Nanotechnology Development Suffers from Lack of Risk Research Plan, Inadequate Funding & Leadership
WASHINGTON—The successful development of nanotechnology—with its potential to help provide new medical treatments, sustainable energy, and 21st century jobs—is being jeopardized by the lack of a clear federal strategy for examining possible environmental, health and safety risks and by inadequate funding for this work.
This was the message delivered by Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies Chief Science Advisor Dr. Andrew Maynard, testifying today before a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science hearing entitled Research on Environmental and Safety Impacts of Nanotechnology: What are the Federal Agencies Doing? According to Dr. Maynard: “Nanotechnology is no longer a scientific curiosity. It is in the workplace, the environment and the home. But if people are to realize nanotechnology’s benefits, the federal government needs a master plan for identifying and reducing potential risks. This plan should include a top-down risk research strategy, sufficient funding to do the job, and the mechanisms to ensure that resources are used effectively. ”
In his testimony, Maynard proposes that “The federal government needs to invest a minimum of $100 million over two years in targeted risk research in order to lay a strong, science-based foundation for safe nanotechnology.” According to Maynard’s analysis, despite investing more than $1 billion annually on nanotechnology research, U.S. government spending on highly relevant nanotechnology risk research is only $11 million per year.
Maynard’s testimony draws heavily from his new report, Nanotechnology: A Research Strategy for Addressing Risk. His report has been widely praised by science professionals and policymakers, including Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in London, England. In a statement, DEFRA described Maynard’s report as “a very helpful contribution to international discussions on research needs in this [nanotechnology risk] area.”
DEFRA will launch a Voluntary Reporting Scheme for engineered nanoscale materials on Friday, September 22. Alongside government scientific research, the purpose of this program is to gather data to better understand the properties and characteristics of different engineered nanoscale materials and to allow for a more informed debate about the nature of appropriate controls. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering a similar program.
September 21, 2006
The successful development of nanotechnology—with its potential to help provide new medical treatments, sustainable energy, and 21st century jobs—is being jeopardized by the lack of a clear federal strategy for examining possible environmental, health and safety risks and by inadequate funding for this work.
Download a statement by DEFRA on the Maynard report
Download Dr. Maynard’s Nanotechnology: A Research Strategy for Addressing Risk.