Michigan State’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Standards ("IFAS") recently issued a report regarding a nanotechnology standards workshop it held last September.

The report begins with the observation that voluntary standards often become a basis for future government regulation and/or become a "de facto" mandatory standard if widely adopted in the marketplace. For example, the report suggests that "Wal-Mart is now a de facto standards-setting body for quality standards" because of its dominant position in the retail industry.

Regarding nanotechnology, the report notes "[v]arious US government agencies are collaborating with ANSI and ISO in standards development. ASTM’s E-56 committee is also involved in nanotechnology standards development, and has recently released its standard ‘E-2456, Terminology for Nanotechnology’ (ASTM E-56 2006). " The report further notes IFAS’s work with the ANSI nanotechnology panel "from which [it is] able to observe and to some extent participate first-hand in the standards facilitation process."

The report also makes the following specific recommendations:

*     "Research standards should initially entail the use of Good Laboratory Practices, e.g., special gloves, respirators, and hoods (although even these standards may need further development)."

*     "Standards are needed to protect workers from exposure. The highest risks are likely to be during the production phase, and not in the final products. "

*     "Food and drug products will likely need standards as soon as products are developed. In contrast, there is less urgency for nonconsumable products, although environmental issues still need to be addressed."

*     "Given the differences in the behavior of chemicals at the nano level, it is conceivable that the Environmental Protection Agency will need to re-review every chemical in its database."

*     "[S]tandard setting should start early and be seen as a strategic and iterative process.

"An Issues Landscape for Nanotechnology Standards: Report of a Workshop." Cowles House, 11- 12 September 2006. East Lansing, MI: Institute for Food and Agricultural Standards, Michigan State University. An electronic copy of the report can be found on the IFAS website.