Soft Law and Nanotechnology: A Functional Perspective
10 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2012
Date Written: February 9, 2012
Whether and how to regulate nanotechnology is debated widely. While ad hoc bits of regulation shuffle forward, a comprehensive response eludes us. Some advocate using new governance approaches, seeking to transform regulation from an agency-centric exercise to a collaborative undertaking by actors from multiple segments of society. One central aspect of this new governance is reliance upon “soft law” approaches to regulation. In the area of nanotechnology particularly, numerous commentators have proposed a variety of soft law mechanisms. Yet the concept of soft law is fuzzy in terms of its definition, specific functions and optimal uses. This article addresses that fuzziness in two ways. First, it provides a definition of soft law informed by the four functions soft law serves: the precursive, normative, directive and complementary functions. Second, it comments upon the usefulness of soft law with respect to each of those functions in the specific context of nanotechnology.
Keywords: regulation of nanotechnology, "soft law," environmental law, environemental regulations
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