Things are brewing in nano land – European parliament calls for tougher action in wake of national initiatives

The European Commission has recently unveiled a second, updated review of the application of the existing regulatory framework, to nanotechnologies (see here for a link to all relevant studies; and here for an overview of my own work on nano regulation; where possible, they are on ssrn). The first, in  2008, identified the ‘incremental’ approach as the option which the EU would take in regulating nanotechnologies. The second, just out, well, basically confirms this: the Commission continues to be of the view that there is no basis in EU law to apply a moratorium, or some kind of ‘no data, no market’ principle. It is quite happy with the definitional approach in current EU legislation. Finally it uses the accompanying staff working document to give an overview of current initiatives, databases, existing commercial use etc [incidentally, for the uninitiated, staff working documents  unlike they rather innocent name, in reality tend to be much more relevant than the actual Communications; they are not subject to translation requirements, escape strict word limits therefore, and tend to be much more detailed].

Quite a bit of attention goes to REACH, the Chemical policy Regulation, and its impact on nanotechnologies, however as the staff working document indicates, there might be other areas of the law, in particular with respect to occupational health and safety, which would have to (indeed are being) looked at more carefully. Frankly, the approach to the regulation of nanotechnologies is a bit like driving a minivan in one of these underground parkings: even if one has checked the maximum height (and the manual of your car confirms one does not exceed it), one still is a little bit tense driving in.

The Greens in the European Parliament have never been convinced of the incremental approach and gave indication of such in their reaction to the new report. Dome EU Member States such as France and The Netherlands would like to see regulation at a quicker pace – starting with transparency as to what is already on the market.

Continuing the minivan reference above: manuals can be wrong, height indicators at parkings ditto: one might end up badly scratching the car or indeed getting it stuck. Late lessons from early warnings comes to mind.

Geert.

 

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