Recherche, sciences, techniques
Cette page regroupe l'ensemble des publications de Futuribles sur cette thématique (Vigie, revue, bibliographie, études, etc.)
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are at the heart of important controversies in the scientific world. But the stakes go far beyond that, as is demonstrated here by Pierre-Benoit Joly. Questions of a more political nature arise, such as what vision of the world one wishes to see prevail in the future, both in the agricultural realm and in the much wider matter of the sustainable development of the planet.
Recalling, first, how regimes of innovation in the plant world have evolved over time, Joly stresses that we have moved from traditional skills and practices to an initial regime of innovation based on state agronomists and seed companies, which has itself evolved towards a “molecular, private, globalized” regime of innovation heavily encouraged by the granting, in the 1980s, of permission to patent living organisms. This has led to agricultural markets becoming tied up to a large extent by a number of major companies and to research being focussed on a small number of species and on GMOs. However, this commitment to GMOs has given rise to much criticism, involving the leaders of the “biotech oligopoly” in a crisis of legitimacy. Hence the efforts made by these parties over several years to legitimate their enthusiasm for GMOs both economically and politically.
It is to this “techno-political” work of legitimation that Pierre-Benoit Joly turns in the second part of his article. Thanks to the privatization of innovation and the globalization of activities, the big biotech multinationals are gradually winning acceptance for their view of the world, by way, among other things, of co-production of the regulation of the risks inherent in innovations (the emergence of a “soft law” lowering the level of mandatory constraint by states) and by intensive lobbying within public institutions and the establishment of “epistemic communities” (networks aimed at bending international law in their direction). Joly shows, lastly, how these players – and particularly Monsanto, which he studies more specifically here – are privatizing the notion of sustainable development in agriculture (by way of ethical charters, for example), so as to make their activities essential to its attainment. This is an “enlistment” operation that is very well described here, though it can still be countered when its workings are properly understood.
In this issue of Futuribles devoted to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Pierre Feillet offers an analysis of the main advantages of GMOs when it comes to achieving a sustainable food supply for everyone on the planet. Without concealing a number of aspects that remain controversial, Feillet begins by reminding us of the historical process that made it possible, through multiple forms of innovation in agricultural practice and research, to reach the point where plants and animals can be genetically modified. He then outlines the extent, location and nature of GM crops throughout the world (10% of cultivated land), before detailing another highly controversial issue in this area: the presence, within the food chain, of products from animals fed on genetically modified crops. He also recalls the important role played by micro-GMOs in the food industry.
After this overview, Feillet gets down to detail on the contentious issue that is GMPs (genetically modified plants) through three key lines of questioning. Are GMPs dangerous to health? Are there environmental risks involved in growing them? Who profits by them? Lastly, he offers some perspectives for the future of GMOs, taking the view that biologists will continue to optimize and diversify the genetic inheritance of GMOs with the aim of improving the human food supply in the long term and convincing those who are still reluctant to use them (including the French) of their value.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been an object of major controversy. For a large section of French public opinion, they have become the focal point of opposition to the manipulation of living material and of the rejection of a certain agricultural model. Yet, from the research standpoint, GMOs can represent one effective means of gaining knowledge of animal or plant life and the study of its interactions with the environment. In this field, as with many technological innovations, the emergence of controversies between science and society highlights the importance of involving the greatest possible number of citizens in decisions and the need to improve the participatory processes by which they can contribute to them. The experiment in which Anne Moneyron, Olivier Lemaire and Jean E. Masson were involved, as part of the process of setting up a GM grapevine rootstock field trial, attests to the rich results that may emerge from the participative construction of a project of this kind.
In order to carry out this trial while remaining responsive to the reactions of society, the general management of INRA, the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, set up a Local Monitoring Committee following the recommendations of an interactive technological assessment. This Monitoring Committee involved most of the stakeholders (actors from the world of vine growing and the agricultural trade unions, conservation and consumer organizations, teachers, state representatives in the fields of agricultural development and food safety, and independent vine growers) who, over eight years of work and in a context where the technology was rejected to the maximum degree because of what it symbolized, collectively designed their own format of science-society debate. The research/action programme that has ensued has enabled the initial project to be re-thought and more research to be produced, because it has been based on a more complex set of questions that accords a legitimate role to all the actors. Proof if it were needed that a science-society dialogue is possible, even on such a controversial subject as GMOs.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are undeniably one of those subjects that do not provoke remotely the same reactions in North America as in Europe. Whereas the growing of GM crops is highly developed in the USA and arouses little or no controversy within American public opinion, this is an area in which Europeans are very cautious and even genuinely distrustful. As Daniel Boy shows in this article, drawing on Eurobarometer surveys of European citizens carried out over 15 years or so, there has never been a majority in the EU in favour of the development of GMOs for food production and, between 1996 and 2010, the proportion of those reluctant to see such a development actually increased. Above and beyond this general finding of a clear, sustained opposition among Europeans to GMOs in food, Boy shows the disparities that exist between the various European countries and presents reasons that may account for these differences.
Boy goes on to study the structure of European opinion in this field by sex, age and socio-professional category of the respondents, by their degree of “socialization” to science and their level of informedness. He also notes the importance of the level of knowledge of – and familiarization with – science in the attitude towards genetically modified foodstuffs. Lastly, Boy compares the attitudes of Europeans to GM foods with attitudes around animal cloning and the nanotechnologies, showing the great specificity of GMOs, which have been very distinctly and probably lastingly rejected (like animal cloning), thus blocking the development of this technological innovation in Europe. He nonetheless stresses that attitudes towards other innovations (such as nanotechnologies) in no way point towards similar failures in the future.
David Sawaya, a specialist in plant biotechnology, writes here on the broad developmental trends we are likely to see in this sector up to the year 2030. He begins by recalling the general trends in world agriculture, beginning with the rise in demand for agricultural products that is linked to demographic growth, to the rise in average incomes and to the development of products, such as biofuels, derived from agricultural sources. He sees two possible options for responding to this: to increase the area of cultivable land – though the scope for manœuvre in this area is decreasing – or to increase yields, particularly thanks to advances in the plant biotechnologies, both transgenic and non-transgenic.
After reminding us of the situation regarding GM crops worldwide, David Sawaya presents the prospects for the development of GM crops in light of the existing data. He also points out the changes there have been in the characteristics most sought after within plant biotechnology, showing that the first-generation characteristics (resistance to pests and herbicides) are tending to give way to second-generation characteristics that are more agronomic in character (resistance to various kinds of stress, better yields). He stresses the greater role of developing countries in terms of GM production – and also in research into plant biotechnology, which might increase in the future. Lastly, he clarifies the importance of non-transgenic biotechnologies in the improvement of plant species.
Despite factors likely to slow the development of plant biotechnology – the concentration of the enterprises in the sector around multinationals focussed on large-scale crops to the detriment of small seed companies that are likely to develop innovations in less widespread species, and a highly sceptical public opinion – he takes the view that by 2030, if not indeed by 2015 in the case of the most widely cultivated species, there will be very few plants intended for commercial growing that have not been subjected to some form of biotechnological intervention.
The debate that has been going on for several years, particularly in France, on the wisdom of introducing and developing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has polarized opinion among the various stakeholders, producing great distrust within the public on the topic and often helping to cloud the issues within the field. This is one of the reasons why Futuribles decided to devote almost all of this March issue to GMOs, hoping thereby to cast light on the ins and outs of this question for its readers by providing very diverse points of view on – among other things – the economic, scientific, regulatory, sociological aspects of the question.
Before going into detail on this enormous range of questions, Cécile Désaunay offers a brief insight into what GMOs are, the state of research into them and the prospects they might open up in the medium-to-long term. After reminding us of the definition of GMOs and the upsurge of research in this area, she outlines the main existing applications and the lines of research that have found most favour with industry (in its aim, largely, of reducing both production costs and the use of pollutants), agriculture, the food sector and medicine. She emphasizes the risks inherent in this biotechnology so far as the environment and human or animal health are concerned, before stressing the obstacles the sector faces and the questions raised by the concentration of research among a handful of big companies. Working from this base and judging in accordance with their own priorities and values, any reader will be able, by referring to the very informative articles in this issue, to appraise the costs/benefits/risks of the large-scale use of GMOs.
Et si les risques liés à la neutralité d’Internet n’étaient pas ceux que l’on croit ? Existe-t-il aujourd’hui un Internet universel, ou plutôt autant d’Internet qu’il y a d’internautes ? Les comportements des internautes, mais aussi des plus gros acteurs du Web, entraînent en effet une individualisation croissante du Net, qui pourrait se révéler dangereuse pour la circulation de l’information.
L’université RWTH d’Aix-la-Chapelle (Allemagne) a conçu un think-tank technologique (Zeitgeist, qui signifie « air du temps ») pour les PME (petites et moyennes entreprises) en organisant la collaboration de 80 d’entre elles. Le projet a été financé par les entreprises participantes.
Pour imaginer ce que pourrait être le monde dans 100 ans, la BBC a demandé aux internautes de se livrer à un exercice de prospective : certaines prédictions ont ensuite été sélectionnées et décortiquées par deux prospectivistes (Ian Pearson et Patrick Tucker) selon leur degré de probabilité. Ainsi, il serait hautement probable que, dans 100 ans, nous puissions nous brancher sur ordinateur pour faire fonctionner notre cerveau plus vite : selon Ian Pearson, à l’horizon 2075, les habitants des pays développés ...
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Over almost 10 years now, the economic growth of China and a number of other emergent countries that are heavy consumers of raw materials has led to a spectacular rise in the demand for minerals and, particularly, for metals. If we add to this the needs of the developed countries for various “small metals” in great demand in the high-tech industries, we are entitled to wonder about the state of stocks of mineral raw materials in the world and the production capacities that exist to satisfy this growing demand.
In this article Jacques Varet offers an overall assessment of global mineral resources. He begins by recalling the growth of demand and the limits that exist in terms of production and environmental impact, stressing, as he does so, the various geological and economic notions relating to these mineral resources and their reserves. He goes on to highlight the diversity of this demand (its origins, intensity and enduring nature) and the corresponding supply, particularly where so-called “critical” resources are concerned. He then turns to the question of whether that demand can be sustainably met (this involves two case studies, on copper and rare earths) and points up the crucial role of China with regard to many strategic ores. In his view, future prospects where mineral resources are concerned are not so much characterized by the physical limits on these resources as by the failings of public – national or multilateral – policies in this field: lack of investment in human resources, concentration of research on some resources to the detriment of others, absence of a European medium/long-term vision with regard to supply etc. If we add in the fact that human knowledge in the field of geology is very fragmented and very rarely shared, it is a fair bet that the mineral resources are present on our planet in sufficient quantities. Admittedly, demand will not weaken and the resources concerned are for the moment very unequally distributed, but if the companies and states concerned commit investment commensurate with the needs and with the strategic character of this sector, the requisite supply should follow.
Dans la série des serious games, après les jeux vidéo éducatifs et ceux au service des entreprises , un nouveau genre se développe : les jeux vidéo pour la science. Ces jeux en ligne utilisent l’intelligence collective pour tenter de résoudre des questions scientifiques sur lesquelles la recherche bute actuellement. Cette note présente le jeu FoldIt qui a permis récemment une avancée importante dans la connaissance du fonctionnement du virus du sida.
Ce Rapport Vigie est l’édition 2012 du rapport annuel du système Vigie. Ce dispositif de l’association Futuribles International a pour ambition de fournir à ses membres des analyses prospectives qui éclairent le champ des futurs possibles dans 15 domaines. Le Rapport Vigie 2010 proposait un panorama de tendances lourdes et d’incertitudes majeures pour chacun de ces domaines à l’horizon 2020-2030. Il nous est apparu utile de reprendre ce rapport, de le réexaminer, de l’actualiser et ...
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PARTIE 1 : GRANDES AVANCÉES SCIENTIFIQUES ET TECHNIQUES Tendance 1. Vers une approche systémique et synthétique du vivant Tendance 2. Quand les biotechnologies prennent la relève Tendance 3. Les promesses des nanotechnologies Tendance 4. Vers un système de santé à distance et personnalisé Tendance 5. La lente émergence de la fusion thermonucléaire Tendance 6. L’invasion des robots PARTIE 2 : TECHNOLOGIES DE L’INFORMATION ET DE LA COMMUNICATION Tendance 1. Croissance des puissances informatiques disponibles Tendance 2. Réticulation croissante de la ...
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Dans une étude préparée dans le cadre de la conférence de Londres sur le cyberespace organisée par le Foreign Office britannique, le McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) synthétise les conclusions de plusieurs travaux antérieurs pour montrer qu’Internet est devenu un des moteurs de l’économie mondiale. Internet est déjà un contributeur majeur à la croissance du produit intérieur brut (PIB) des économies les plus avancées, mais dispose d’un potentiel de croissance inentamé dont peuvent tirer profit les pays riches ...
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iKnow est l’un des six projets de prospective financés par le 7e programme cadre de la Commission européenne dans le domaine des sciences humaines et sociales. Le projet s’est déroulé de novembre 2008 à octobre 2011 et a été réalisé par un consortium de huit organismes sous la direction de Rafael Popper du Manchester Institute of Innovation Research. Le projet avait pour ambition de relier les connaissances disponibles dans les domaines influençant le futur de la science, de ...
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As a cradle of civilizations, the Mediterranean region has always been a source of fascination and played a major role in Europe commercially, culturally and geopolitically. Moreover, the countries of the southern and eastern rims of the Mediterranean are today seeing profound social and political upheavals that are likely also to affect the northern rim, making their futures uncertain, to say the least. In such a context, it becomes essential to have solid foresight analyses of the region.
Long before the Arab revolutions of spring 2011 began, the European Commission had launched a wide-ranging foresight exercise on the Mediterranean region up to the year 2030, entitled EuroMed-2030. This was driven by a group of 20 international experts and submitted its findings in December 2010. Domenico Rossetti di Valdalbero, Perla Srour-Gandon and Spela Majcen present the main lessons to be gleaned from the exercise here. After reviewing the major trends in the region (in demographic, economic, cultural, scientific, agricultural and energy terms), our authors stress the principal tensions and uncertainties that are likely to influence the future of the Mediterranean zone (socio-economic inequalities, democratic and reforming aspirations, tensions between hostile states, divergent views of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation etc.). From this starting point, they present the four transitional scenarios identified by EuroMed-2030 — “Managing Conflict”, “Engaging in Win-Win Projects”, “Deeper Economic Integration” and “Towards a EuroMed Community” – as well as various flagship initiatives and more concrete recommendations that may well accompany them.
Peut-on prévoir le lieu et la nature des crimes avant qu'ils ne se produisent? Ce rêve, imaginé par Philip K. Dick dans Minority Report, pourrait peut-être devenir réalité. Plusieurs villes américaines expérimentent en effet la « police préventive », grâce à des logiciels alertant les agents des risques d’actes criminels dans un futur proche.
Jean-Claude Guillebaud, ancien grand reporter au Monde, est éditeur (Éd. des Arènes), écrivain et éditorialiste au Nouvel Observateur. Après avoir consacré, entre 1995 et 2009, sept ouvrages à décrire le "désarroi contemporain" suscité par le changement historique et anthropologique que, selon lui, nous vivons, il s'attache désormais à rendre plus intelligible ce qu'il désigne comme "une refondation du monde". Jean-Claude Guillebaud est venu présenter son dernier ouvrage, le huitième de la série, "La Vie vivante. Contre les nouveaux ...
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La révolution tant attendue du livre numérique est-elle en train de se produire ? Aux États-Unis, il se vend désormais plus de ebooks que de livres papiers. La croissance du marché est facilitée par la baisse des prix et la diversification des supports de lecture, mais reste cependant beaucoup plus lente en Europe.
Le paysage médiatique a longtemps structuré l’opinion publique en France et, en général, dans les démocraties. L’arrivée d’Internet est un bouleversement dans ce contexte : ce nouveau média prend une place de plus en plus grande et sera probablement le plus important dans 10 ou 20 ans, quand les jeunes générations seront à l’âge de la maturité.
Annoncés dès 2006, les services de paiement sans contact par téléphone portable doivent faire face à des obstacles techniques, et aux réticences des consommateurs et des commerçants . Pour accélérer le décollage de ce marché très prometteur, plusieurs acteurs ont multiplié, au cours des derniers mois, les offres et les services de transaction sur mobile.
Prenant acte de l’essor récent et remarquable des investissements de certains pays du monde islamique dans les secteurs de la science et de l’innovation, la Royal Society a lancé en 2010 un projet sur trois ans d’Atlas de la science et de l’innovation dans le monde islamique. Une première étude, consacrée à la Malaisie, a été publiée en mars 2011, et met en lumière les réalisations remarquables de ce pays en matière de science et d ...
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En 50 ans, la biologie s’est transformée : les progrès des biotechnologies, des nanosciences, du génie génétique et de l’informatique ont permis des avancées considérables dans les connaissances du vivant. Les mécanismes moléculaires intervenant au sein des cellules et le fonctionnement des pathologies sont de plus en plus expliqués, de nouvelles cibles thérapeutiques ont été identifiées, de nouveaux outils techniques ont été développés… Ces avancées scientifiques récentes permettent d’envisager une transformation de la médecine traditionnelle en lui offrant ...
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There have been an increasing number of foresight exercises in the field of energy and global warming in recent years, as we have seen from the articles devoted to these questions by Futuribles in 2011 (both in this special issue and in the April number). It is certainly the case that the goals for greenhouse-gas emission reduction are rather ambitious, particularly in France, it being the aim of the 2005 French framework law on energy to reduce carbon gas discharges by a factor of four.
Among these scenarios, the Négatep scenario developed by Claude Acket and Pierre Bacher from the “Sauvons le climat” [Let’s save the climate] Association proposes to achieve this (“factor 4”) goal in France by 2050 by reducing fossil fuel use by 75% and replacing this as quickly as possible with electricity produced from non-carbon-gas-emitting sources – chiefly, nuclear power and renewables. The authors lay out their goals here, backed up by figures, comparing these with the reference scenario. They also show the path that must be followed to arrive at these goals, particularly in the residential and tertiary sectors, and in transport and industry (through control of needs and recourse to alternative energy sources).
They close by comparing the Négatep scenario with two other more recent scenarios aimed also at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, on the one hand in Europe, and on the other in Germany. The comparison confirms that they were right to rely on electricity as a substitute for oil, but gives them cause for concern in respect of the consequences (formidable in their view) that the replacement of nuclear power and coal energy by intermittent renewable energies might have in Europe, both with regard to costs and to the effects on the power network.
Ce chapitre est extrait du Rapport Vigie 2016 de Futuribles International, qui propose un panorama structuré des connaissances et des incertitudes des experts que l'association a mobilisés pour explorer les évolutions des 15 à 35 prochaines années sur 11 thématiques.