Video guest: Josephine Mwangi

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Thursday, 29 June 2017
What is nanotechnology?
Originating from the Greek word meaning “dwarf”, in science and technology the prefix “nano” signifies 10-9, i.e. one billionth (= 0.000000001). One nanometre (nm)is one billionth of a metre, tens of thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair. The term “nanotechnology” will be used here as a collective term,encompassing the various branches of nanosciences and nanotechnologies. Conceptually, nanotechnology refers to science and technology at the nano-scale of atoms and molecules, and to the scientific principles and new properties that can be understood and mastered when operating in this domain. Such properties can then be observed and exploited at the micro- or macro-scale, for example, for the development of materials and devices with novel functions and performance.
Food, water and environmental research can advance via nanotechnology based
developments including tools to detect and neutralise the presence of
micro organisms or pesticides. The origin of imported foods could be traced
via novel miniaturised nano-labelling. The development of nanotechnology based
remediation methods (e.g. photo-catalytic techniques) can repair and clean–up environmental damage and pollution (e.g. oil in water or soil).
Delegates at a recent Commission-hosted workshop on nanotechnology and nanoparticle research revealed the large demand for research and tools in this field which are targeted, certified, easy to use and shared freely and quickly among stakeholders. But all agreed that the risks and drawbacks of such developments should be openly and carefully analysed.
Those new applications will certaily be of interest to developing countries. See resource documents in the development gateway portal.
The European Commission releases today a major new study on how biometric technologies – including fingerprint, iris and face recognition – will impact on our daily lives. Following an EU decision to introduce biometrics in passports, visas and residence permits starting in 2006, biometrics will become increasingly common in our daily lives. Costs will come down, people will become used to them through their travels and further commercial and civil applications will undoubtedly follow. Therefore the report recommends that policy-makers should act now to shape the use of biometrics rather than waiting and being reactive. The development and application of biometrics poses a number of challenges:
- On the economic side, the report points out the role EU Member States can play in assisting the emergence of a vibrant European biometrics industry. As the launch customers of the first major application of biometrics worldwide, they can push industry towards interoperability and the establishment of common standards that will promote competition and job creation.
- On the legal side, the report concludes that Member States will have to provide the appropriate safeguards for privacy and data protection, thus controlling the use and preventing abuse of biometric data.
- On the technological side, the report has identified the lack of independent empirical data. Hence, there is an urgent need to conduct large-scale field trials to ensure the successful deployment of biometric systems.
- On the social side, the Report raises the need to focus attention on making biometric applications acceptable to citizens, by clearly setting out their purpose and limitations. At the same time, it points out the risk of creating social exclusion for a small but significant part of the population. This could be because citizens choose not to use the required biometrics or are prevented from doing so by factors such as age or disability. Future systems should endeavour to minimise social exclusion.
Prices for wholesale leased lines, which are a key source of broadband services for businesses, should reflect the real cost of supplying them, says the European Commission. In a recommendation to Member States today, the Commission reports on best current practices in wholesale leased line pricing and provides competitive market benchmark prices for the entire EU, in order to help Member States to devise regulatory remedies for leased line markets that are not effectively competitive on their territory. The EU single market for electronic communication services is distorted by substantial variations in leased line prices (for a 2 Mbit/s line, 5 km long, the price in the most expensive Member State is seven times higher than in the cheapest), which are hard to explain in terms of possible underlying costs.
Wednesday, 30 March 2005
The European Commission has opened an online consultation on the revision of the main EU Pesticides Directive. The consultation is a chance for industry, farmers and other interested parties to give input on the revision the pesticides legislation.
The main issues addressed in the consultation are:
- the creation of “regional zones” for the authorisation of pesticides
- the clarification of data protection with regard to safety evaluation data
- issues relating to protection of consumers, operators and the environment.

In the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) context, the Pesticides Initiative Programme, implemented by COLEACP and set up by the European Union at the request of the ACP Group of States, has two overriding objectives:
- to enable ACP companies to comply with European food safety and traceability requirements;
- to consolidate the position of small-scale producers in the ACP horticultural export sector.
A partner to companies, the programme aims to provide support at every stage, bringing enterprises up to date on European legislative developments and helping them deal with practical matters such as adaptation of their methods and the human and financial means required to implement them.
Communicable disease outbreaks can pose a significant threat to the health and well being of the European Union’s citizens. In a European Union where millions of people cross internal and external borders each day, tackling health threats requires a much closer co-operation between Member States, the European Commission, the World Health Organisation and affected countries around the world. The European Union citizens place a very high value on the protection of their health. Since 1999, the Commission has managed a Communicable Diseases Network. This is currently based on ad hoc cooperation between Member States within the legal framework of Council and Parliament Decision 2119/98/EC. However, there is a need for a substantial reinforcement of this system if the European Union is to be in a position to control communicable diseases effectively.
In Spring 2004 the Council and the European Parliament adopted enabling legislation to create a European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. This new EU agency will provide a structured and systematic approach to the control of communicable diseases and other serious health threats which affect European Union citizens. The ECDC will also mobilise and significantly reinforce the synergies between the existing national centres for disease control.
Main tasks of the ECDC will include:
- Epidemiological surveillance and networking of laboratories
- Early Warning and Response
- Scientific opinions
- Technical Assistance and Communication
Mrs Zsuzsanna Jakab, a senior public health official from Hungary, has been nominated the Centre’s first Director.

At the international level, the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) of teh World Health Organisation is a technical collaboration of existing institutions and networks who pool human and technical resources for the rapid identification, confirmation and response to outbreaks of international importance. The Network provides an operational framework to link this expertise and skill to keep the international community constantly alert to the threat of outbreaks and ready to respond.The Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network contributes towards global health security by combating the international spread of outbreaks and ensuring that appropriate technical assistance reaches affected states rapidly and contributing to long-term epidemic preparedness and capacity building.
Efforts on alerts on communicable disease outbreaks in African countries are key and require obviously more attention (see last Marburg outbreak in Angola).