Food workers worried about nanotechnology

Nanowerk brings to our attention a resolution on nanotechnology by a labor group for food and agricultural workers claiming to represent 12 million people. It has a number of sections, but here’s an example:

To demand that national and international patent offices, like the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), decline to register all patent applications utilizing nanotechnology in the food industry and agriculture, until larger issues such as their social and environmental impact have been assessed with the participation of all stakeholders.

Regardless of one’s views on the value of patents, this seems likely to delay the development of nanotechnologies in the more law-abiding nations, while not slowing things down in countries which ignore international laws. Is this wise? And is WIPO the right organization to evaluate whether environmental impacts have been assessed well enough, much less social impacts?

The ETC Group has worked hard to get groups such as this union concerned about nanotechnology, and it seems likely that this set of resolutions was instigated by them. I wish I could say that this is helpful, but I can’t. Their aim is to slow nanotech down until other goals, such as social justice, are dealt with. I think this approach would delay nanotech benefits, while not delaying use in military aggression and control of civilian populations by nasty governments.

It’s true that we will need to address economic disruptions due to nanotechnologies, but this isn’t the way to do it. —Christine

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