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24.08.2000 · Research Group on the Global Future

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Research Group on the Global Future
Center for Applied Policy Research (CAP)
Munich, Germany

And the jocund rebecks sound
To many a youth and many a maid,
Dancind in the checkered shade.
And young and old come forth to play
On a sunshine holiday.
-- John Milton L'Allegro, 1631--

(1) Aventis Triangle Forum
(2) Working Papers
(3) New poll on the acceptance of gene technology in Europe
(4) Noted en passing - CostLy Air



This summit of leaders from business, politics, the natural sciences, and academia brought together top thinkers and doers from Asia, Europe and North America for discussions on key questions of the global future. They addressed their combined talents to three groups of questions:

  • How can we build legitimacy for solutions in a globalized world?

  • Can new technologies do the job of solving problems of demography and the environment?

  • How can Asia, Europe and North America put their enduring differences to the most productive use?

The Research Group on the Global Future has erected a special web site for complete coverage of the Forum.

Three days of hard work by global leaders are brought together in a compact form on the site's Executive Summary. A number of the papers presented are now available in their complete form, along with RealAudio excerpts from the Forum's deliberations.

This site includes special background on the Forum, profiles of all the participants - leading personalities from Lord George Weidenfeld, the British publisher, to Benjamin Barber, the American political scientist and author of Jihad vs. McWorld, Stephen Leong, Malaysian security expert and deputy director of Kuala Lumpur's Institute for Strategic and International Studies, and more than twenty other people shaping our world - information about the Watermill Center, the magical artistic site that is the Forum's home, and other treats from presentations. The special site will be open for a limited time only; afterward, full results will be available on the Research Group's home page.



Jih Chang Yang is an Executive Vice President at Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), a leading source of the island's industrial and technological strength. From the cutting edge of both information technology and manufacturing know-how, Dr. Yang has written his views on the implications of the digital revolution for sustainable development. They may surprise you. Download the paper from: environment_ecommerce.php

Moira Gunn is a former NASA scientist and the first woman to earn her doctorate in mechanical engineering from Purdue University. Now she interviews all of the movers and shakers of informaton technology for her radio show, TechNation. She put her thoughts together on the societal consequences of digitalization, drawing on knowledge from the heart of Silicon Valley. Don't miss the Laws of Technology Convergence, version 1.0. Download the paper from: consequences_digitalization.php



For the first time since 1996, the European Commission carried out a Europe-wide opinion poll ("Eurobarometer") on the acceptance of gene technology in Europe. First results of the study, for which 16,082 people were questioned in all Member States of the European Union, were recently presented to the public.

A comparison between the situation in 1996 and 1999 shows an increased level of disillusionment. In many countries positive expectations concerning gene technology have clearly fallen. In the United Kingdom, the proportion of those who expected positive effects from biotechnology and gene technology in their lives went down 15%, in Italy 14%, in France 3.7% and in Portugal by more than 20%. While the trend in the United Kingdom, Portugal and Finland is more towards indifference, in France, Denmark, Ireland, Greece and Italy, acceptance has not only fainted, but rejection has also increased, reaching levels of 20% in Greece and 10% in France.

Interestingly, countries that were sceptical or critical already in 1996 such as Sweden, Austria and Germany do not show this trend, but rather a slight increase in support and a slight reduction in opposition. Denmark is an exception, it was already one of the most critical countries in 1996.

The most positive appraisal of gene technology in 1999 happened in Sweden, where no less than 64% have positive expectations. At the opposite end of the spectrum lies Greece, where only 19% of those who answered shared this perspective. Germany, with 38% having generally positive expectations and 20% having generally negative expectations lies in the middle. The collapse of public support for gene technology that happened in Germany in 1997 as a result of the introduction of genetically modified soya and the birth of Dolly appears to have been reversed, which is particularly evident in relation to the appraisal of concrete applications of gene technology.

As expected, Germany has the biggest acceptance of medical applications. 68% of those questioned were in favour of the introduction of human genes into bacteria, in order to create medication, for example insulin for diabetics. 68% were also in favour of genetic testing to diagnose hereditary diseases. 50% were in favour of the therapeutic cloning of human cells. The genetic modification of crops, in order to make them resistant to pesticide, is nonetheless only supported by 49% of the population in Germany. Still lower, at 36% is the proportion of those who believe that modern biotechnology should be used in the production of food. Lower still is the actual willingness to consume genetically modified food (27%), while at the same time 51% of those questioned said that they would be prepared to pay more for GM free food.

Generally, the support for concrete uses of gene technology is highest in the Netherlands and Finland, while the United Kingdom has the lowest level of support among the Member States of the EU.

The belief that the Germans are particularly critical of gene technology is currently not valid: in relation to most uses, Germany together with the Netherlands and Finland has the highest level of support. Only with regards to the cloning of animals and human genes is Germany's acceptance in the middle of the table. The most critical groups in Germany are pensioners and housewives.

Despite the fact that gene technology has been a theme in the media for years, there is a surprising proportion of people who have never heard of the uses mentioned above. This proportion is 32% for GM food, over 36% for genetically developed pesticide resistance and 39% for the cloning of animals for the production of medication. 68% have never heard anything about the development of genetically modified bacteria for the elimination of oil pollution or other chemical cleaning. Viewing these statistics, it is not particularly surprising that only 12% of those questioned felt sufficiently informed.

Knowledge of gene technology in Germany remains slightly under the European average (5.1 as opposed to 5.2 correct out of 10 answers) and therefore well behind the Scandinavian countries (Denmark 6.3, Sweden 6.7, Finland 5.8 and the Netherlands 6.4). Portugal has by far the lowest level of knowledge (3.8).

Scientists from all the 15 member states of the EU were involved in the study. In Germany, the Center for Technological Assessment (Akademie für Technikfolgenabschätzung in Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart) participated in the study. The complete study from Eurobarometer is expected to be available this year in November. A report which analizes the German data is already available at the Center for Technological Assessment.

Contact: uwe.pfenning@ta-akademie.de or 0049 (0) 711 9063 164.



August the 18th ended the auction of UMTS licences in Germany. Telecoms giants have forked out a hefty 99.36 billion deutschmarks (50.5 billion Euros or $46 billion) for new generation mobile phone licences. Although the total raised in Germany's auction scaled new heights, the market's potential and large population make many analysts consider the price paid a reasonable one in the long term. Some however consider the price for the 20 years lasting licences much to expensive. It may take decades for some companies to recoup the hundreds of billions of euros which will have to be invested in acquiring licences and building up infrastructure. But while returns cannot be calculated yet, companies fear that missing out on the new revenue streams from high speed mobile Internet, data and multimedia services could threaten their very existence. Six winners emerged from the German UMTS auction: Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobil, Vodafone's Mannesmann Mobilfunk, British Telecom-backed Viag Interkom, France Telecom-backed MobilCom, the 3G group of Finland's Sonera and Spain's Telefonica and E-Plus Hutchison. Federal Finance Minister Eichel insists that all the proceeds from the UMTS-auction will be used to retire debt, while the federal countries and municipalities demnad their share.'

The UMTS-auction in the United Kingdom in April ended with a bill of more than 35 billion Euros. The Dutch auction in July for five UMTS licences raised only one third of forecasts - 5.9 billion guilders (2.7 billion Euro): this could provide guidance for tenders in Europe's smaller, less strategic markets such as Belgium, Austria and Switzerland. The next key auction starts in October in Italy.
With a population of around 57 million, Italy is Europe's fourth biggest telecoms market, with a penetration level of some 60 percent. The Italian government expects proceeds of around 25 billion Euros. In France, Spain, Sweden, Finland and Norway the licences will be or are already contributed on the basis of a "beauty contest", i.e. governments are deciding who gets a licence for an in advance fixed price.



global_futures also offers an interactive forum. Recommendations,letters, and tips are welcomed by the editors, particularly on the topics of the digital future, biotechnology, sustainability and the new economy. Send all feedback to fgz@lrz.uni-muenchen.de.



Sascha Meinert, Douglas Merrill, Juergen Turek

Research Group on the Global Future
Center for Applied Policy Research
Geschwister Scholl Institute
Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich
Maria-Theresia-Strasse 21
D-81675 Munich, Germany
Tel: +49 89 2180 1300