"Nanotechnology: The Future is Coming Sooner Than You Think," Joint Economic Committee, United States Congress, March 2007.

This new committee paper begins by providing the reader with an overview of several competing definitions of nanotechnology, the stages in which the industry is likely to develop, and the technology’s interdisciplinary nature.  The paper also disposes of existential concerns such as "grey goo" and "Luddite" opposition to nanotechnology, and then touches upon the possible environmental, health and safety risks potentially associated with exposure to certain types of nanomaterials.  The paper provides a well-written, basic summary covering these topic areas.

The committee paper also gives a strong vote of confidence to the National Nanotechnology Initiative ("NNI") and its efforts to coordinate federal nanotechnology efforts between 25 constituent government agencies.  To this end, the paper quotes a National Science Foundation report finding that "the NNI is successfully establishing R&D programs with wider impact than could have been expected from separate agency funding without coordination," and "federal agencies have been motivated by their participation in NNI activities . . . to a degree that has proved very effective."  The paper backs up its praise by suggesting that NNI move beyond its traditional coordinating activities and be provided with an independent budget to fund certain nanotechnology research needs.

On another topic, the paper is notable for its suggestion that "the use of nanotechnology should be clearly labeled on products so that consumers can make an informed choice about whether to use a particular product."

Equally interesting is the paper’s suggestion that "private companies should be required to disclose to the [FDA] the results of any safety testing that they conduct and the FDA should immediately publicize any results that show a clear negative health effect."  The paper encourages Congress to promote this type of safety testing by making it easier for companies to collaborate on pre-competition EHS research.