Whilst the Australian Greens have pledged their support for a mandatory register of all nanomaterials in commercial use in the lead up to the Federal Election, the other major parties appear to be missing in action when it comes to regulating the risks associated with nanotechnology.

Louise Sales, Nanotechnology Project Coordinator with Friends of the Earth said “the past year has seen the Federal Government slash funding for the CSIRO and Safe Work Australia’s research into the health and safety risks associated with nanomaterials. And Government progress towards regulating nano forms of existing chemicals has stalled.

“Meanwhile, despite its past emphasis on building public trust in nanotechnology oversight, the Coalition failed to answer Friends of the Earth’s Federal Election policy questionnaire.

“The United Kingdom’s Royal Society has called for all nanomaterials to be subject to safety testing by scientific authorities prior to their inclusion in commercial products. While our chemical regulator the National Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) has regulated nano forms of new chemicals, moves to regulate nano forms of existing chemicals have stalled.

The Government has also opposed labelling of nanomaterials for informed choice.

“Whilst the EU and New Zealand move to regulate nano-ingredients in sunscreen, our sunscreen regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration has opposed the labelling of nano-ingredients in sunscreen. This is despite consumer groups, unions, public health advocates and even the sunscreen industry itself calling for it!

“Furthermore, while a number of European countries including France, Belgium, Denmark and Norway are moving to implement mandatory registers of nanomaterials our Federal Government has refused to take similar action here,” said Ms Sales.

In its response to FoE’s questionnaire the ALP stated that “Federal Labor will continue to encourage public participation in decision making and consultations on government policy making processes”.

“Quite how this will happen isn’t clear – given that the government scrapped its community engagement program, Stakeholder Advisory Council and Expert Forums on new technologies this year” said Ms Sales.

“Friends of the Earth welcomes the Australian Greens policy initiatives ensuring the mandatory labelling of nano-ingredients, providing greater funding for social research and supporting a greater role for the public in nanotechnology decision making. We are disappointed that the Australian Labor Party could not commit to do the same – and are even more concerned that the Coalition is missing in action on nanotechnology policy” concluded Ms Sales.

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