Chapter 4: An integrated framework for governing emerging technologies such as nanotechnology and synthetic biology
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The continued growth of new technologies such as nanotechnology and synthetic biology poses an array of environmental and public health benefits and risks. The complexity of the technologies and the speed with which they are entering the marketplace require a much more sophisticated form of governance than has been commonly employed to deal with environmental and health risks in the past. This new system should include what some authors have called an “experimentalist” form of regulation integrated with a wide variety of other tools including information disclosure, public engagement, the continuing possibility of tort liability, and a range of self-governance approaches. This chapter builds on earlier recommendations for an integrated governance system for nanotechnologies and extends this analysis to synthetic biology. In particular, this chapter focuses on the need for a more adaptive system of governance that allows government stakeholders to learn as experimentation proceeds and rapidly adjust risk management approaches based on what has been learned, coupled with other governance approaches such as information disclosure, codes of conduct, liability, and public dialogue. Nanotechnology has become one of the defining technologies of the twenty-first century. As of February 2013, the Project on Emerging Technologies indicated that the numbers had grown significantly, with 1316 nano-related products, produced by 587 companies in 30 countries. These technologies can be found in products as different as sunscreen and the fuselage of the new Boeing 787. The substances most commonly used in the industry continue to be metals, carbon fibers, and silicon/silica.

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