The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reviewing its policy on how nanomaterials are assessed (or not) for their environment risks. This could result in the EPA closing legal loopholes by finally agreeing to treat manufactured nanomaterials as ‘new’ chemicals. This would mean there is a legal requirement to assess nanomaterials’ safety before they can be used commercially. EPA toxics chief Steve Owens announced the policy review during his keynote address at the conference “Trans-Atlantic Regulatory Cooperation: Securing the Promise of Nanotechnologies".
A few months ago Ray Kurzweil predicted that within 20 years, nanotechnology will enable [those who can afford it] to live forever. Now the UK Telegraph has reported claims by US futurist Paul Saffo that nanotechnology will enable the super-rich to ‘evolve’ into a separate species.
Reflecting growing high level unease about the safety risks of products produced nanomaterials, in a new report the German Federal Office for Environmental Protection (UBA) has called for consumers to avoid using nano-products until regulations are introduced to manage their safety risks.
The reality of the Australian government’s approach to nanotechnology belies its stated commitment to social democracy, writes Griffith University senior lecturer Dr Kristen Lyons in the Sydney Morning Herald, Age and Brisbane Times newspapers. "Communities are being kept in the dark, they are being given little opportunity to have their say about highly controversial technologies, meanwhile industry continues to roll out new technologies – virtually unregulated, untested and unlabelled."
The opinion piece by Dr Lyons is reprinted below.
"Democratic governments chant public engagement as the cornerstone of sound political decision-making. This mantra was heard in Western Australia last week, at an address by Senator Kim Carr to the John Curtin Institute of Public Policy.
In his speech, Carr described the Rudd Government’s commitment to social democratic processes. He claimed this commitment to social democracy as a vital process for ensuring policy-making agendas move beyond economic priorities to consider a broader range of social, cultural and political issues.