Amid growing reports of nanotoxicity (download briefing below), in an effort to bolster public confidence in nanotechnology, top nanotechnology analyst and advocate Lux Research Inc has called for strong regulation of nanotechnology’s environment, health and safety (EHS) risks. However beyond calling for redulation of risks associated with nanotoxicity, Lux Research has failed to address bigger picture concerns that nanotechnology will result in large-scale social and economic upheaval and greater corporate control over the building blocks of life. Lux Research has also ignored calls for genuine public involvement in decision making about nanotechnology.

In an effort to win public acceptance of nanotechnology, industry leaders are increasingly calling for concerns about risks to health and the environment to be taken seriously. Nanotechnology proponents hope that by moving quickly to address concerns about nanotoxicity, that they can avoid a repeat of the public backlash that greeted the introduction of genetically engineered crops.

However a narrow focus on nanotoxicity fails to address key sources of community concern about nanotechnology, in particular its potential to result in massive social and economic disruption, increasing corporate control of the building blocks of life and industry, a growing nano arms race and ethically problematic atomic-level manipulation of living organisms.

Friends of the Earth recognises that managing these impacts of nanotechnology must be prioritised alongside management of its toxicity risks. Given the potential for nanotechnology to have such significant impacts, Friends of the Earth has also called for public involvement in decision making about nanotechnology.

For a discussion of all these issues and more, please see the latest nanotechnology feature issue of “Chain Reaction”, the Friends of the Earth quarterly magazine.