Posted: October 12, 2009

European Environment Bureau assesses critical nanotechnology governance issues

(Nanowerk News) The European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Europe’s largest federation of environmental citizens’ organisations, launched a report ("Nanotechnologies in the 21st Century - A critical Review of Governance Issues in Europe and Elsewhere (October 09)") outlining the critical governance structures needed for the safe development and use of nanotechnology.
The publication comes in time to contribute to discussions at a stakeholder conference on nanomaterials organised by the European Commission and the Swedish Presidency taking place on 9th October.
The report reviews the current uncertainties associated with the governance of nanotechnologies where their development and commercialisation is outpacing government oversight, risk management and public debate. It examines regulatory initiatives and responses, voluntary codes and practices and the progress of international cooperation in coordinating nanotechnology governance.
The report also presents NGO initiatives for nano regulation calling for the application of the precautionary principle and pre-market registration of materials. It is the third in a series of publications on nanotechnologies questioning how these can assist in solving 21st century global challenges.
“Efforts to ‘nano-proof’ existing legislation such as REACH, Novel Foods and Cosmetics have led to fragmented and confusing approaches to nanotechnologies oversight,” said Dragomira Raeva, EEB Nanotechnology Policy Officer, “Europe needs an overarching policy and regulatory framework which addresses the various applications of nanotechnologies coherently and comprehensively to ensure better environmental and human health protection in a growing area of innovation.”
EEB proposes that the safe and responsible development and application of nanotechnologies in the EU should be done through a dedicated nanotechnologyspecific regulatory framework that includes the following aspects:
  • A pre-market registration and approval framework for nanomaterials designed to anticipate future applications before they are put on the market.
  • Public consultation on technological innovation, including nanotechnologies and nanomaterials so that public opinion plays a more central role in helping to shape nano’s development and to guide research towards only those technologies with true social benefits and improvements.
  • Requisite legislation before further market penetration of nanomaterials and not just reviews and fragmented adjustment of existing legislation.
  • EEB expects that the findings of the report will help to guide the EU effort on the responsible governance of nanotechnologies by putting health, environment protection and democratic decision-making before potentially unsafe or unsustainable technological developments.
    Source: EEB
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