US and Europe to regulate nanotech

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US and Europe to regulate nanotech

The European Commission has given a $587,000 grant to researchers to help regulate nanotechnologies in the EU and the US.

The money will go to researchers at the London School of Economics, Chatham House, the Environmental Law Institute and the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.

The Commission noted that several transatlantic conflicts have erupted in recent years 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.

The project will be coordinated by Dr Robert Falkner, deputy director of the LSE's Centre for Environmental Policy and Governance, and an international relations expert.

"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," he said.

"There are known gaps and inadequacies in existing regulatory approaches to nanotechnology that must be addressed if we are effectively to 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."

The transatlantic research effort also will try to look beyond the current and near-term state of nanotechnology development and oversight.

David Rejeski, director of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, said: " 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 structures.

"This project is aimed at helping governments, businesses and scientists around the world to make informed policy decisions that will not only help protect the public today, but ensure continued and responsible technological development in the future."

The aim of the project is threefold:

  • 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 Atlantic
  • To create greater awareness among decision makers and opinion formers for congruent approaches and transatlantic convergence in nanotech regulation
The impetus for the project came out of the April 2007 US-EU summit, at which President Bush and German chancellor Angela Merkel launched an initiative to seek closer cooperation on trade and regulation.

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