A new set of guidelines by DuPont and Environmental Defense is due out today, but the carping from the sidelines has already started. The problem seems to be more ideological than technological, with various environmental groups objecting to it in advance on the basis that companies are involved.
“It’s voluntary and we think it will only delay what’s really needed, government regulation and a wider debate,” said Hope Shand, research director for the ETC Group, which has called for a moratorium on the commercialization of nanotechnology.
I’m not convinced by ETC’s call for more debate – haven’t we been doing this ad nauseum for the last four years with an ever widening circle of stakeholders ranging from social scientists to philosophers? What is actually needed is more research, but of course that moves the agenda away from pressure groups and back into the scientific domain which has already been accused of being elitist by groups who perhaps chose to study politics rather than physics.
This is an issue I have discussed many times with many environmental groups, and the consensus is that everyone involved in nanotech is being very responsible, especially compared to other technologies. I suspect that groups such as ETC realise that they are fighting a losing battle, and that time is against them. While public acceptance of nanotechnologies is a concern for politicians, most consumers really don’t care what is inside their products as long as they are faster, cheaper, greener, funkier etc.
The real battle over nanotech will be won or lost in the market place, and anyone who thinks otherwise should pop out of their ivory tower and take a stroll around Akihabara in Tokyo or wander up and down Oxford Street in London.