Edited by Graeme A. Hodge, Diana M. Bowman and Andrew D. Maynard
Chapter 24: Transnational Regulation of Nanotechnology: Reality or Romanticism?
Kenneth W. Abbott, Douglas J. Sylvester and Gary E. Marchant In less than a decade, nanotechnology has exploded from a relatively obscure and narrow technical field to a scientific, economic and public phenomenon. The precipitous emergence of such a broad and significant technology has created an unprecedented opportunity to craft new regulatory or oversight approaches on a clean slate. Indeed, discussions of appropriate forms of regulatory oversight for nanotechnology have shadowed the exponential growth of the technology itself, with a rapid proliferation in calls and proposals for regulation. The actual adoption of nanotechnology-specific regulations, however, has increasingly lagged both the technology and the academic and policy debate: ‘while governments have invested heavily in R&D programs they have been noticeably unenthusiastic about implementing new regulatory frameworks’ (Bowman and Hodge, 2006: 1065; see also Renn and Roco, 2006). Of the many impediments to the enactment of regulations, one that is of particular interest is the international scope of nanotechnology development (Roco, 2006; Kostoff et al., 2006). Every major industrial country is actively pursuing nanotechnology (Roco, 2006), and none wishes to put its scientists and companies at a competitive disadvantage by unilaterally imposing restrictive regulations. Moreover, the international trade wars which continue to rage over inconsistent regulation in other areas of innovation, such as biotechnology, further caution national governments against attempting to ‘go it alone’ (Pollack and Shaffer, 2009). It is therefore not surprising, even if largely unprecedented, that many early discussions of nanotechnology regulation have raised the possibility of international regulation,...
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