A broad coalition of groups – including Friends of the Earth, the Australia Institute, the Consumer Federation of Australia, GeneEthics and the National Toxics Network – have signed a statement calling on the Government to implement in full the recommendations of an independent review which found inaccuracies and bias in Australian Federal Government materials regarding new technologies.
The Government commissioned review of materials produced or funded by the Government’s National Enabling Technology Strategy – Public Awareness and Engagement section (NETS-PACE) raises serious questions about the pro-industry role of the Government in societal debates regarding new technologies.
Jo Immig, Coordinator of the National Toxic Network said “The findings of the review vindicate the concerns initially raised by public interest advocates that many Government materials regarding new technologies are biased or inaccurate.”
“The review found that many materials claiming to be public information materials basically promote nanotechnology and give inadequate attention to environmental and health and safety risks and social issues.”
Louise Sales, Friends of the Earth’s Nanotechnology Project Coordinator said “we are calling for the Government to implement in full the recommendations of an independent review – including the recommendations of its Stakeholder Advisory Council. It’s really important that the Government provides balanced, accurate information about new technologies and fully acknowledges their risks, uncertainties and social impacts.”
“We are concerned that the Department is attempting to bury the findings of the review. Despite the review being completed in August 2012 the Department has still to release key review documents. Furthermore, once the review was completed, the Department commissioned its own summary of the review by the science communication company Biotext that worked with the Department on the program itself and which could hardly be viewed as independent. Needless to say their report plays down the findings of the review.”
Bob Phelps, Gene Ethics Director said “we reject the Department’s lukewarm response to the review and its intention to uncritically promote nanotechnology, whilst research on the potential environmental, health and safety issues continues to lag behind commercial development and promotion.”
“In the Federal Election campaign the Coalition promised to consult relevant stakeholders on policies in this area. However it is not clear how they intend to do this now that the Government’s Stakeholder Advisory Council and public engagement activities around new technologies have been discontinued.”