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List of completed assessments ............... (inside back cover)

OTA Priorities—1979

(Ranked in order)


on page


Impact of Technology on National Water Supply and

Demand ....
Alternative Global Food Futures. ...
Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Technologies.
Technology and World Population .....
Impact of Technology on Productivity of the Land ........

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Impacts of Technology on Productivity, Inflation, and
Employment ......

........ Technology and the Developing World-Meeting Basic

Human Needs .....
Peace Technology ..
Impact of Microprocessing on Society ..
Applications of Technology in Space.......

Designing for Conservation of Materials .....
Future of Military Equipment .......
Impact of Technology on the Movement of Goods ....
Weather and Climate Technology........
Allocating the Electromagnetic Spectrum Globally...

Implications of Increased Longevity .....
Controlled Thermonuclear Fusion .
Technology and Mental Health.....
Technology and Education .
Prescription Drug Use .............

Forest Resource Technologies...........
Health Technologies and Third-World Diseases.....
Electric Vehicles: Applications and Impacts.......
R&D Priorities for U.S. Food Production ........
Alternative Materials Technologies ...........

Deep Ocean Minerals Development....
Energy Efficiency in Industry ......
Role of Technology in Meeting Housing Needs ....
Ocean Waste Disposal.....





Problem. Freshwater is a vital renewable national resource. Although the Nation's overall freshwater supply is more than adequate, its distribution causes serious problems. Some areas get too much precipitation; others have too little.

Arid regions often resort to such dangerous alternatives as pumping supplies from aquifers faster than they can be naturally replenished. Unfortunately, the legal and economic web that regulates most water supplies - even in dry areas-often does not encourage the most efficient usage. Also, many individual States regulate water with an eye to their own needs-a practice which contrasts with some effective regional management schemes.

Projected demands for water for coal gasification, liquefaction, and mining; for cooling towers; and for irrigation exceed the projected supply in some States. Some alternative water supply technologies that merit study include surface water development, such as impoundments; groundwater extraction; and interchangeable ground and surface water systems. Others include conservation aimed at major water users, waste-water recycling, desalination, undersea aqueducts, and iceberg towing. All of these systems have social, economic, or environmental impacts that must be assessed.

The effects of overuse of available water supplies need evaluation. Depletion of ground-water supplies, land subsidence, lowering of the water table, and intrusion into aquifers by saltwater, minerals, salts, and sewage are all recognized to be problems.

OTA Role. An initial OTA study would concentrate on analyses of technology affecting future water supply and demand projections. It would also provide Congress with information needed to evaluate alternatives to current Federal water programs, and would explore possibilities for better coordinating the use of the Nation's freshwater supplies.

It would also consider the following issues:
• Possible trade-offs among water uses for energy manufacture, agricul-

ture, and recreation.
Conservation plans, including possible Federal action, conservation
through pricing systems, recycling of water, and improved irrigation
Water management, especially the roles of the Federal, State, and local
governments in managing water resources.

The development of a nationally consistent data bank.
• Cost-sharing proposals among governments and private users that

might reduce water consumption or channel available supplies in ap

propriate directions.

Priorities (Continued)


Problem. In the early 1960's the world enjoyed substantial food reserves. Carryover grain stocks primarily in the United States, amounted to about 95 days' worth of global consumption. In addition, American farmers were paid to hold out of production 50 million acres of cropland. By 1974, however, reserve stocks had declined to merely 26 days and Government payments to keep land idle had ceased. Although in the last 3 years grain stocks have again risen, the planet had moved from an era of relative food abundance to one of food scarcity.

Although improved weather conditions over the last 3 years have helped, there is still serious concern that the present global food system will prove increasingly inadequate over the next two to three decades. Even in the best of years with substantial reserves in some parts of the world, hundreds of millions of people who cannot pay for their food are malnourished. World population growth and rising energy costs are increasing the pressures on global food production and delivery systems. Furthermore, climatologists point out that the major increases in food production in recent decades have resulted in large measure from unusually favorable climate, which history indicates is unlikely to be sustained. Even the technologically advanced American farm is feeling the pressure. Increases in agricultural production are leveling off. Additional energy no longer produces increased yield. Capital and labor costs, along with increasingly scarce and expensive waler, also point to a productivity plateau. This suggests that the world cannot continue to look to the United States as a supplier of last resort. One estimate of future food requirements asserts that in order to keep pace with population growth, developing countries will have to increase their food production by at least 4 percent per year over the next quarter century; however, present production increases are well below this.

OTA Role. The proposed assessment would examine the global food system in the context of a range of supply and demand projections. The three key elements of any food system are production, marketing and distribution, and consumption and nutrition. Affecting all of these, directly and indirectly, are the policies of the respective governments. Analysis of these requires consideration of a number of variables. Production is determined by factors such as the availability and quality of land, water, energy, labor, and capital; marketing and distribution involve processing, wholesaling, and retailing practices; a study of consumption must not only explore cultural preferences and the nutritional value of food, but also reflect the fact that nutrition is tied to work performance and output, population growth and family size, disease resistance, health, and mental development.

The analysis of these variables should reveal where the greatest vulnerabilities in the system lie and what forms a breakdown might take. Technologies that can strengthen the various components of the system would be assessed. These scenarios, together with analyses of their likelihood, technological requirements, and the long- and short-term impacts of these technologies, would provide Congress with the information necessary to develop and evalPriorities (Continued)



Problem. Major factors that determine health are environment, lifestyle, biology, and health services. Health services alone cannot cure degenerative and chronic diseases and injuries, our major killers. Great increases in health care costs and the absence of commensurate improvements in health status have heightened interest in health promotion and disease prevention technologies. Congress has been asked to fund a range of these technologies from control of environmental contaminants to health education. Little is known about the widespread impacts of adopting these particular technologies in health, the health care system, and society at large. Without such information, Congress is unable to fully address many health-related problems.

OTA Role. The issues surrounding health promotion and disease prevention technologies include their effectiveness, costs, allocation, payment, and long-term impacts on health, the health system, and society. One or more of these issues will be addressed in specific assessments. The areas currently being considered for in-depth examination are:

• Technology of carcinogenic risk assessment. Environmental agents are

involved in up to 60 percent of human cancers. Are current technolo-
gies adequate to identify and to quantify risks? What options exist for
improving risk assessment technologies?
Emerging health promotion technologies. The use of new technologies
outside of the traditional medical care system, such as meditation or
biofeedback, is increasing. Are these technologies effective and safe?

What are their costs?
• Methods to evaluate social technologies for health promotion and dis-

ease prevention. Social technologies, such as obesity control programs,
promote lifestyle changes. What is the state of the art for evaluating
these technologies? Are present evaluation methods adequate to de-
termine their effectiveness? What should be the Federal role in these ef-
Preventive technologies in dental health: a case study. Dental or
periodontal diseases affect almost all Arwricans. Are the technologies
used to promote dental health effective? What are the costs and im-
plications of different preventive technologies?
Smoking habits and implications of reduced smoking: a case study in
integrated policymaking. How effective are the strategies used to
reduce smoking? How can the impacts of reduced smoking on the to-
bacco industry be mitigated? Can an integrated Federal policy for
tobacco and its use be designed?
Federal roles in health promotion and disease prevention technologies.
What are current Federal activities that further or limit these technol-
ogies? What are potential activities? What are the broad implications of

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