One March 16, 2007, the Canadian Institute of Environmental Law and Policy conducted a one-day symposium on policy considerations related to nanotechnology. The Institute recently released a discussion paper summarizing the thoughts concerning nanotechnology regulation in Canada. The paper identifies those areas that the Institute believes will help drive a nanotechnology policy framework.
The report, available on the Institute’s website, lists twelve policy considerations that it believes should be considered as a policy framework is developed. Those policy considerations are: 1) societal goals, 2) public education and engagement, 3) activity and information inventories, 4) identification of lead agencies, 5) technical issue identification such as terminology and metrology, 6) regulatory framework priority identification including risk assessment, science, and stakeholder involvement, 7) labeling and consumer protection, 8) liability and intellectual property issues, 9) support for science and research, 10) commercialization and economic benefits, 11) training, and 12) security.
The report delves into each consideration in more detail, but the Institute believes that each should be developed in order to establish a solid nanotechnology framework in Canada.
Interestingly, the report also touches on barriers to a national nanotechnology policy in Canada, many of which are the same as those facing the United States. The report cites such policy development challenges as the lack of information and lack of tools to "deal responsibly" with nanomaterials already in commerce. The needed tools the Institute points to include: standard definitions, labels, and data sheets, as well as "structures and resources for public education and engagement." These are some of the very challenges facing policy development in the United States.
Through consideration of the twelve points above, the Institute believes that Canada can begin to create a policy framework. The Institute states that at this early stage, "our proposed policy framework focuses on goals; on what needs to be attended to; and to a lesser extent how it should be done: the elements of a policy framework."
Clearly nanotechnology policy development is an international issue, with many, if not all, of the same challenges and questions arising for each country to delve into the regulatory questions surrounding nanotechnology.