Although stakeholders appear to agree on many of the major areas of concern, they have very differing views on how to proceed with regulation, according to the report.
The FramingNano Project is a consortium of six European bodies including the UK’s Institute of Nanotechnology, Italy’s AIRI/Nanotec IT and the Swiss Innovation Society.
Set up to help establish a multi stakeholder dialogue on nanoregulation, the project has released a report which has characterised stakeholders and their opinions on how regulation should proceed.
NGOs call for moratorium
According to the report, the majority of civil society organisations including bodies such as Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and consumer associations such as Which?, believe that the existing regulatory situation is not adequate.
They support the idea of mandatory nanospecific regulation, with some calling for a moratorium until products containing nanomaterials have been proven safe.
At the other end of the spectrum are policy makers and industry, which generally accept existing regulation as being adequate with varying levels of nano-specific amendments being deemed necessary.
Research institutions generally favour the development of existing regulations, some calling for a precautionary approach to the use of the technology, according to the report.
Who should pay for proving safety?
Furthermore, the authors believe that two questions remain largely undecided: where the burden of proof of safety falls and the labelling of consumer products.
Under US law the regulators must prove that a chemical is harmful before it can be restricted or removed from the market, in contrast to the European REACH legislation where it is the manufacturer who must prove chemicals are safe before they enter the market.
The labelling of nanomaterials in consumer products is widely debated among the stakeholders, according to the report, and the lack of a good working definition of a nanomaterial makes it difficult to reach a consensus.
In spite of these differences, the report does conclude that there is general agreement that efforts must be made to increase the understanding of the impact of nanotechnologies on the environment and health, and that any action plan to govern this new technology must take these into accounts.
Later this month FramingNano will be holding a NanoImpactNet conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the project plans to release a governance plan later in the year.