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Hello, it's Kasmira, and this week Geneva is once again playing host to high-level meetings, with the Russia and US today attempting a second round of strategic talks on arms control.

US Climate envoy John Kerry has also paid the city a visit – and announced a new green tech coalition whilst here. Plus, two prestigious awards reveal this year's environmentalists, humanitarian and human rights champions.

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Kasmira Jefford


On our radar

Photo article

Freda Huson, a female chief from the Wet’suwet’en people in Canada, was a recipient of the award. (Credit: Right Livelihood)

🏆 Right Livelihood Award champions environmentalists and rights activists. An indigenous rights activist, a Russian environmentalist, a Cameroonian gender and peace activist and an Indian environmental organisation were named the winners of the 2021 Right Livelihood Award on Wednesday. Freda Huson, a female chief from the Wet’suwet’en people in Canada, is joined by Marthe Wandou, Vladimir Slivyak and the Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE) in receiving the prestigious award, also known as Sweden’s alternative Nobel prize.

Geneva Solutions (EN)

Here's what else is happening

Anticipatory reads by GESDA

Photo article

(© NIH/Flickr)

UK pushes ahead with a major test: sequencing every newborn’s genome to detect diseases. As an excellent article in Science explains (see below), the project faces practical obstacles, and obviously raises fantastic opportunities but also ethical and practical questions, “including which disease genes to test for and whether testing should be done by default. In fact, an ethics group funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) warned in a 2018 report that the evidence to date "does not support genome-wide sequencing of all babies at birth." The report noted that the health consequences of many mutations are unknown, and many genetic diseases remain untreatable”, writes Science.

“There are massive ethical and cost issues,” also says psychiatric geneticist David Curtis of University College London in the article, explaining that “he is concerned that identifying disease variants that will never make some babies seriously ill will lead to needless testing and family anxiety. He also worries the cost of new­born genome screening – perhaps $900 per baby, or $540m per year– would be too high for the potential payoffs, and notes newborns can’t give consent to storing their genome where it could potentially be accessed by companies”. “That baby, in 18 years’ time, is he going to be happy that somebody took his whole-genome sequence and put it in a database?” Curtis asks.

This raises another question upstream: such wide genome sequencing projects will probably be led mainly in north-western countries, possibly also in Asia, where the technical and financial means exist to do so. Isn’t that creating a bias in the worldwide genomic database regarding other populations on Earth, like in Africa? Less than two per cent of human genomes analysed so far have been those of African people, underlined a recent study published in Cell. That is why capturing the full scope of genetic variations to improve health care, equity and medical research really globally is crucial, insists Ambroise Wonkam, geneticists at Cape Town University, who is one of the leading figures of the Three Milion African Genomes project. He will be one of the distinguished speakers at the 2021 GESDA Summit, to be held next week in Geneva, and merging science and diplomacy or science policy issues.

-Olivier Dessibourg

Baby steps. Sequencing every newborn’s genome to detect diseases faces ethical and practical obstacles, but the UK is exploring the idea.

Science (EN)

Should scientists run the country? Covid has put academics at the heart of government, but smart politicians are essential too.

The Guardian (EN)

Here’s a sneak peek at the far-out future of space travel. As NASA develops plans for exploring the moon and Mars, the agency is seeking cutting-edge research.


Universal blood by mid-century? Regenerative medicine could get us there.


How far will global population rise? Researchers can’t agree

Nature (EN)

Quantum supremacy has been achieved by a more complex quantum computer. Made in China, it has solved a calculation in 4.2 hours that would take a classical computer thousands of years

New Scientist (EN)

Can a robot influence your decisions? It depends on how you view the machine.

Science (EN)

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This selection is proposed by the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator GESDA, working on anticipating cutting-edge science and technological advances to develop innovative and inclusive solutions for the benefit of the planet and its inhabitants.

GS news is a new media project covering the world of international cooperation and development. Don’t hesitate to forward our newsletter!

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