship between science and society," said Federico Mayor, director-general of Unesco.

Many of the issues to be debated do not lend themselves to easy answers.

[ image: Biotechnology needs the rainforests]
Biotechnology needs the rainforests
Biotechnology depends on biodiversity. But the destruction of the rainforests means the loss of dozens of plant species which might be of use to man.

Some countries, including Britain, are experiencing a steady decline in the number of students opting to study the sciences.

Global concerns

A central question is the relationship between scientific research and the commercial philosophies of multi-national companies.

Many scientists are concerned about the social and economic consequences of developing genetically modified crops.

Patented high-yield varieties will push up profits for the big grower, while small-scale farmers in the developing world who do not have access to the new technologies will be left behind.

Money for research will also be high on the agenda.

"Music and literature may survive without government money. Science cannot. It needs funding," said Mr Mayor.

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