In January, European Union agencies published three documents concerning government oversight of nanotechnology and new genetic engineering techniques. Together, the documents put in doubt the scientific capacity and political will of the European Commission to provide any effective oversight of the consumer, agricultural and industrial products derived from these emerging technologies. Instead, it appears that the Commission will allow product developers, including university scientist/entrepreneurs, to be the judge of whether their products pose unacceptable and, indeed, perhaps unmanageable, risks to the public, the environment and to workers manufacturing emerging technology products.
For U.S. public policy advocates, long accustomed to The Republican War on Science and the Trump administration’s Abandoning Scientific Advice, the European Union agency documents amount to a shocking and yet not wholly unexpected déja vu. We’ve become accustomed to the ostensibly regulated U.S. industry controlling what science is presented for regulatory review by U.S. agencies. We have not yet become accustomed to the surrender of European agencies before the policy demands and economic rationales of scientist/entrepreneurs to allow them to develop and commercialize their products unimpeded by government regulation.
In January, Chemical Watch reported on the European Chemicals (Echa) Management Board’s meeting in December 2017 to review the European Commission’s implementation of a nanomaterial reporting regulation. The Board concluded that the results of the European Commission implementation plan had provided inadequate information for Echa to determine whether the atomic to molecular scale nanomaterials were being used safely in commercialized products.
IATP, as a member of the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue, had called on EU and U.S. authorities in 2013 to provide “a public available inventory for all nanomaterials which are subject to premarketing research and already used in products.” The Commission has ignored that recommendation and others, including those in a 2016 TACD nanomaterials and chemicals regulation resolution.