Table of Contents

International Handbook on Regulating Nanotechnologies

International Handbook on Regulating Nanotechnologies

Elgar original reference

Edited by Graeme A. Hodge, Diana M. Bowman and Andrew D. Maynard

As scientists and technologists discover how to engineer matter at the nanoscale in increasingly sophisticated ways, conventional approaches to ensuring safe use are being brought into question. Nanotechnologies are challenging traditional regulatory regimes; but they are also prompting new thinking on developing and using emerging technologies safely. In this Handbook, leading international authors from industry, government, non-governmental organisations and academia examine the complex and often controversial regulatory challenges presented by nanotechnologies. Across several disciplinary boundaries, they explore how the future regulatory landscape may evolve. From the Europe Union to the United States, workplaces to personal products, and statutory instruments through to softer approaches, it is clear that considerable vigilance will be needed in governing these powerful and novel technologies. To succeed, society will need new thinking, new partnerships and new mechanisms to balance the benefits of these technologies against their possible downsides. Anything less will prompt cries of illegitimacy and potentially compromise a promising new realm of technology innovation.

Chapter 19: The Role of NGOs in Governing Nanotechnologies: Challenging the ‘Benefits versus Risks’ Framing of Nanotech Innovation

Georgia Miller and Gyorgy Scrinis

Subjects: innovation and technology, technology and ict


Georgia Miller and Gyorgy Scrinis 19.1 INTRODUCTION Against the backdrop of very low levels of public awareness, nongovernment organizations (NGOs) have struggled to put wide-ranging public interest issues associated with nanotechnology onto the radar of those charged with decision-making about governance issues. These include the need to go beyond a narrow discussion of ‘benefits versus risks’ to consider the broader social, economic and political dimensions of nanotechnology, to implement precautionary management of nanotechnology’s health and environment hazards, and to involve the public in decision-making. However, as the first sectoral regulatory responses to nanotechnology emerge, it is apparent that very few of NGOs’ governance proposals are being enacted. This chapter will outline the public interest issues identified by NGOs, provide an overview of their governance proposals, and evaluate the extent to which NGOs have been effective in framing the nanotechnology debate, securing precautionary management of risks and challenges, and obtaining meaningful public involvement in decision-making. Whereas NGOs have achieved some degree of public visibility in the emerging nanotechnology debate, we argue that their influence on governance has been more muted. Governments have been unwilling to slow the rapid pace of nanotechnology commercialization to address basic safety issues, let alone to support rigorous assessment of broader social, economic and democratic challenges identified by NGOs and others. Governments continue to actively resist NGO or wider public involvement in critical reflections regarding nanotechnology assumptions, institutions, funding or governance. Meanwhile, financial, promotional and political support from governments and industry for rapid nanotechnological development remains strong....

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