Regulation of Nanotechnology
"Decision makers worldwide need to work towards a system of risk governance for nanotechnology that is global, coordinated, and involves the participation of all stakeholders, including civil society." International Risk Governance Council (2007)
Nanotechnology is an important field of scientific endevour which has the potential to transform our understanding of how materials and devices interact with human and natural environments. The benefits to society may include water and air pollution monitoring, solar photovoltaic energy, and water and waste treatment systems. There may also be serious risks. The social, economic, political and ethical implications are significant. Because nanotechnology raises issues that are more complex and far-reaching than many other innovations, the current approach to managing the introduction of new technologies is not up to the challenges posed by nanotechnology.
Practical Action has been involved in a number of initiatives that have influenced the policy and regulation of nanotechnologies: risk management, responsible nano code, and the DEFRA stakeholders group.
In July 2006, IRGC’s conference ’The risk management of nanotechnology : recommendations for managing a global issue’ was hosted by the Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue in Zurich, Switzerland (130 delegates from 24 countries)
The main outcome from the process undertaken by the International Risk Governance Council is a Policy Brief, "Nanotechnology Risk Governance: Recommendations for a global co-ordinated approach to the governance of potential risks".
In November 2006, the Royal Society, Insight Investment and the Nanotechnology Industries Association (NIA) came together to explore the societal and economic impact of the technical, social and commercial uncertainties related to nanotechnologies. Practical Action became a member of the working group, chaired by Lord Selbourne, that developed a code that was published in May 2008. You can download the latest version of the code here.
DEFRA convenes a Government wide forum to discuss the regulation of nanotechnologies. Practical Action has participated in this from the beginning. It also has links to other groups like the Nanotechnologies Research Co-ordination Group (NRCG) where there are opportunities to influence research directions.