Those were the days!

Published: Friday 15 December 1995

EARUER this year, the German multinational, Hoechst, found itself the target of a fierce confrontation, the battle lines being drawn between the greens and the scientific community.

All that the company wanted to achieve was to test *a effectiveness of a new weed killer, but instead had to face the collective ire of local environmentalists and the state of Hessen's coalition government comprising the Social Democrats and the Green Party.

Such instances of hostility to scientific research and biotechnology, in this case, are becoming fairly commonplace in the country that gave the world the Bunsen burner, and indeed not very far back, was a pioneer in the field of industrial chemistry. Stiff opposition to research activities also comes in the form of a 1990 biotech law.

Dejected yet not clemoralised, chemical firms like Hoechst and Sayer are shifting some of their operations to more science-friendly environments. Back home, what remains among scientists is a nostalgia for the past when, at the turn of the century, German scientists could bring home five Nobel Prizes in a decade for chemistry.

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