International Handbook on Regulating Nanotechnologies
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International Handbook on Regulating Nanotechnologies

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.
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Chapter 4: The Age of Regulatory Governance and Nanotechnologies

Roger Brownsword


Roger Brownsword 4.1 INTRODUCTION In their introductory overview, Graeme A. Hodge, Diana M. Bowman and Andrew D. Maynard (2010) have highlighted seven particular regulatory challenges that they expect to be presented by the development and application of nanotechnologies. If we are to rise to these multifarious challenges, we need the right kind of regulatory environment – an environment that incentivizes the scientific and technical communities to improve their understanding and handling of nanomaterials, an environment that is properly geared to assess and manage risk as well as to ensure that the benefits of nanotechnologies are shared, and perhaps above all an environment that engenders public trust and confidence (Brownsword and Somsen, 2009). Hodge, Bowman and Maynard also flag the point that there is more to meeting a regulatory challenge than resorting to a hard law instrument – or, at any rate, to command and control forms of legal intervention. There is a sense in which regulation is broader than law. Yet, what exactly do we mean by ‘the regulatory environment’? And, once we know a regulatory environment when we see one, what is it that makes it the ‘right kind’ of regulatory environment for the development and application of nanotechnologies? These are the two principal questions to be addressed in this chapter. 4.2 WHAT IS A ‘REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT’? The age in which we live has attracted many descriptions – from the risk society, to the surveillance society, building (or, so some claim) to the crime society (Beck, 1992; Lyon, 2001; Koops, 2009). It...

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