The Government has published its ‘UK Nanotechnologies Strategy’, and really it is just so much small talk. It leaves nanotechnology scientists and ‘nano’ product companies in uncertainty as to their future direction and does nothing to reassure consumers that their interests and wellbeing are being protected.
Why should we care about an effective nanotechnology strategy? Nanotechnology is the study of engineering at the molecular/atomic level. It is one of those new frontiers of scientific research about which we cannot imagine the consequences. It is, in this aspect, like genetically modified base foodstuffs or synthetic elemental particle physics. We simply do not know what the immediate or long-term health and safety implications are of products and devices made at the nano level.
A nano is one billionth of a meter. Nanotechnology generally aims to create substances and devices that are at least one hundred nanos in at least one dimension. For a great read and a truly nightmare vision of unregulated nanotechnology look at Michael Crichton’s book “Prey”.
A complete and useful nanotechnology strategy would include the following six specific clauses:
- A compulsory registration and permit plan that requires organizations to account exactly where, when, in what and how they are using nanotechnology and nano resources.
- An overarching body made up of interested parties, from all parts of the nanotechnology field to steer the development of science.
- Compulsory research and reporting of the health and safety implications of nanotechnology resources. There are a number of areas for concern where not enough is known about the safety implications of some nanotechnology resources.
- Any and all nanotechnology products or the products resulting from the use nanotechnology must be reviewed and approved independently before coming to market.
- Any products unregistered or unapproved should be recalled from the market.
- Genuine consumer involvement about future developments must be encouraged. This is in order that priority is given to scientific and producer research that is in line with regulatory guidelines and consumer wishes.
Unfortunately the Governments’ UK Nanotechnologies Strategy.
Does not even come close to fulfilling the key parts of the above clauses. It is a ‘whitewashing’ regurgitation of platitudes and old data.
Which? on behalf of UK consumers are orchestrating a campaign to highlight the need for a coherent strategy for nanotechnology and you can learn more and support the nanotechnology campaign when you visit www.which.co.uk/nano.