Things have been mostly quiet in the United States on nanotechnology regulatory developments lately. There have been some items, but not much. So, we look across to Europe to see what they are up to. A new report adds more perspective to the nano-regulatory question. The Swiss based Innovation Society recently released its report: "FramingNano Mapping Study on Regulation and Governance of Nanotechnology." The Innovation Society is part of the European project on nano-regulation: Framing Nano.
The 138-page report takes a look at nanotechnology regulatory actions worldwide, including European, North American, and Asian efforts. The report looks to the voluntary and regulatory efforts in individual countries (or the EU as appropriate), and particularly focuses on Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) and Ethical, Legal and Societal Issues (ELSI). It notes, "There is a general agreement among these stakeholders on the principal problems facing nanoregulation and their priorities. In particular:
- The major source of concern regarding potential risks of nanotechnology are, at the moment, “free” manufactured nanomaterials
- There is an urgent need to develop, at least for some specific nanomaterials, new approaches and methods for their risk assessment and to improve the knowledge base on their characteristics and behaviour
- There is a need for an international approach to the management of nanomaterials risks, with a particular emphasis on the development of harmonised standards and guidance, and on an effective engagement of all stakeholders."
The report ultimately states that it "nanoregulation must be regarded as a dynamic affair which must adapt to the evolution of the scientific knowledge and applications and public attitude. A continuous updating must be part of the governance of nanotechnology."
The Framing Nano project is ultimately workings towards proposing a governance plan for regulating nanotechnology at the EU level.
The report’s stated goal is to "provide a picture of recent developments regarding regulation and governance of [nanoscience and technology] in Europe and worldwide, to identify relevant NS&T stakeholder organisations and to make an assessment of this information to prepare the ground for the following phases of the FramingNano project, i.e. the consultative process among stakeholders and the definition of a Governance Plan for the responsible development of NS&T." Clearly, in order to know where nanoregulation is heading, we need to know what different governments are doing in this arena. This is just one step towards the overall "Governance Plan" that, while aimed at the EU may very well be applicable in the United States and other countries working with nanotechnology as well.