From politics.co.uk: "UK Science Minister Lord Sainsbury was responding to a year-long nanotech study conducted by the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering, which recommended precaution and regulation of the controversial industry…Lord Sainsbury pledged a review of current safety regulations to ensure the safeguarding of people's health and the environment, and announced a new cross-government group to co-ordinate all aspects of research into nanoscience to underpin safety assessments." This does not sound much like what one activist group had hoped for (see Read More below). UPDATE: Here's the BBC view. ETC GROUP MEDIA ADVISORY 24th Feb 2005
UK Government to Announce Worldís First Nano-Regulation?
ETC Group is not privy to what the government will announce on Friday but we have compiled a list of questions below ñ the answers to which will help determine whether the nano-mandarins are attempting to address societyís concerns or not:
ï PRECAUTION? Will Whitehall explicitly refer to the ìPrecautionary Principleî as advocated by the European Union, insurance companies and civil society or will the more industry-friendly language of ìscience-based approachî prevail?
ï ASSESSMENT PROCEDURE? The Royal Society/Royal Academy of Engineering report made a clear set of recommendations that nanomaterials should undergo a full safety assessment before they are allowed in products and that manufacturers should publish details of the methodologies they have used in assessing the safety of their products containing nanoparticles. Will the government act on these recommendations?
ï EXISTING PRODUCTS? How will the government address nanomaterials already on the market — pretend they donít exist or withdraw them?
ï LABELING? The Royal Society called for clear labeling of consumer products that contain nanoparticles. Will the UK government ensure that nanomaterial products are labeled with unambiguous wording?
ï THE ENVIRONMENT? The Royal Society said that the environmental release of manufactured nanoparticles should be avoided. Will environmental release of nanoparticles (e.g. nanopesticides) be prohibited?
ï WORKER SAFETY? Both the TUC and Health and Safety Executive have raised concerns about nanosafety in the lab and workplace. Will the government recognize that lab workers in the UK need to be protected and establish a moratorium on nanoparticle lab research until it and the scientific community can establish best practices and a mechanism for monitoring and modifying these practices as new information becomes available?
ï SOCIETAL, ECONOMIC AND ETHICAL ISSUES? The government can reasonably be expected to call for a broad societal dialogue: will it turn the dialogue into a monologue lecture or really create space for wide-ranging debate? Will there be an attempt to narrow the dialogue down to nanoparticle health and safety issues or will they look ahead to the ìnanobioî and converging technologies debate and look deep into the intellectual property, ownership and control issues and issues related to socio-economic transformation? Will government pursue a fair, properly funded process of public engagement that transparently brings public values into nanotechnology governance? Or will there be an attempt to launch a series of crude PR exercises to create public ìacceptanceî' of nanotechnologies?
ï OVERSIGHT? Will the government set up a new body to advise on societal and ethical issues arising from the introduction of new technologies as recommended by RS/RAE? Will the government body broadly constituted to reflect the marginalised (e.g., disability rights, representatives for South, gender perspectives) or is it merely an expert/technocratic group?
ï INTERNATIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES? Will the UK take a lead role at the G8 meeting in Edinburgh this July and call for an International Convention on the Evaluation of New Technologies and, further, encourage a UN General Assembly Special Session on the Role of New Technologies in Sustainable Development?
ï LIABILITY? Will the government advance any proposals to clarify who is liable for harm (including economic harm) from nanotech products?