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Chapter 19: The Role of NGOs in Governing Nanotechnologies: Challenging the ‘Benefits versus Risks’ Framing of Nanotech Innovation
19 The role of NGOs in governing nanotechnologies: challenging the ‘benefits versus risks’ framing of nanotech innovation 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...
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