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Posted: August 5, 2008

Australia's first nanotechnology dialogue criticized as industry-biased

(Nanowerk News) Australia's first ever attempt to involve members of the public in development of nanotechnology policy is hopelessly compromised, Friends of the Earth said today. The Queensland state government has invited in industry representatives who have a financial interest in the outcomes and shut out civil society critics. Yet the public "dialogue" is slated to inform nanotechnology policy development in Queensland.
The Queensland "Nanodialogues", initiated this week, involves 12 members of the public in "dialogue" with 8 nanotechnology scientists – some of them employed by industry groups with a financial interest in the outcomes of the dialogue. One social scientist has also been invited to participate, but there is no representation from nanotechnology stakeholders who have been critical of nanotechnology policy to date, eg environment, health, civil liberties and social justice groups, unions or ethicists.
Friends of the Earth emphasises that it will be extremely difficult for "Nanodialogues" participants to develop informed recommendations for nanotechnology research funding and policy priorities when they are presented with only one, pro-nanotechnology, point of view.
Nanotechnology industry representatives are unlikely to draw "Nanodialogues" participants‚ attention to recent findings that carbon nanotubes present similar health risks to asbestos. Industry representatives are similarly unlikely to tell participants about calls from some of the world's poorest people for a moratorium on nanotechnology in food and agriculture, because of their concern it will further threaten their food security.
Friends of the Earth Australia strongly supports public participation in nanotechnology policy development and decision making. But we are concerned that the Queensland "Nanodialogues" are simply a public relations exercise - a free ride for nanotechnology promoters to shore up support for their industry.
If you have any thoughts or feedback about how genuine public participation should take place, please leave a comment on our website at http://nano.foe.org.au/node/260. Better yet, Friends of the Earth Australia suggest, why not email Ms Desley Boyle, Queensland Minister for Tourism, Regional Development and Industry, whose department is funding the "Nanodialogues", and let her know that you won't accept this biased process: trdi@ministerial.qld.gov.au
Source: Friends of the Earth Australia