European Commission sponsors study on regulating nanotechnology in the
EU and US
18 February 2008
The European Commission has awarded a US$587,000 grant
to researchers at the London School of Economics and Political Science
(LSE), Chatham House (The Royal Institute for International Affairs), the
Washington based Environmental Law Institute (ELI) and the US Project on
Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN), to study the issue of regulating
nanotechnologies in the European Union and United States.
The aim of the
- to produce high quality analysis of the comparative dimensions of
nanotechnologies regulation in the EU and US;
- to publish and widely disseminate policy-relevant research results
that will assist policy processes and debates on both sides of the
- to create greater awareness among decision-makers and opinion
formers for congruent approaches and transatlantic convergence in
In recent years, several transatlantic conflicts have erupted over
how to regulate chemicals, beef hormones and genetically modified food.
These disputes have shown the need for better international coordination
of risk assessment and management. But how can nanotechnologies be
effectively regulated to ensure both innovation and safety? And how can
emerging European and US regulations be made compatible so as to avoid
future conflicts in this major growth area?
The project will be coordinated by Dr Robert Falkner deputy director of
LSE's Centre for Environmental Policy and Governance and an
international relations expert. Dr Falkner said: "High profile
controversies such as those concerning genetically engineered crops have
highlighted how important it is for policymakers to identify potential
risks associated with new technologies and to promote international
cooperation in the early stages of the policy process.
"There are known gaps and inadequacies in existing regulatory
approaches to nanotechnology that must be addressed if we are to
effectively promote innovation while ensuring safety and enhancing
public acceptability. This project aims to examine current practice and
provide recommendations to policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic
on how to promote best practices and avoid future trade conflicts."
This research effort also will try to look beyond the current and
near-term state of nanotechnology development and oversight. According
to PEN director David Rejeski: "The first generation of nanotechnology
applications and products is here. Second generation uses, in
electronics, sensors, targeted drugs and active nanostructures, are
emerging. But capabilities of these early nanotechnology products pale
in comparison to third and fourth generation applications in areas such
as robotics, multiscale chemical and bio-assembly, and supramolecular
"This project is aimed at helping governments, businesses and
scientists around the world make informed policy decisions that will not
only help protect the public today, but ensure continued and responsible
technological development in the future."
ELI President Leslie Carothers said, "This inventive, transatlantic
research partnership is an essential step forward and will make an
important contribution at a critical juncture in the development of
governance structures for nanotechnologies worldwide. With hundreds of
nanotechnology-enabled products already available to the public and many
more reaching the marketplace each year, the need for effective
governance structures to manage the potential risks associated with
nanotechnologies becomes more and more urgent. This project will help
inform ongoing and future efforts in the US to develop much-needed
regulatory and alternative nanotech governance tools."
The impetus for
this project came out of the April 2007 US-EU summit, at which US President
George Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel launched an initiative to
seek closer co-operation on trade and regulation. The project will involve a
research report and analytical papers based on comparative research, a major
international conference to be held at Chatham House and a series of
outreach events in Brussels, Berlin, Paris and Washington throughout 2009.
The project findings will feed into a major EU conference in 2009 and the
2010 EU-US Summit.
For more information see:
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