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Posted: February 26, 2007

Ethics and nanotechnology: a basis for action

(Nanowerk News) The Science and Technology Ethics Committee (Commision de l'éthique de la science et de la technologie - CEST) of the Québec government in Canada has released a position statement titled "Ethics and nanotechnologies: a basis for action". The 29-page document is available in French, English and Spanish.
The CEST position statement consists of three chapters devoted to the scientific, legal and ethical implications of nanotechnology. In its ethical assessment of nanotechnology, CEST is upholding the protection of health and the environment, as well as respect for many values such as dignity, liberty, the integrity of the person, respect for the person, quality of life, respect for privacy, justice and equity, transparency and democracy.
CEST has formulated eight recommendations to political decision-makers and other interested parties. However, they state that they have sometimes found it impossible to make a specific recommendation on a given subject, even when it judged that subject to be important. In such cases, CEST has issued a commentary instead, in order to highlight the implications of a particular question so that Québec society as a whole may be in a better position to act and make informed decisions about nanotechnologies.
The document also includes as an appendix a summary of nanotechnology applications with a timescale to market launch.
Here are the eight recommendations:
1) That the Gouvernement du Québec, guided by the principle of precaution and from the perspective of sustainable development, should be concerned with all phases of the life cycle of a product derived from nanotechnologies or containing nanometric components, and that in this respect it should integrate the concept of “life cycle” into all policies where such an approach is appropriate, in order to avoid any damaging impact of technological innovation on health and the environment.
2) That the Ministre du Développement économique, de l’Innovation et de l’Exportation, together with the Ministre de la Santé et des Services sociaux, intercede with the federal government so that health and environmental monitoring agencies establish the mechanisms needed to assess the toxicity of processes and products derived from nanotechnologies prior to authorizing their commercialization.
3) That the Ministre de la Santé et des Services sociaux ensures that research ethics boards are adequately equipped and supported in their assessment of research protocols relating to the use in the health sector of materials and processes derived from nanotechnologies.
4) That the Ministre du Développement économique, de l’Innovation et de l’Exportation, together with the Ministre du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs as well as various other interested parties, put in place a monitoring system with respect to the potential effects of nanotechnologies on the environment, whenever these effects cannot be calculated and taken into consideration prior to the commercialization of products derived from nanotechnologies;
That a procedure be developed to ensure the rapid recall of products in the event of harmful effects on the environment.
5) That the Ministre du Développement économique, de l’Innovation et de l’Exportation, together with other ministries and interested parties, launch a process of information and consultation with the public, in order to define in all transparency the scientific, economic and ethical issues associated with the development of nanotechnologies.
6) That the Ministre du Développement économique, de l’Innovation et de l’Exportation call on the granting agencies, together with different interested parties, to create a program of multidisciplinary research on the impacts of new technologies and on the management of risk associated with nanotechnologies, that will take into account ethical and social aspects.
7) That, the Ministre du Développement économique, de l’Innovation et de l’Exportation, once Québec’s nanotechnology development strategy has been drawn up, take into account the ethical and social questions raised by these
8) That the Gouvernement du Québec follow the example of the Internet portal devoted to genetically modified organisms in order to create an information portal for the general public devoted to nanotechnology.
Source: CEST
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