Perspectives and Prospects
Edited by Elizabeth Fisher, Judith Jones and René von Schomberg
Chapter 13: The Tension between Fiction and Precaution in Nanotechnology
13. The tension between ﬁction and precaution in nanotechnology Arie Rip1 The precautionary principle stands midway between a general philosophy of precaution and prudential approaches, and speciﬁc legal and regulatory provisions and their implementation. The European Union has taken the lead in articulating such a principle (Commission of the European Communities 2000), and von Schomberg (see chapter 2 in this volume) has oﬀered a comprehensive formulation: Where, following an assessment of available scientiﬁc information, there are reasonable grounds for concern for the possibility of adverse eﬀects but scientiﬁc uncertainty persists, provisional risk management measures based on a broad cost-beneﬁt analysis whereby priority will be given to human health and the environment, necessary to ensure the chosen high level of protection in the Community and proportionate to this level of protection, may be adopted, pending further scientiﬁc information for a more comprehensive risk assessment, without having to wait until the reality and seriousness of those adverse eﬀects become fully apparent [my italics]. Such a precautionary principle is not immediately applicable to nanotechnology. Firstly, nanotechnology is an umbrella term for a range of enabling technologies, rather than a coherent set of processes and products which can be assessed in terms of adverse eﬀects. In this respect, it diﬀers from biotechnology and genomics, with which it tends to be compared in terms of societal impact and public responses. Secondly, it is still quite uncertain which options will be developed and which applications can...
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