Keywords: nanotechnology regulation, precaution, precautionary risk management, social cohesion, public perception, nanotechnology innovation
Applying a precautionary risk management strategy for regulation of nanotechnology
Nanotechnology promises a multiplicity of benefits to society. At the same time it has become a focus of debate regarding potential health and other associated risks. Rejection of new nanotechnology innovations could result in loss of trust in regulators, a phenomenon observed previously with nuclear and genetically altered food crop technologies. Due to this uncertainty a precautionary approach is warranted. The anticipated four stages of nanotechnology development, from passive to more active forms, are arrayed against existing risk management strategies of a precautionary nature. The overlay suggests that precaution is appropriate for all stages of nanotechnology development. Other effects from innovation, such as socio-economic inequity, disruptive impact on labour markets, alteration of global trade and unintended health and environmental impacts, can also be minimised by applying a precautionary approach. The use of a precautionary approach can provide protection to developers of nanotechnology, to individuals and to the environment.