chapter  20
39 Pages

Nanotechnology and the need for risk governance

WithO. Renn, M. C. Roco

After identifying the main characteristics and prospects of nanotechnology as an emerging technology, the paper presents the general risks associated with nanotechnology applications and the deficits of the risk governance process today, concluding with recommendations to governments, industry, international organizations and other stakeholders. The International Risk Governance Council (IRGC) has identified a governance gap between the requirements pertaining to the nano- rather than the micro-/macro- technologies. The novel attributes of nanotechnology demand different routes for risk-benefit assessment and risk management, and at present, nanotechnology innovation proceeds ahead of the policy and regulatory environment. In the shorter term, the governance gap is significant for those passive nanostructures that are currently in production and have high exposure rates; and is especially significant for the several ‘active’ nano scale structures and nano systems that we can expect to be on the market in the near future. Active nanoscale structures and nanosystems have the potential to affect not only human health and the environment but also aspects of social lifestyle, human identity and cultural values. The main recommendations of the report deal with selected higher risk nanotechnology applications, short- and long-term issues, and global models for nanotechnology governance.