German Government Statement
/////.....The following welcome address from the German Government to the members of the Bioelectromagnetics Society (BEMS) attending the 22nd Annual Meeting in Munich, Germany, June 11-16, 2000, was given by the Honorable Christa Stewens.
Her remarks suggest a maturity and depth of understanding about the EMF health-hazards-issue that is unusual among Western governments. It is certainly not matched in the U.S. ... where the government (and most politicians) look the other way whenever possible harmful effects from cell phones, power lines, etc., are raised....
Guru congratulates the German Government for the quality of the statement below ... as well as for the outstanding hospitality they and the City of Munich bestowed upon the BEMS Convention attendees......
Roy Beavers (EMFguru)
It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness
People are more important than profits!!
German Government Statement
On behalf of the Bavarian Ministry for Regional Development and Environmental Affairs I would like to welcome all of you to the twenty second annual meeting of the Bioelectrornagnetic Society. I am pleased to see that so many international experts decided to attend this congress at the Technical University of Munich. The abstract book shows an impressive number of more than 300 contributors. Among them quite a few from German and also from Bavarian Research Facilities and Universities.
We are all witnesses to the evolution of an industrialized society into the information age. Around us more and more new technologies are spreading Many of these more or less depend on the use of electricity or electromagnetic fields. The latest developments and gadgets are currently on display at the World Exposition in Hannover.
The gadgets of yesterday are now the companions of daily life: Our kitchen is full of electrical appliances. Mobile phones are no longer a symbol of status for the happy few but widely used even by schoolchildren. Surfing the internet has become a modern pastime.
With the increasing use of electricity and electromagnetic fields the concerns about possible risks have also been growing. During the last 20 years the influence of non-ionizing radiation on men, animals and the environment is discussed widely. The fast spreading of the mobile telephones and base stations in many countries now leads to a new surge of controversies. In the public such debates often are very emotional.
But scientists also do not always agree on what is to be deduced from their results. This again leads to even more controversies in the public debate. Certainly it is not always possible to give simple answers. However the public and we politicians would prefer a simple "yes" or "no" when asking questions to a scientist. In the public debate the statement: "More research is needed" more often than not is misinterpreted as an evasive answer. How can we ever feel safe when more research is needed?
We have to learn to look at a more complex picture without running away and being frightened because there is no easy answer. This also implies that one has to trust in those who interpret the picture for us. And trust is something which seems to get lost continually. In public hearings or in letters I receive I often witness this loss of trust: for example very often I hear or read the opinion that there are only two types of scientists: the so-called critical scientists on the one hand and the scientists whose opinions may be bought on the other.
I believe that this is quite wrong. Being a good scientist necessarily implies doing quality research work and being very critical. Of course, research is expensive and has to be paid for. However maintaining a good reputation in the scientific community is only possible if one is dedicated to the work and not to the grant giving side. Therefore scientific societies are very important institutions. They are a platform for presenting and for refereeing scientific work.
The Bioelectromagnetic Society is a highly renowned scientific organization
whose members are involved in
research on interaction mechanisms of non-ionizing radiation. The annual meeting and of course the monthly journal of the BEMS are not only important to present and exchange new results and experiences, they also serve to ascertain that the quality of research work is maintained. Only results of high quality can be used as a basis for public health recommendations.
But I want to illustrate that this is not enough: In Germany we do have an ordinance regulating the exposure of the public due to electromagnetic fields. This ordinance follows the recommendations of the World Health Organisation and the International Commisison on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection. Both organisations use scientific results as their basis for recommendations.
However at the moment several public groups argue and do so quite loudly, that the regulations don't give enough protection. Obviously their risk perception is different. So here comes the difficult part: How can we reassure a public, not trusting in science, probabilities and the scientific process of forming opinions? A public believing that most science is paid for by industry and therefore not trustworthy. A public also assuming that politicians give high priority to technical development and therefore disregard health risks.
Obviously communication among scientists, governments, industry and the public has not been effective and therefore lead to these problems. can only see a solution when we all together, scientists, politicians and industry engage in the public debate. Trust and credibility have to be regained and maintained. In a democratic society everyone has the right to know what is going on. Information campaigns are necessary to help the public better understand what may be affecting them. Also cooperative models with commitments of State and Industry are helpful to reach goals beyond existing regulations. One of these models is used in Bavaria with quite some success, it is called "Environmental Pact". A dialogue has to be established so that both sides learn more about the reasons why the public perception of risks are so different, why there is a loss of trust.
This is a major task for all of us. In order to underline this conclusion, I would like to draw your attention to the last day of this meeting, to next Friday afternoon. Then there will actually be such a dialogue with the public: Some of you scientists agreed to summarize the results and trends presented at this meeting in simple words for the public, a translation in German will be available and later on a panel discussion will take place. This is an opportunity I am really looking forward to.
Until then I want to wish all of you a week of successful presentations, fruitful discussions and many ideas to take home to your labs.