The cosmetic industry should avoid a ‘strategy of silence’ when it comes to nanotechnology, according to a recent report from the International Risk Governance Council (IRGC).
The IRGC report, published late last year, focuses on nanotech applications in food and cosmetics and attempts to explore appropriate risk governance strategies for the two industries.
Although consumer surveys tend to suggest most people associate nanotech more with benefits than risks, applications in food and cosmetics are met with increasing suspicion, according to the report.
For this reason the IRGC claim that trust and an open dialogue between consumers, industry, campaigning NGOs and public authorities are crucial.
In recently launching its own Nanotechnology Task Force, Colipa has taken a more proactive stand in the debate, which the IRGC applauds, and the report warns against ‘strategy of silence’.
“The dominant response of the food – and to a lesser degree – the cosmetics industry appears to be to wait and see, perhaps in the hope that sceptical attitudes will vanish over time. Such a ‘Strategy of Silence’ has never worked in the past and is unlikely it will work this time,” warn the authors.
Voluntary codes can provide transparency
The multitude of voluntary codes (for example the European Commission’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies Research) is another way industry can communicate transparently, and build trust and credibility, according to the report.
However, it warns that if these codes have ‘no teeth’ and no way to enforce compliance and are just a public relations exercise they will fail and may be more damaging to public opinion than doing nothing.
In addition, the report notes that although a number of these voluntary codes exist and as yet there is no mutual commitment to any one of them, it is not clear that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is possible.
The final recommendations of the IRGC on risk governance strategies for nanotech in cosmetics and food will be published in a policy brief later this spring.