The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a think tank in Washington, D.C., has warned of dangers of grey goo in today’s report and urged the government to enact stricter nanotechnology laws. Washington Post reports:
An independent report being released this morning concludes that current U.S. laws and regulations cannot adequately protect the public against the risks of nanotechnology — the rapidly growing science of making invisibly small particles and molecular devices.
Unless existing laws are modified or a new one is crafted, the report warns, the immense promise of the field — predicted to be a trillion-dollar industry by 2015 — may be short-circuited by either a disaster or an economically damaging crisis of public confidence.
“There is a chance to still do this right and learn from previous mistakes,” said study author J. Clarence Davies, an environmental policy analyst who played major roles in the Johnson, Nixon and first Bush administrations and is now with Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan think tank on environmental and energy issues.
“We know from what happened with agricultural biotechnology and nuclear power that if you don’t have public support, or at least public tolerance, a field’s potential is not going to be realized. For nanotechnology, I don’t think existing systems or laws can serve this purpose,” said Davies, who researched and wrote the report for the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a research and policy arm of the Smithsonian Institution.
Several government officials and industry representatives disputed the findings yesterday. Among them was E. Clayton Teague, director of the National Nanotechnology Coordinating Office, which oversees the federal government’s approximately $1 billion annual investment in nanotechnology.
“We still have so much to learn,” he said. “You get one paper that says it’s extremely toxic and harmful, and another that says it’s not only not toxic but it’s beneficial. All the agencies we talk with… have generally said to us that with the information that’s currently available, their regulatory authorities should be adequate.”
To learn more, you can watch today’s webcast from Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars by going here.