Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

Diversity of Science

and Diversity of Society - Reflections on knowledge, information, technology, power and the public good

Organiser: Claudia Neubauer, Fondation Sciences Citoyennes, France

Angelika Hilbeck, ETH Zürich, Switzerland
Tirso Gonzales, University of British Columbia, Peru / Canada (Indigenous knowledge programme)
Michael Reinsborough, Queens University Belfast, Social Anthropology, Northern Ireland
Brandon Ballengée, Green Museum, New York, USA

In Europe, the Americas and Australia, the diversity in science and scientific approaches to the development of both innovative technologies and solution options for environmental and agricultural problems declined dramatically since world war II. Leading circles of society, mainly scientists (from private and public institutions) and governments, identified certain technology options as most promising which in turn received the biggest portion of investment (public and corporate) designated for research and development. Since decades, world budgets spent for military, biotech, aerospatial and nanotech research are incomparably higher than research budgets spent on environmental and public health issues, sustainable agriculture and fishery, toxicology, and social questions. A further problem of research is its mercantilisation (increasingly bringing commercial strategies into research, large patent systems, scientists being pushed to a behaviour of competition rather than to cooperation, etc.)
The consequences of these development decisions affected the entire world. Cases in point are the post-war decisions to focus on the industrialization of agriculture as the only means to increase its productivity and the use of fossil fuel (and nuclear energy) as the main (if not the only meaningful) energy basis for rebuilding and restructuring post-war (western) societies. Other potential solution options and alternatives for achieving the same goal - in particular if non-technological/non-industrial – were almost entirely neglected and corresponding research suppressed or marginalised. Today, our societies are highly dependent on fossil fuels as basis for energy and industrial materials in all sectors of society and chemicals for agricultural production. Both have led to globally desastrous environmental and human health problems with only limited alternatives available.
The global human society threatened by growing social injustice and, as stated in the Millenium Ecosystem Report, the “intense vulnerability” of our ecosystems is facing today its biggest and most complex challenge to its continued existence: How to curtail and adjust to the inevitable consequences of the most devastating of all global consequences of the above two case examples: the warming of the global atmosphere and the changing climate. Again, singular solution options are proposed by the scientific and political elites of western societies – for example: converting food and feed into ethanol with, again, potentially devastating global consequences for the remaining global resources for human survival like food and water.
This workshop on ‘Diversity of Science – diversity of society’ seeks to explore the reasons for this serious lack of existing alternatives (lack of innovative capacities), identify potential sources for diversity in science, propose strategies for how to increase the innovative and creative capacities of science again and suggest alliances for strengthening the role of society in determining the science agendas for the public good.

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Background Papers and further reading

Millenium Ecosystem Assessment

Late lessons from early warnings (European Environment Agency)

Survivre Aux Nanotechnologies? Giga Questions, Nano -Visions et Citoyenneté (Fondation Science Citoyenne)

Historical Perspectives on Science, Society and the Political (Report to the Science, Economy and Society Directorate European Commission)

The Public Value of Science Or how to ensure that science really matters (Demos)

Agriculture & Food: Agri-Food System Dynamics: pathways to sustainability in an era of uncertainty
This working paper, from the STEPS Centre based at IDS in the UK, argues that the prevailing approach to agricultural science and innovation often fails to provide sustainable outcomes, particularly at larger scales and for large numbers of poor people in developing countries.

PSx2 is a project that explores the participatory role of civil society organisations (CSOs) in new scientific and technological developments, with particular reference to experiences in the development of agricultural biotechnology (GM plants, food and feeds).
The issue of novel biotechnologies is not only an expanding area of scientific research, but also provides a very important area for social experimentation
in more active citizenship and a deeper involvement of the lay public in European research activities.

Diversity of scienceDiversité de la Science, diversité de la sociétéVielfalt in der WissenschaftDiversidad de la Ciencia

Local Organising Committee