Presentation of Kathy Jo Wetter on behalf of ETC Group
Thank you for the opportunity to present the views of ETC Group. We are an international civil society organization based in Canada. Our work focuses on the social and economic impacts of emerging technologies and their implications, especially for marginalized communities. I’m based in ETC Group’s North Carolina office.
ETC Group has been monitoring the development of nano-scale technologies since 2000. Though we focus on the socio-economic impacts of technologies, in the case of nanotech, we couldn’t ignore the potential health and safety impacts. Five years ago, we were stunned to realize that there were no internationally-accepted scientific standards governing lab research or the introduction of nanomaterials in commercial products.
There were virtually no toxicology studies devoted to synthetic nanomaterials. There were no standards for describing or even measuring nano-scale materials. There were no labeling requirements. In short, there was a regulatory vacuum. And that regulatory vacuum persists today, despite the fact that hundreds of products containing engineered nanomaterials have been commercialized. The reality is that the discussion of nanotech regulation is at least a decade overdue. We can’t congratulate ourselves on being pro-active or for “getting it right this time.” Instead, let’s focus on the urgent need to address the situation: The first generation of nanotech products – those that incorporate engineered nanoparticles – have slipped through the cracks of the existing regulatory framework.